Recently Zend, the company behind the scripting engine that powers PHP, released a group of tools designed to make PHP programming and execution better, faster, and more reliable. This review covers one of these new products, Zend LaunchPad™, a quality assured packaged version of PHP. Is it really worth the price?
Overview The first component of the Zend Launchpad is the installation interface. This is a shell based program, which asks you a couple of questions, such as your webserver root directory, etc. and then installs the Zend quality assured php along with the online configuration interface for PHP.
Commentary This is probably one of the most flawed parts of the Launchpad as it currently is packaged, the launchpad installation interface provides no extra ease of use (and I compile PHP from the CVS version) while providing signifigant limitations on the person using it. For one thing only the apache webserver is supported in the Launchpad installation interface, something that I find appalling since many large corporations may want to use some other type of server with the Zend Launchpad, such as IIS or even Roxen.
The other part where the installation has a big failing is that it bundles only a small subset of php's extensions. Many businesses need more than just the PCRE, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle 8, XML, WDDX, LDAP, IMAP, GD, DB2 extensions. What if you want to connect to a Interbase or MSSQL database? What if you want to perform XSLT transformations with PHP? Then you not only have to brave compiling the different modules as a Shared Object, but you also must figure out the installation path's of the "Zend/PHP", no easy task.
I could probably forgive all this if the Launchpad installation program made it signifigantly easier to install php on your system. But the fact is it doesn't, you still have to install the apache webserver and all the components that go along with that. You still have to compile any other modules you want to use with PHP, such as the XSLT or MSSQL extensions. This makes the Launchpad interface as it currently stands a failure.
Redemption? The idea of an installation interface definetly has merit, and I like the direction Zend is going, however, as it currently stands this part of the Launchpad seems to be incomplete. If the Launchpad installation provided support for more webservers (PHP supports natively over 10 different servers, as well as providing CGI support, which allows it to interface with any webserver), more extensions (even if the Zend folks mark them as unstable) and they cleaned up the interface (GTK based installation anyone?), then I think this installation interface would be quite suitable.