About Zend



PHP was created in 1994 by Rasmus Lerdorf. He is still the lead of the PHP group today. It was a template layer for his software that was written in C. He open sourced it and people loved it. More and more functionality was added over the years and the language grew significantly from its original idea.

In the years 1997-1999 two students named Zeev Suraski and Andi Gutmans re-wrote the core of PHP and released it as version 4. This new core that they wrote was named the Zend Engine. “Zend” comes from their names. This is still the main engine that operates inside PHP today. In 1999 they founded the company Zend technologies. In the years between 2000 and 2010 Zend technologies receives a number of findings from various investors.

Over those years, they are the main contributor to PHP. They call themselves “the PHP company”. Their business model is offering paid PHP products and services to enterprise-class customers while helping and grow the open source PHP community.

They also created a number of products:

Zend Framework – a modular PHP MVC framework targeted towards the enterprise-class. It brings the Java enterprise patterns to PHP. It consists of professionally written packages. Those packages are (mostly) independent and managed by composer.

Zend Studio – a commercial PHP IDE based on Eclipse. Specially made for Zend Framework development. They also contribute the PHP developer tools (PDT) to Eclipse (IDE) foundation which is available for free. In my opinion Zend Studio still offers the best debugging capabilities today but not the best development capabilities (phpStorm is the market leader IDE today).

Zend Server – a custom PHP stack with a lot of extra goodies. Those goodies are Z-ray, better debugging, better event reporting, better monitoring, automatic deployment, etc. This is a fantastic product. When I discovered it I was wander how have I lived without it before.

Zend Guard – was a PHP obfuscator. Unfortunately it is now discontinued.

I have to say that I love their products. Zend Framework was the first framework I tried in 2011 and I was impressed how much easier it was than vanilla PHP. This must have been version 2 which had the Zend CLI tool for creating modules, controllers and other boilerplate code. At that time Zend Framework was the market leader.

In 2015 a company named Rogue Wave Software acquires Zend Technologies. Shortly after that Andi Gutmans leaves the company and gets a job at AWS.

This is now a tough time for Zend because more and more PHP frameworks are popping up from everywhere and they are stealing market share from Zend. At the same time NodeJS showed up which is also stealing market share from PHP.

The current market leader in PHP frameworks is Laravel. It stole the show because it is much easier to learn. It is SOLID based with a very good Inversion of Control (IoC) container that provides automatic constructor-based dependency injection. While the core component of ZF – the Zend Service Manager uses the service locator (anti)pattern. Laravel provides these facades that offer almost all of the functionality a modern web app would need and they are very easy to learn. However Laravel is not enterprise-grade. It doesn’t force modules on the user like Zend. Laravel is easier to get into and to learn. It has better documentation.

Zend Framework version 3 was released in 2016 but some aspects of it are still unfinished in 2018. It still doesn’t have a CLI tool and other things. If you look at a tutorial for ZF3 you will see you have to create like 10 folder structures manually in order to make a module. At the same time Zend Framework being an enterprise framework – they can’t break existing code so they have to stay backwards compatible. This means they can’t change much. For that reason, they decided to create a new framework to try to get some market share back from Laravel. They called the new framework Zend Expressive. This new framework takes all the good things from Laravel. But it does it the Zend way – everything is decoupled into separate composer packages. You also have modules. Expressive doesn’t force us to use their service manager or their routing component – we can use others. Expressive provides only the framework glue which holds those components in place along. It also provides the middleware which is something we see in Laravel. However in expressive almost everything is middleware while that’s not the case with Laravel.
At the same time I get the feeling that Rogue Wave are reducing the resources these guys get. There are 2 people that work on the Zend frameworks and another 2 people that work on the Zend engine. The Zend product portfolio becomes outdated. Zend studio doesn’t support version 3 of the framework or Expressive. Zend server doesn’t support them either. Documentation is poor. The CLI tool works for Expressive but doesn’t work for Zend Framework 3 (aka Zend MVC). At the same time Laravel and NodeJS keep on getting better.

The reason why I am writing this is because in October, Zeev and the other 3 people that work fulltime on those Zend products announced that Rogue Wave has decided to move resources away from all the Zend products apart from Zend Server. These are very bad news for PHP…

Although we did see PHP 7.3 recently, we are not likely to see PHP 8 any time soon if this is true. We are expecting JIT in PHP and JS-style asynchronous support in Zend Frameworks (via Swoole).

Rogue Wave were quick to assure us they will continue their support for PHP but their actions speak otherwise. If they do this – PHP is left without a commercial backer. It will be an entirely community-run project. Which means things will happen a lot slower (if they happen at all).

It’s now December and I have been watching these guys – they have been committing as usual and I really hope things won’t change..

So what should Rogue Wave do?

I think that they have the classic problem of business people and developer people being disconnected and not understating each other.

They shouldn’t look at the numbers directly – now they see “Zend Server sells best so lets kill everything else”. However, what they forget is that Zend server is tightly coupled to everything else. It links to Zend Studio, PHP (Zend Engine) and the Zend Framework. Without all of these – there will be no Zend Server.

They should invest into updating and finishing those great Zend products.

After that invest in making them more accessible. Laravel offer video lessons (known as Laracasts) that cost $9 per month. Zend offer live training that costs $1000 per session. May be look into a cheaper option considering the market has changed? How difficult would it be to record those live training sessions and offer them cheaper?

Back in the day, Zend tried to do an alternative to AWS and Google Cloud Platform. I am not sure why they failed. It probably wasn’t finished. However, both AWS and GCP lack good PHP support. Zend would have been perfect for this service. And with 80% of the web running on PHP – why would anyone go to GCP where they only support PHP 5?

I can’t believe they hold the keys to a technology that runs 80% of the web and they want to kill it because they don’t know how to profit from it.

I have worked with Zend consultants in the past. The first time I approached them they just didn’t understand the requirements. In the end they said they can’t deliver and redirected me to another company. At the same time they sold me Zend Server. And when I went to their website and I tried to buy it – I couldn’t. I had to contact the help desk of Rogue Wave where they eventually took my money.

That’s the other problem – make those products more accessible. I am sure “the PHP company” can put a “buy now” button instead of forms where they take my details and then some sales representative contacts you (or doesn’t contact you like in my case).

If anyone at Rogue Wave or Zend is reading this and wants to talk to me – feel free to click the “Contact me” button above.