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Java Versus PHP: A Delicate Balance For IBM

IBM, historically one of the computer industry's biggest supporters of Java, is starting to put some weight behind the competitive PHP language. So far, IBM's investment is just a trickle.
IBM, historically one of the computer industry's biggest supporters of Java, is starting to put some weight behind the competitive PHP language. So far, IBM's investment is just a trickle. Yet the company already is walking a fine line between building a business on PHP and protecting its customers'--and its own--investments in Java.

Why the interest in PHP, a scripting language that lacks Java's nuance and power? For one, PHP's role in life is to negotiate the transfer of data between Web users' PCs and the big database systems on the other end of their Internet connection without a lot of fancy programming. That makes it a fast way to integrate different computer systems. Bridging systems that weren't originally designed to work together is a mainstay of IBM's $46 billion-a-year consulting business, and IBM has contributed engineering to the open-source PHP project that extends the language with Web-services protocols such as Simple Object Access Protocol and WSDL for that purpose. "It's good glue," says IBM VP of emerging technology Rod Smith. Version 5 of PHP, released last year, added Web services support.

Smith estimates about 100 IBM engineers are doing field work for customers using PHP, and he says it's particularly popular in midsize companies. That's in addition to 20 IBM programmers working directly on the PHP language for security and other issues. IBM also has released a PHP plug-in for its Eclipse development tools suite. Unlike Java, which is geared toward experienced programmers, PHP generates Web content with relatively little code. Smith says the two can work together. "Java and open source are still good bedfellows."

Return to the story:
Java Meets Its Match


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