'LAMP' Archives

WASP - Easing the Switch from Java to PHP  28

23. October 2005

Author’s Note: I originally wrote this article on the WASP homepage. Ryan has graciously allowed me to post it here. WASP was partly inspired by lesscode.org, and hopefully it’ll make a good contribution to this community.

The year 2005, so far, has been the year of scripting languages. Across the web-application programming sector there has been a growing movement toward acceptance and general usage of dynamic languages like Ruby, Python, and PHP. Fundamentally, these languages have been present in the industry and in use by developers for a long time, and really aren’t anything new. Lately, however, due to advances in server technology, scripting language maturity, and improved development libraries, it is possible to write scalable, well architected, “enterprise” applications in less time with less code using frameworks like WASP for PHP.

Scripting languages have been used to build millions of applications on the Web, but in general have not been adopted widely by corporate developers. But more and more businesses and IT professionals are looking to these languages as a way to simplify and speed the creation of custom in-house programs, thus avoiding the now all-too-common logjam of late or overbudget applications. — CNET

It has always been faster to write applications for the web using scripting languages. PHP has long been accessible to the fledgling developer. It has been widely used for prototyping of large applications written in languages like Java simply because web designers, most often specialized in design artistry rather than computer science theory, are able to quickly grasp the syntax and embed it in their HTML code.

Interestingly enough, the same reasons why languages like PHP are so easy to learn and use are what often keeps seasoned software engineers from wanting to use them. Deemed “hacker” languages, scripting languages can be quick to write, but since they do not have many of the advanced features of compiled languages like C++ and Java, they have been prone to lax design practices, leading to code that isn’t efficient, stable, or maintainable enough for large solutions. With the correct mindset and help from structured frameworks like WASP, this no longer has to be the case.

Making use of the advancements made to PHP in version 5, web application architects can implement structure to their code in the form of tested design patterns and full-featured frameworks, like WASP. In fact, WASP was written to make the most pedantic software architect feel at home, in an effort to ease the transition for Java developers to coding in PHP.

It’s important to resist the gut reaction most people have to these statements. Most people’s perceptions of PHP are from the PHP 4 days, where “object oriented” frameworks existed, but were crippled by the loose OO implementation of the language. While PHP 5 is mostly backward compatible with PHP 4, it is almost completely different when it comes to things like abstract classes, interfaces, private and protected methods, and exceptions. Sure, you can write spagetti code in PHP 5, but if you have a well designed framework that keeps PHP code outside of your HTML and in tightly structured classes, you’re more likely to end up with code that looks and works and feels like Java.

But will using PHP confine application developers to small customers and fringe, open source communities? Not for long. The big guys are starting to catch on to this shift.

PHP, like open-source projects including Linux and Apache, now has received the blessing of major powers in the computing industry. IBM and Oracle are working on software that let PHP-powered applications pull information from their databases. — CNET

As the user base of PHP and other scripting languages continues to grow, broad support is becoming available on platforms trusted by the Fortune 500 crowd. This exposure will increase the rate of improvement to the efficiency of these languages. Early in its life, Java was highly criticized as not being scalable since it runs on a virtual machine, and therefore could never achieve the speed of C++. As Java matured, advances were made in optimizations to alleviate much of these concerns. The same sorts of advances are being made in the PHP language, and the hardware and software that drives it.

The goal of any good software development department or organization is to efficiently turn out code on-budget, and on-schedule. Until recently, platforms like Java were more likely to provide a stable, proven foundation to design and build well designed code, however by their nature they introduce a level of complexity that takes extra time to overcome. Using scripting languages like PHP tended to produce code in a faster time frame, but it was often impossible to maintain the architectural integrity necessary for building maintainable, extendable applications. With its strong design foundations, the WASP framework makes achieving all of these goals possible, providing the means to creating world class software to anyone with basic skills in PHP.

Further Reading:

Andreessen: PHP succeeding where Java isn’t
Grassroots computing languages hit the big time
Java devotee BEA eyes scripting languages

ActiveGrid First Impressions..  1

Cat.: LAMP
20. July 2005

I finally had a few minutes to look at the technical material available for ActiveGrid’s lineup. More on that later… Right now I’m just relieved to find, after wincing through the initial big boring corporate look of the site, that I think they get it :)

Update: I wrote Peter to register my approval and he had this to say:

Ha, you found our “alternative view”! Glad you appreciate it. The funny story behind that is that we didn’t tell the marketing guy we did it, and then had a pool as to how long it would take him to figure it out. The farthest out was our office manager at 45 days, and she won because he never figured it out until day 45 when we told him!!!