Who wants a PHP Cloud? Users of OSS that’s who.

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Last week Geva Perry wrote a post published on GigaOm called Who Will Build the LAMP Cloud.  In it he speculated on current cloud providers that may be interested in building a PaaS (platform as a service) offering of the traditional LAMP stack.  A few days later James Urquhart responded with his blog post entitled Does Cloud Computing Need LAMP.  In it he questions whether the Linux and Apache piece are really necessary in a PaaS offering.  He then goes on to question the usefulness of P languages (PHP, Perl, Python) and MySQL, using a comment to Geva’s post as a jumping off point.  Geva then comments back with a post on his own blog entitled Who Will Build the LAMP Cloud? And Who Cares? In it he agrees with James’ comments on not caring about the LA in LAMP, but says:

James’ last question: “Is the ‘open sourceness’ of a programming stack even that important anymore?” is a good one, but orthogonal to the discussion about a LAMP/PHP cloud, in my mind.

So why has this conversation gotten me in a tizzy and forced me to write two blog posts in one week?  Well two reasons:

  1. Many web based open source projects are built on the back of P languages (PHP, Perl, and Python)
  2. The cloud exists to make technology easier for the masses.

Now before I go any further I will disclose that the first language I learned was PHP.  The second one was Perl.  While I know there are wars that start on listservs about what languages are better, that is not the purpose of this post, so put it out of your head and don’t say anything about how much you think PHP sucks in the comments.

Web based open source projects are built on the back of P languages

Now I could write something about this, but I like lists.  So here is a brief off the cuff list of what open source projects use P languages:

  1. MediaWiki (PHP)
  2. WordPress (PHP)
  3. Bugzilla (Perl)
  4. Drupal (PHP)
  5. Plone (Python)
  6. Moodle (PHP)
  7. AWStats (Perl)
  8. MovableType (PHP and Perl)
  9. Subversion (Python and C)
  10. Trac (Python)

Now, I’m not going to argue the merits of how good each of these piece of software are. Again that’s not my point.  But they are popular whether you like it or not.  And to just dismiss them would be foolish.

The cloud exists to make technology easier for the masses

Google Docs makes it easier to get to files you need to edit.  Heroku makes it easier to deploy Ruby on Rails apps.  Amazon EC2 makes it easier for you to deploy a server.  The fall out of the cloud is that technology suddenly becomes much easier to create and deploy.

So what happens when my mom wants to write her own blog.  Well, most likely she heads over to WordPress.com and creates a blog for herself.  And if she needs a little more, then she signs up for the WordPress Premium services.  But what if I want my own blog.  Well right now I have my friend hosting my stuff.  But what if I want it hosted elsewhere and I don’t want to maintain servers (since I do that all day long).  My only option right now is to do what my mom is doing, but the reality is, that’s not what I want.  I want something like Heroku but for PHP.  And if I had it, I could install any of the PHP applications listed above.

And I think this conversation is very pertinent given that Google just announced its open source learning management system written in Python and intended to be deployed in Google App Engine.  This could potentially be a big blow to Moodle who doesn’t have a cloud to turn to.

Conclusion

So yes a PHP based cloud does matter.  And yes it should be built because there are lots of people clamoring to use it (or who have already figured out a way).

And yes this blog post could be more coherent.

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One Response to “Who wants a PHP Cloud? Users of OSS that’s who.”

  1. MJ Suhonos

    I don’t think the “open sourceness” of the cloud platform is necessarily important (though obviously it’s a nice-to-have), but I can definitely see a strong need/desire for a (LA)MP cloud service — the L and A being abstracted below the surface.

    The main case I can see for, eg. cloud-hosted PHP is the ability to scale, which isn’t an option for DIY setups or even many premium services. Deploying one server is a nuisance, but what if I need to deploy more horizontally as, say, my custom PHP app grows in traffic?

    Of course, the main critique that the PHP naysayers will raise about this (and I’m a PHP programmer) is that it was never designed to scale this way, and more critically, PHP has all kinds of built-in insecurities that make deploying it in a cloud environment risky for the service operator. I think both are valid.

    To date, the best approach I’ve seen is Caucho’s Quercus project (http://quercus.caucho.com/): a Java implementation of PHP5, so you can just deploy PHP in any cloud service that supports Java, including Google AppEngine. It seems a bit
    like a Matryoshka doll, and is sure to offend both PHP and Java purists, but is an interesting way to tackle the problem.