Mike Pavlak on the Influence of PHP on Open Source

IBM Edge Conference

Paul talks to fellow IBM i Champion Mike Pavlak about what has been happening with PHP on IBM i, the influence PHP had on the acceptance of open source and Dr. Who.

Paul: Hi everybody and welcome to another iTalk with Tuohy. So here is the strange thing: When I decided to talk to my guest today, someone I've done an iTalk with before, and I was astounded to find out it was three years ago. So hello, Mike Pavlak.

Mike: Hello, Paul. How are you?

Paul: I'm fine. Strange as it is, we've bumped into each other fairly often over the last three years, Mike. I was amazed when I realized it was three years ago that we talked, that we did our last iTalk.

Mike: It is. You know, time flies when you've having a good time, and it just goes to show you how busy we all are these days. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the world that we forget to stop and have a nice chat.

Paul: Indeed. So Mike, tell me then. So in the last three years, PHP. OK so is it a thing. OK.OK So as you know, I'm a big PHP fan. I use it a lot.

Mike: Yup.

Paul: Is it a thing that PHP has sort of moved from being sort of a new kid on the block to being sort of a well-established product on the system? That a fair statement?

Mike: I think so. It's a fixture. I actually was talking to⎯I'm doing a presentation. I'm here in Las Vegas at the IBM Edge conference, which just wrapped up. One of the presentations I did, I was telling the folks that, you know, I've had customers who have legacy PHP code, right? What does legacy mean? Well in my humble opinion, legacy means it works, so these are folks who are early adopters. This year we are celebrating our 10-year anniversary of the supported PHP stack on IBM i. There were a couple of, you know, hobbyists, you know, taking a whack at it before Zend came to the table. But yeah, it's there. I think the real vindication⎯I was really surprised when I was at the Summit conference last time and Ian Jarman was doing the keynote. He highlighted a slide from the HelpSystems survey. In there they had a question, you know, what language are you doing new development, you know, in your IBM i shop? Of course, you know, No. 1 was RPG, so God bless, Barbara Morris has some more work, which is great. Then you had SQL and CL, so the staples are there. COBOL was there but it wasn't very near the top though--not terribly surprised there, wasn't a mainframe shop⎯but as you went down the list, the next one was and then there was PHP.

Paul: Yeah.

Mike: The statistic was that 20 percent of their respondents, you know, are doing something with PHP. So if you could loosely extrapolate a statistic and--you know, I've not studied Donald Trump but I can certainly channel his statistical methods--the reality is that, you know, one in five IBM i shops are doing something with PHP. That's a pretty impressive statistic.

Paul: Yeah. Yeah it is and I actually understand what you mean about the legacy thing. I remember--I think it was last year, Alan Seiden, he was helping us out with some stuff on our system. He was looking at my PHP code. I think the word he used was "quaint." [Laughs] He did use quotes. He sort of said--he says, "no, no. That is the way people used to do it." [Laughs]

Mike: But stop and think about it. Now it certainly sounds a little like RPG, right?

Paul: Yeah.

Mike: Because RPG lets you run, you know, older style code or newer style code side by side, [conduct] migration on your own terms, you know, modernization on your own terms. I mean we could all get religious about "everything should be state of the art and wonderful," but there is also the business of, you know, how much time does it take? How much money does it take? Do we have the resources and do we really need to touch the code? That's one of those challenges that we face because the PHP model, where you've got the procedural model, the object oriented model and the framework model. You know we do suffer from that a little bit in the PHP landscape, but however, that does provide a very easy on-ramp to PHP, especially for RPG developers.

Paul: Yeah. No, this is one of the things. Well I know that I have always said, but most definitely Jon Paris has always said as well is that it's that mixture that you have in there since it is a procedural--since you can approach PHP from a completely procedural point of view if you want. It is quite an easy one for RPGers to adapt, too, more so than a lot of more direct OO languages that are out there.

Mike: Exactly. Yup, absolutely.

Paul: Then again I have always contended OO is that much of a--it's not as big a deal as people make out it is.

Mike: And I agree with you Paul, it's not. But the challenge is that when you are coming from a language like RPG like I did, and I believe you did as well.

Paul: Uh-huh.

Mike: I spent 20 years doing RPG and nothing else, so I had no other real frame of reference from a language perspective. So when I tried to do ... when I tried to learn Java, it was "You have to learn the syntax, you have to learn the rules, you have to learn the object oriented, you have to learn classes, you have to learn instantiations, you have to learn"--you had to learn all that stuff all at once, and I think that is the challenge. That is the challenge.

Paul: Sure. Sure and with PHP you can ease into it. What is the great comment Jon has? Oh, he says you don't always have to write OO, but you just have to become an expert with using OPO. I said, "What's OPO?" He said, "Other people's objects." [Laughs]

Mike: Yes.

Paul: So tell me something else then, Mike. Is it a thing--has sort of PHP changed on the system? Is it still a thing that the Zend server comes shipped with the system and all of that, or has it, you know, the way it is priced or anything? Has that changed in the last three years?

Mike: Actually, you know, the model is the same, which is good. There's the, you know, the straight forward PHP stack that everybody who has an IBM i under software maintenance is entitled to, and that gets you, you know, all the way up to the--the current version right now at this minute is PHP 5.6 with Zend Server 8.5.5, which is, you know, it is still installed as a licensed program. If we have updates, the updates go in as a load PTF or apply PTF. If you don't like it, remove the PTF. It is really convenient in that respect and we are really excited about the fact that, you know, PHP 7.0 has been around for almost a year now, but we're finally going to have it out for IBM i, we think, in a good beta probably in the next few weeks.

Paul: Cool. So I hate to ask: What happened to PHP 6.0?

Mike: Great question. Everybody wonders what is going on with PHP 6.0, but what happened was you have to realize that PHP is an open source language and I like to say, you know, people say "What is open source?" It's free. Well "free" is always a relative term, so you have to be careful with that. But really open source is--what I like about open source is it is typically developed by the community for the community, which means there [are] about 30 volunteers from around the world who are what we call the core PHP development team. They had when PHP 5.2 was kind of rolling out, they developed--they started developing a specification for PHP 6.0, but their goals and their dreams and aspirations got a little lofty and, you know, nobody wanted to jump on it because there was a lot to it. So what happened was the core team actually started sneaking bits and pieces of PHP 6.0 into PHP 5.0, things like name space in 5.3 and then the UTF 8.0 stuff in 5.4 and 5.5 and so on and so forth. By the time we got to the end of PHP 5.5, you know everybody looking around at each other and saying "well most of the PHP 6.0 specification is already in PHP 5.0. What do we do now?" So Zev and Dmitri were getting kind of challenged by the folks over at Facebook who were for PHP, and Zev and Dmitri were kind of working on a little backroom project on performance tuning PHP. They wanted to really ramp it up but still keep it in the interpreted model, as opposed to what Facebook had done with the compiled model. So what they did was they proposed that to the core development team, and then at the same meeting they pronounced the specification for PHP 6.0 dead. They said the new version is going to be PHP 7.0. The funny thing was the whole reason they did that was they didn't want to confuse people.

Paul: OK. I just thought maybe they were doing a Microsoft thing and starting to skip versions, you know. [Laughs]

Mike: Well, you know, they say in Microsoft's case, you know, every other release, right?

Paul: Yup. So yeah, I thought they were doing that. We are just going to skip the bad releases and keep with the good ones. I want to come back on the open source thing in a minute Mike, but sorry, I just want to be clear on this because I know a lot of people aren't aware of this. So with PHP, PHP is effectively comes as a no-charge item. Yeah?

Mike: Yeah.

Paul: It is included with the system. How then [does] Zend sort of make their money out of it?

Mike: That's a great question. It's a valid question. It's a challenge that we've endured for a couple of years, and now that we've been acquired--we actually were acquired by another company called Rogue Wave, primarily because Rogue Wave was building out a very, very elaborate and deep open source support portfolio. You know there is no better way to become an expert at PHP than, you know, buying them, which was us but Zend--so what we do is we--what we have is the version that comes with the IBM i is what we call the basic addition of Zend Server. It is a standard PHP stack. It runs all the PHP code just fine. There is no issues there, [it] won't shut off, you know it works, but then we sell in addition to that, so you get one year of support with what you get from IBM as part of our IBM partnership. After that year, you have a choice: You can go, you know, on your own, open source, just run all by yourself and keep running your PHP stack, which is fine and other folks who have applications that are mission critical in production. They want to have someone they can call in case something goes burp, then they'll purchase a support contract from us. In addition to that support contract comes a series of productivity tools that can help, you know, enhance the development that occurred with a developer, you know, make it easier for people to see what is going on.

Paul: So the dashboard stuff and everything, that is in there.

Mike: Absolutely, and again it makes people productive, but in addition to that we also have a services team where we've got, you know, about--oh gosh, I've lost count--maybe 10 or 11 guys around the world who basically will come--will come into PHP shops and, you know, some folks will have us do a security audit for them. Some will have us come in and just kind of give them architecture design sessions and training, that kind of stuff. Our PS guys are really expensive so you don't want to hire our guys to come in and like, do heads down coding for you. I mean we've got partners for that...

Paul: Yup.

Mike: But the high end stuff, you know, the ninja kind of stuff.

Paul: Sure.

Mike: I say like the Larry Bolhuis of the PHP, you know?

Paul: Sure. Correct. Correct. Yeah.

Mike: But the implementation of,you know, IBM's implementation of the Apache Server is not a true open source because it is really their Apache Server that is based on--it's IBM's WebServer based on Apache, yada, yada, yada. In the case of what we did or what Zend did--I wasn't with them at the time of course but what Zend in 2005 is they just took the open source PHP and brought it to the IBM i. I think--I think the validation, kind of like what you are saying. It's like we helped open the door, which is a great thing, but it is really the user community. The user community's adoption of PHP, you know, when someone like an Alison Butterill or an Ian Jarman or a Steve Will goes around the world and meets people from all walks that are doing something with PHP on the i and guess what, Paul? Some of them are even under 40.

Paul: Get out of here. That's just crazy talk. Crazy talk. [Laughs] So listen Mike, something I want to end up with--and this was kind of prompted by sort of that thing you had on Facebook recently. Something you showed, I think that your kids gave you for your birthday, but I'm sorry. Before we get to that, can you explain to me what it is that an American sees in Dr. Who?

Mike: Well, you know, I'm not a newbie when it comes to Dr. Who. I was actually a big fan of Dr. Who way back when I was in high school--which, as my kids like to say, you know, when Moses and the dinosaurs roamed the earth. So I had to be in high school in the early 80s and I actually, you know, in high school started my own Dr. Who club and so on and so forth, was really, really a huge fan back then and of course, you know, time goes and, you know, things change and that kind of stuff. You know they brought the show back and of course it has been a huge hit literally around the world.

Paul: Yeah.

Mike: And I am just so excited that it's back. My kids are now starting to watch some of the older, more classic episodes. The way they cringe at the poor special effects and stuff like that, you know, it is just hilarious watching the kids' reaction.

Paul: So you mean when the Daleks did look like dustbins on wheels?

Mike: Oh yeah. Oh yeah and when K-9 used to stun somebody and my daughter is like, "really, Dad?" [Laughs]

Paul: OK so Mike, tell people what your kids gave you for your birthday.

Mike: Well, you know, I was totally blown away. I was not expecting anything because, you know, like I said we are all so busy and my kids are starting to sprout wings and fly the coop as they say, but my middle girl kind of led the charge on this. She was surfing around and all the kids know that Tom Baker is my favorite doctor, which is, you know, very common. A lot of people love Tom Baker. He is a great guy and so she was surfing his website and found that, you know, he has a little program where he will sign things for a fee and then 10 percent of the fee he puts to charity. So she found a classic picture of Tom from, you know, the 70s you know when he had the scarf and the curls and all that. She had him sign it, "Happy 50th regeneration," you know Tom Baker, you know all this other stuff. It is personalized and, you know, I opened it. When I opened it, I just saw the picture and I thought oh, this is nice. Then I saw the autograph and I almost dropped it. [Laughs]

Paul: Oh seriously, Mike. You got to get a life. You really do. [Laughs]

Mike: I know. I know. I'm holding out for my Romana autographed picture next, but you know I'm in no rush.

Paul: OK, well I think that is a good note to leave it on, Mike. Actually I look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks at the Summit.

Mike: Sounds like a plan.

Paul: Oh my God, less than two weeks [until] the Summit. A week and a half.

Mike: It is, and yeah, you are coming to hometown so looking forward to seeing you.

Paul: Yup, indeed. OK so until then Mike, many thanks. OK everyone that's it for iTalk this time around. Tune in for the next one. Bye for now.

Paul Tuohy has specialized in application development and training on IBM midrange systems for more than 20 years.

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