From the wild west to the cloud: a concise overview of PHP

DeadwoodIf you’ve ever seen HBO’s hard-edged docudrama Deadwood, then you have an idea what daily life may have been like on a frontier settlement: unruly, unpredictable, vibrant, opportunistic, promising, perilous, sepia-toned. It’s portrayed as a generally lawless yet ordered environment fueled by an egalitarian mindset that everyone could have a hand in driving progress. Believe it or not, the dawn of wild west society in Deadwood has strange similarities to the genesis of an open source scripting language. The beginnings are humble, often focused on a single fixed goal, and yet characterized by virtually unlimited potential.

This is certainly true in the case of PHP, which first appeared in 1995. The creation of pioneering young developer Rasmus Lerdorf, it leaned heavily on syntax from C, Java and Perl. While his larger vision was to produce dynamic web pages quicker and easier, the initial intent was simply to track hits to his online resume. He dubbed the original exploration “Personal Home Page Tools,” then expanded its functionality to include database interaction and some application development capabilities and released it for public use. By 1997, PHP/FI was being used by about 50,000 domains – around 1% of total internet properties at that time. And that’s when the popularity of this new development language outpost really exploded.

Zeev Suraski and Andi Gutmans came along and completely rewrote the language to better suit the e-commerce app they were building and in 1998 they created PHP 3.0, the closest predecessor to the modern version. Word spread quickly, and it grew to encompass installations on hundreds of thousands of websites and up to 10% of web servers. Gutmans and Suraski decided to rewrite PHP’s core entirely and their creation became known as the Zend Engine, and now, essentially, there was new sheriff in town. PHP 4.0, built on Zend and released in 2000, is still the most commonly used version of the language. PHP 5.0 came out in 2004 with features that give developers shorter, cleaner, more flexible code to work with.

PHP is now used on 75% of all web servers and is the foundation of some of the best-known apps and frameworks, including Facebook, WordPress, Wikipedia, Drupal and Digg . And that’s why New Relic got into the PHP app management business. We had heard “I wish there was New Relic for PHP” enough times to realize that 1) our customers and their peers are building more business-critical PHP-based apps than ever before and 2) there was real and growing need for 24×7 monitoring and troubleshooting.

Social gaming apps are a perfect example of trend. PHP is used extensively by Facebook and iPhone game developers. The success of a game is unpredictable: it can be a flop or an instant hit. What is predictable is that if the game takes off and you’re not prepared to scale rapidly, it’s a good idea to have monitoring in place so you can diagnose issues at the earliest moment and take immediate corrective measures.

Many of the leading PHP platform providers are offering application management to their customers as an added value. As we mentioned in a previous post, this strategy lets the vendor work more collaboratively with customers as they share visibility into apps deployed on their platform, and gives a new level of control to the customer who is ultimately responsible for application performance. New Relic is teaming with several top platform providers to integrate RPM into their solutions. Here’s just a short list of our PHP partners:

  • Acquia enables organizations to build and deploy social publishing websites quickly and easily by leveraging the Drupal platform.
  • cloudControl is a leading PHP cloud hosting platform provider based in Potsdam with a managed solution that eliminates the administrative hassles.
  • Joyent provides cloud computing software and service designed specifically to enable Service Providers and Enterprises to deliver cloud services to clients or within enterprises.
  • Morphlabs provides a cloud computing platform that converts commodity hardware into a cloud environment, allowing companies to easily create their own private cloud.
  • Network Redux develops, deploys and manages custom cloud-computing solutions and web-hosting environments, including virtual servers and complex enterprise platforms.
  • PHP Fog offers platforms for PHP-based applications – like WordPress, Drupal, Shopify, Zend Framework and more – that help companies take full advantage of cloud computing.

We will continue working with new partners to ensure on-demand APM is soon accessible to PHP developers. Visit us here to learn more about New Relic RPM for PHP.

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