In August, the previously Ruby-only PaaS firm, Engine Yard, acquired PHP PaaS company Orchestra, while Zend Technologies released version 5.5 of its Zend Server. But the repercussions of consolidation and innovation in the PHP market will still be with us into next year.

Andi Gutmans, CEO of Zend, said that the real focus for Zend Server 5.5 is deployment. He said that while enterprises are no longer struggling to use agile and PHP, they are now encountering problems keeping up with faster release cycles.

“What you’re seeing in the DevOps movement, you’re seeing the development side has really adopted agile development. You see development teams putting out new functionality faster. You typically want to be on a bi-weekly release cycle, but the deployment is not automated enough to foster that,” said Gutmans.

“Even though on the development side, some of the issues have been resolved, on the deployment side they haven’t.”

To that end, Zend Server 5.5 includes deployment capabilities that mimic those in Java. “It’s similar to Java, where you have a WAR file,” said Gutmans. “You can package up whole applications with configuration, and hand that consistent package off to production and ensure all the code is ending up on the production side. You can also enforce requirements on the configuration of the servers and the provisioning of the servers.”

Zend focused on a deploy-anywhere approach to cloud, with Zend Server offering scaling and provisioning of new servers. Elsewhere, however, PHP PaaS means public cloud.

Engine Yard, for example, has long hosted its own Ruby-on-Rails PaaS in Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud. So it makes sense that Orchestra (the PHP PaaS company Engine Yard acquired in August) is also based on Amazon Web Services.

PHP’s obstacles
Michael Piech, vice president of product management and marketing at Engine Yard, said that PHP remains an appealing language for enterprises, even though it’s not as “cool” as Ruby. He said that while Ruby growth is faster than PHP, he added that PHP has already won much success around the world, and thus has less room to grow.

According to, a site that tracks the popularity of programming languages, PHP is fourth, behind C, Java and C++, respectively.

“PHP is an attractive language for a couple of reasons,” said Piech. “By some measures, it’s the language of something like three-fourths of the Internet. It is a language that, by being able to offer it in our PaaS, would open the door to a whole new set of customers.”

Lucas Carlson, CEO of AppFog (formerly PHP Fog), said that PaaS for PHP is different than for other languages. “[PHP] has to run differently than a lot of other systems. For example, some systems are fully multi-tenant, so you share the same resources,” he said.

“In some languages, that’s totally fine, but because of the constraints of PHP and Apache—because PHP loves to run with Apache with htaccess—running a lot of different websites on the same server using Apache doesn’t work as well, so multi-tenant mode for PHP is not a good solution.

“With our system, you can start out with a multi-tenant free account, and when you want to pay, we give you a dedicated machine just for your code. Having that seamless transition from multi-tenant to single tenant is something our customers love.”

AppFog, too, uses AWS as the basis for its services, though Carlson said his team is working to add VMware’s Cloud Foundry to its platform and to support additional languages through that PaaS service.

Zend too has an AWS offering. The company recently reached an agreement with RightScale to offer scalable PHP hosting services in Amazon’s cloud. “We’re really seeing demand for deployment in a cloud environment,” said Gutmans.

That is, perhaps, because PHP is an underserved language in enterprise software, said Carlson. “I’ve been a Web developer for well over a decade now, and [AppFog] really came out of the gap I saw between getting Web developers into the cloud and getting them the value they really look for,” he said.

“A lot of people think of the cloud for Web as something scalable, reliable and easy to use, and that’s not what you get when you sign up for a lot of infrastructure-as-a-service. So I really started AppFog as the answer to that question for the PHP community. I think it’s one of the most underserved communities in the cloud. It has the fewest tools and the fewest number of companies trying to serve those needs.”

Though there are few companies in the PHP PaaS game, after a frenzied August, it’s certain there will now be more competition to be the cloud’s answer to PHP.