Beta Goes Live for PHP Hosting on Windows

Zend and Microsoft team up to improve PHP/Windows interoperability.

Microsoft released the GoLive beta of its FastCGI Extension, an Internet Information Services (IIS) add-on component designed to serve as an interface between applications created with the dynamic scripting language PHP and an IIS Web Server.

The extension for IIS5.1 and IIS6.0-IIS7 support is planned as the result of Microsoft's collaboration with the open source PHP community, and partnership with Cupertino, Calif.-based Zend Technologies Inc., the creator and commercial maintainer of PHP. Microsoft developed the component as part of a long-term strategy to improve the performance of PHP-based applications running on Windows.

FastCGI is available now as a free download for production environments at Zend plans to include the Microsoft FastCGI feature in the next major release of its commercial PHP environment, the Zend Core Platform.

The two companies announced the technical collaboration last year at the annual Zend/PHP Conference and Expo. At this year's show, held in Burlingame, Calif., from Oct. 8 to Oct. 11, Bill Staples, Microsoft's IIS7 product unit manager, unveiled the GoLive FastCGI beta during the keynote presentation. Staples also unveiled updates on three other projects: a preview version of a new SQL Server 2005 driver for PHP; support from Zend for the stripped-down version of Microsoft's Windows Server 2008, called the Server Core; and further collaboration between Zend and Microsoft to deliver support for the identity management (Information Card) in the Zend Framework.

Staples told RDN in a post-keynote interview that more than a few conference attendees had already asked him about Microsoft's presence at a show aimed mainly at open sourcers. "My default response is to ask them, 'Do you run Microsoft software anywhere in your business today?'" he said. "Almost 100 percent of the time they say, 'Well yeah, we've got a SQL Server here, and a Windows client there, and we do business intelligence over there, and we develop our applications on Windows before we deploy them on Linux.' And my answer then is: 'That's why we're here. We're here to partner with Zend to improve the experience of PHP developers and administrators on Windows.'"

Containing the Linux Threat
Gartner Inc. analyst Mark Driver points out that the Zend collaboration is actually part of a larger effort at Microsoft's Interop Labs to take on the Linux threat by providing support for technologies from JBoss, SugarCRM Inc., Zend and even Ruby.

"Microsoft doesn't want 4 to 5 million PHP programmers to assume that there's an inherent advantage to deploying their applications on Linux instead of Windows," says Driver. "Anybody who has done PHP on Windows knows that it was a royal pain in the neck. PHP truly was a second-class citizen on Windows. But this collaboration is going to change that. That's a good, solid strategy for Microsoft and Zend, but it's also good for the PHP community; there are an awful lot of Windows servers out there."

Neil Macehiter, principal analyst at Macehiter Ward-Dutton, says that from a Microsoft perspective, the Zend collaboration is really about containing the threat and exploiting the opportunity posed by open source alternatives to its technology.

"The threat comes from other technology platforms gaining ground by virtue of providing better support for languages like PHP," he says. "The opportunity comes from ensuring that the Microsoft stack is the optimal platform."

The collaboration also provides Microsoft with an opportunity to make sure that when developers choose PHP, they can easily run it on SQL, Macehiter says. Essentially, Microsoft is presenting the Windows/IIS/SQL Server/PHP (WISP) stack as a viable alternative to the open source Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP-Perl-Python (LAMP) stack.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance author and journalist based in Silicon Valley. His latest book is The Everything Guide to Social Media. Follow John on Twitter, read his blog on, check out his author page on Amazon, or e-mail him at

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