Zend/PHP Conference – Day 3 – Updated

If you read the first version of this post on Friday, my apologies. I realized that I left out some important information, so I've expanded it and filled in some of the gaps. I'm a bit more coherent this time around and I have a AC power, so it will be better for everyone. I'm writing this coverage of Day 3 (Thursday) late Friday evening. Previous coverage is available here: Day 1, Day 2, and Day 2 – The People

Day 3 was a bit calmer than the previous day. I think the conference was front-loaded in many respects, but many of the attendees seem to be slowing down also. I think the sheer amount of information and power players has simply worn many people out.

The beginning keynotes were excellent. The first was a panel discussion of the “Business Use of PHP” and it included people from Paypal, Ebay, and a few other organizations. The overwhelming answer for “why do you use PHP in your business” was “because we can build something fast and easily”. I found it interesting that it had *nothing* to do with cost. I think this is where PHP's biggest strength is… it picked up where ASP left off and where JSP/Java falls down. Simple, fast, easy web interfaces.

Next, we had a presentation from ADP's Mark Rankin. He detailed their *HUGE* effort to bring PHP into their stack and simplify what they're doing. Once again, they have a huge backend of business logic built in a variety of things and they've used PHP to build all the UI layers.

This is yet another which is using PHP *in addition* to their existing technologies, not instead of it. This seems to be the common thread between most of the attendees and presenters whom I've spoken with are still using and plan to continue to use Java on the backend for the heavy lifting. So they're not ditching Java, just using another tool.

Next, there was “PHP and Java… utilizing the Best of Both Worlds”. This was especially fitting because the presented discussed how they got the php-java bridge working and how they were able to use existing backend logic. This made them able to use that previous investment instead of having to pay for it all again. This presentation was a bit light on the technical implementation, but it demonstrated the Proof of Concept that PHP can instantiate Java objects. Whoa. The php4java bridge previously handled this, but for the 99.9% of people who didn't get it working, the newest versions are said to be much more stable, intuitive, and powerful. This is something I'll have to investigate.

Then I was stunned. I went to the Code Generation demo of a framework called Qcodo. Absolutlely. Amazing. As a demo, the presenter – Mike Ho – built a simple Issue Tracking System. In 50 minutes. The entire audience was focused on what he was doing, what he was saying, and he could have gone on for another 30 minutes without complaint. Qcodo generated the entire database access layer in about 3 seconds. Then he tweaked the database and did it again. Then he added fields, indexes, tables, etc and did it again. Absolutely. Amazing. I tracked him down and spoke with him in detail after lunch and he personally is a sharp guy. He's done some awesome stuff and I encourage all three of my readers to go check it out. I started playing with it late on Thursday night and came up with a handful of improvements. Once I get back to civilization, I'll start bugging him and checking them in.

Next, I went to Kim Polese's (from Spike Source) Open Source in the Enterprise. The presentation was great, but a bit sparse on attendance. Whatever you think they do, you're probably wrong. As all of you know, I'm an evangelist for Unit Testing, Integration Testing, and even Enemy Unit Testing. Now imagine you could do that throughout your entire stack. Not just the MySQL/PHP layers, I mean the entire stack. I mean that if Bind is causing a problem for Maven, you'll know about it… before you deploy it and break everything.

Imagine if you could have a complete report on the impact of upgrading one piece of your system… What is the value of that? Imagine if you could have it in 12 hours. Are they there yet? No, but they're 30,000 tests closer to being there than anyone else. Absolutely. Amazing. I asked if they were hiring… 😉 Don't worry, I love where we're going with CaseySoftware and couldn't jump ship if I tried.

If you're working with an Open Source project, I would encourage you to check out their site, build the test aparatus for your apps and submit them for testing. You can have some information on where your code breaks and they get a more robust test suite. It works out for everyone.

Next, I went to Charlie Lindahl's Choosing a Content Management System. It was familiar material and there were some very brief overviews of various systems both Open Source and Proprietary from Mambo/Joomla to Drupal to Microsoft CMS. The interesting part of this one was the discussion that came about afterwards. I talked with Charlie for an hour or so that evening and then another half hour the next morning. He's a guy who's passionate about technology, education, and geeking out to find new solutions. Not a bad combination at all. I hope to keep in touch with him.

The evening was dominated by Oracle's PHPFest and the microbrew bar. It was another hour of open bar which seems to be an immediate winner with just about anyone…