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BALTIMORE—As mainframe developers migrate from legacy systems to new languages and environments, PHP should be on the short list, said a longtime mainframe programmer who now helps others to adapt to new technologies.

Speaking at the Share conference here on Aug. 16, Wayne Duquaine, director of software development at Grandview Systems, of Sebastopol, Calif., said mainframe programmers ought to consider PHP “because it is coming to the mainframe and it has a short learning curve. PHP is easier to learn than any other Web programming language.”

PHP also features a short development time, Duquaine said. PHP scripts are five-to-10 times more productive than hand-coding a server application in Java or C from scratch, he said. And PHP also easily integrates database management system processing with HTML and XML processing, he added.

“IBM is coming out with PHP on the mainframe in the next six to nine months, and we’ll be writing a plug-in for it,” Duquaine said.

He said Grandview Systems is “doing a plug-in so that PHP can run under CICS” or also run as a stand-alone utility.

IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., has teamed up with Zend Technologies, of Ramat Gan, Israel, to deliver Zend Core for IBM. Zend Core for IBM provides an out-of-the-box PHP development and production environment, supported by Zend and integrated with IBM’s Cloudscape and DB2 UDB (Universal Database) programs, according to the companies.

IBM and Zend announced this partnership in February 2005. Today, Zend Core for IBM runs on Linux and IBM’s AIX operating systems.

The companies have not announced support for Zend Core for IBM on the z/OS operating system for the z/Series mainframe, but sources said that is the direction IBM is leaning toward.

“Zend and IBM are aware of customer demands for z/OS and they are discussing the options to provide [that] to the market, but no announcement yet,” said a spokesperson for Zend.

However, Duquaine said Grandview is working to complete its PHP plug-in for CICS by the next Share conference, which is scheduled to take place in February in Tampa, Fla.

“Basically, what we want to do is make sure that the people who are using the mainframe can use the language of their choice, whether it’s PHP or COBOL,” said Sridhar Iyengar, an IBM distinguished engineer.

Meanwhile, Duquaine said he believes PHP is a good option for old-school mainframe programmers because it represents opportunity.

“For those that elect to stay in the field and avoid early retirement, they have no choice” but to re-tool and learn new technologies, Duquaine said.

Click here to read about an industry-wide collaboration project to standardize development on PHP.

He said he often hears of people moving over to what they call “the dark side” or doing development on PCs using the newer technologies. But more and more are making the move, he said.

Indeed, six years ago, when Duquaine started teaching the “new” technologies of Java and JDBC (Java Database Connectivity) at Share, it was all brand new to the attendees, he said.

“Now when I probe them, typically half or more of the class is using (or at least trying out) Java and XML, and doing pilots of SOAP [Simple Object Access Protocol] or Web services,” Duquaine said. “So the ones that want to stay current are retooling, and the others are opting into early retirement.”

Duquaine said Grandview decided to focus on PHP as one of its target technologies “because we are starting to see a maturation and leveling off in the Java market.”

For his part, Duquaine said he believes those developers that will be making a commitment to Java have pretty well made it, and those who have not switched to Java—and even some that have—are looking at alternative tools and technologies, such as LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Perl/Python). “And they are all open source, open standards that are being taught in colleges,” he said.

Moreover, Duquaine said that, like LAMP, which is something of a backlash against the complexity of J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition), the PHP component itself is an alternative to the complexity of other programming environments.

“Whenever something starts becoming overly complex, a counter-trend arises that tries to come up with a simpler, faster solution,” Duquaine said. “PHP offers many of the advantages of a Java and Web environment, without all the extra baggage that things like J2EE bring with it.”

Meanwhile, Duquaine said PHP dominates the Web as the most popular environment for creating Web sites. In addition, more than 35 percent of all Web applications use PHP, PHP runs on 22 million registered Web domain servers, and there are more than 2.5 million PHP programmers, he said.

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