Zend, Microsoft, IBM join forces to simplify cloud-app devlopment for PHP coders

Zend Technologies and a number of its partners -- including Microsoft -- unveiled on September 22 another cloud-interop intiative. This one is aimed at developers who are writing new cloud-centric apps in PHP.

Zend Technologies and a number of its partners -- including Microsoft -- unveiled on September 22 another cloud-interop intiative. This one is aimed at developers who are writing new cloud-centric apps in PHP.

All the right buzzwords are part of the newly unveiled Simple API for Cloud Application Services. It's an open-source initiative that currently includes Zend, Microsoft, IBM, Nirvanix, Rackspace and GoGrid as the founding members. (No Google and no Amazon, however.) It's all about interoperability and community and dialogue.

For developers of new "cloud-native" applications, "this is a write once and run anywhere" opportunity, said Zend CEO Andi Gutmans.

Given Zend is the ringleader and main contributor of the Simple API technology -- it is putting a software development kit targeting its Zend Framework under the New BSD license -- it's not surprising PHP developers are the initial target. But Zend officials claim that the Simple Cloud API "can be translated to any object-oriented language for the Web."

Microsoft is contributing some adapters for the API, plus its PHP client libraries for Windows Azure storage, to future versions of Zend Framework. (Microsoft officials are saying by the end of the quarter.)

Prior to today's announcement, Microsoft already was working on a PHP SDK (in conjunction with RealDolmen) that would support its Azure cloud environment. Going forward, Microsoft will be supporting two PHP SDKs/APIs, both of which will be available as part of the Zend Framework, Microsoft officials said.

"The existing API exposes all the functionality of Windows Azure storage services. The simple API exposes the subset of the functionality that is available on all of the supported platforms," explained Vijay Rajagopalan, Principal Architect for Microsoft's Interoperability team.

"Some projects do not require the richness provided by vendor-specific APIs and can instead be built with simple APIs that provide an abstraction layer across different platforms. From a developer's perspective, simple APIs make it easier to write code that remains the same whatever the destination platform," Rajagopalan added. "As the developers become proficient and learn each platform, they will be further inclined to learn vendor-specific features to take advantage of richer functionality."

Roger Jennings, a cloud-computing and .Net expert, noted that according to the TIOBE Programming Community Index for September 2009, PHP is now No. 3 in programming language popularity, so the new Zend effort has "has a large potential audience among developers for Amazon, Nirvanix, and Rackspace storage. However, he predicted that "Windows Azure developers will continue to program in C# and probably use the StorageClient libraries to integrate Web and Worker projects with RESTful Azure storage services."

"Google is conspicuous by its absence as a Zend contributor. However, that's not surprising because Google offers 'Python as a Service' and doesn't emphasize cloud storage in its marketing materials," Jennings added.