Seiden Group unveils PHP distribution for IBM i
January 11, 2021
IBM i stores looking for PHP alternatives on IBM i may be interested to know that Seiden Group now distributes and supports its own PHP distribution. Called CommunityPlus +, the PHP runtime is distributed via RPM, includes a large number of components (including Db2 database connectors), and is available with technical support, if desired.
The free CommunityPlus + distribution from the Seiden group is a PHP runtime for software written in PHP versions 7.3 and 7.4, with PHP 8.0 support coming soon. The software runs in the IBM i PASE environment in 64-bit mode and includes a large number of database drivers, including the ibm_db2, PDO_IBM, ODBC, and PDO_ODBC drivers. It includes the PHP toolkit, as well as the mail (), SSH2, LDAP, and Xdebug components.
The software is open source and binaries for CP + are available from an RPM repository maintained by Seiden Group. The cast is handled by Calvin Buckley of the Seiden Group, although several other employees of the Seiden Group, including Alan Seiden himself and Stephanie Rabbani, also contribute to the work.
The Seiden group has been active in the PHP community on IBM i for many years. The Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey-based company provides consulting, training, custom development, and support services to IBM i workshops working with the scripting language.
With the launch of its PHP migration service last May, the company played a leading role in the development and maintenance of the native Db2 for i database connector, ibm_db2, which fell into disrepair while IBM and Perforce promoted IBM’s new Universal ODBC Driver for PHP that runs. also on several operating systems including IBM i, Linux, Windows and Mac OS.
Considering the Seiden group’s involvement in the PHP community on IBM i – and in particular, the work they’ve done with the maintenance of old database drivers – it’s really not that surprising that Alan Seiden, the director of the company, decides to take the next step and launch a full distribution for PHP on IBM i.
“It’s a formalization of what we do,” says Seiden IT Jungle. “We have supported PHP formally and informally for many years, bringing our expertise and developing with PHP. But we hadn’t officially built it for customers.
The motivation to develop CP + came primarily from a desire to replace Zend Server Basic, which is dying out, Seiden says.
“We have installed our PHP for some clients and have had very good results, which has encouraged us to continue. Even some tough extensions we’ve built successfully, ”Seiden says. “In a single repository, you get PHP and all the popular extensions. And we configured the INI files as we usually do in consultation to get the best result. So it’s like getting free advice – all of our knowledge is distilled into a very solid and reliable distribution. “
CP + is built from open source, and the package itself is also open source. Anyone is free to download it and use it on their IBM i servers. The company maintains the source code for CP + on a private GitHub account, and while the public is not free to contribute, Seiden Group welcomes feedback regarding new features, fixes, and more.
In terms of services, Seiden Group offers a configuration service for $ 995, in which the company will prepare a client’s IBM i server for open source (including configuring the Apache or Nginx web server) and install the distribution. CP + of PHP.
It sells a CP + technical support subscription that includes patch notifications, proactive checks, access to new modules, and access to the Seiden Group support team. The idea is to keep customers’ CP + facilities running smoothly rather than solving problems.
“We’ll talk to them regularly to check their systems – with their permission – check their disconnections, make sure it’s working fine, and let them know if they need to get an update or upgrade to PHP,” Seiden says. “We prefer to avoid problems rather than having to react. I think it’s good for everyone.
The company also offers what Seiden calls “call a friend” support, which it also calls “developer support,” through which customers can access a dedicated Slack channel that allows customers to send inquiries to representatives. of the Seiden group by asking them how to do it. things in PHP.
The Seiden Group already has a handful of customers using CP +, including Lamps Plus, the Southern California company that designs, manufactures and sells lamps. Kim Gillette, project manager in the IT department at Lamps Plus, says she decided to give CP + a try after working with other distros.
“IBM sent out a notice that they were no longer going to provide Zend and that we were using Zend,” says Gillette. IT Jungle. “We know Alan. Alan has always been there. So just talking to him [and hearing that] he was going to provide something, [we said], let’s have a little chat.
She contacted the Seiden Group, had access to CP +, and installed it before Thanksgiving. Lamps Plus uses PHP to web-enabled 5250 displays for RPG back-office applications that manage supply chain operations, as well as accounting. The implementation went fairly well and the plan was to bring CP + into service early this year.
“They make it pretty easy,” says Gillette. “I knew I was the guinea pig. I identified something that needed to be looked at. It didn’t have all the database drivers in there. When I found one for SQL Server – he didn’t realize we were talking to multiple systems – they went back to the store, wrote it down, installed it, and then everything works. It was very fluid. They have been very supportive. “
Several PHP distributions
Seiden’s decision to launch a separate PHP distribution comes after many years of having only one main PHP distribution from Zend available on IBM i. Beginning in 2006, IBM helped seed the PHP market on IBM i by including a copy of Zend Core for i5 / OS as licensed software with all new sales of System i servers (the server and system d operation having been called at the time), as well as a coupon that offered customers a full year of paid technical support from Zend.
However, the PHP situation on IBM i has been a bit on hold for the past year. The changes began in December 2019, when Perforce (which acquired Rogue Wave Software, which acquired Zend) announced a new community PHP version of PHP on IBM i that could be distributed and installed using the RPM and YUM methods. which become the standard for open source on the platform from 2018.
Then in May 2020, IBM announced that as of June 30, 2020, it would stop including a copy of Zend Server Basic, as the free version of PHP for IBM i was then called, with new IBM i servers. And as of July 1, 2021, any engagement for the free year of tech support would be officially over.
The Seiden Group first responded by helping IBM i stores switch to the new community version of PHP. The company’s migration service included access to the ibm-db2 connector that Seiden resurrected. The Community PHP distribution only includes IBM’s new ODBC driver, which is praised for its support and cross-platform performance. However, with nearly a decade and a half of existing PHP code running on IBM i, the time and effort required to wire the new ODBC driver to work with these existing applications could be significant for some customers, such as This is why Seiden Group is spending a lot of time and money to bring the ibm-db2 connector back to life. It now works with PHP 7.3 and 7.4, and thanks to the barrage of over 100 unit tests that Seiden Group is running on the connector, it will likely be PHP 8.0 ready soon.
With CP +, Seiden Group officially becomes a software publisher, which brings a certain responsibility. Seiden says he’s ready for it.
“We haven’t produced our own PHP in the distant past,” he says. “However, we gradually moved in that direction and realized that it was really the right thing to do to formalize this and have a package that we promise to maintain on a regular basis.”
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