PHP at Lycos

PANGORA is a product search, which is integrated into the shopping channels of 25 leading online portals in Europe. PANGORA bundles the goods from 900 online shops into a total of 7.5 million products and uses sophisticated algorithms to present highly relevant results to online shoppers. Among the partners, considerable portals such as Yahoo!, AOL, T-Online, LYCOS and Tiscali are included. The PANGORA search is a modular-developed, flexible service that is adapted to the individual requirements of partners. PANGORA is a service of IBO GmbH, a wholly-owned subsidiary of LYCOS Europe.

PANGORA (Lycos Europe) web software is built primarily using PHP server-side scripting language. To stay competitive, content heavy shopping portals demand top-notch response time to ensure optimal user experience at all times. Companies utilizing PANGORA’s Shopping services generally require PANGORA to commit to page delivery of less than 2 seconds. Therefore PANGORA constantly aspires to finding new ways to decrease response time. Installing Zend Performance Suite to improve response time, decrease download time and increase server throughput made it possible for PANGORA to stand by their SLA (service level agreement) with their numerous customers.

Dynamic Partial Page Caching
The typical page of a shopping search incorporates both dynamic and static elements. For example, Lycos Shopping UK includes a “Top Products” feature that offers product rankings based on real-time hit-statistics. Although the database is updated with every user hit, the ranking is updated only once every 24 hours. Allowing Lycos to cache only the “Top Products” feature would save thousands of database hits allowing for more efficient use of resources.

Lycos PHP

{mospagebreak title=Service Options}
Until recently, PANGORA relied on Squid technology which only supported full page caching. As the team noticed increasing server load and slower page delivery, they realized they would quickly risk surpassing the 2 second page delivery requirement they had committed to. They investigated two options; they could either purchase additional hardware for approximately $3500 per server hoping that would improve performance, or they could look for a software solution to provide partial page caching of semi-dynamic portions of the page, which could cost approximately $1900.

It was then that PANGORA received a warm recommendation to integrate a performance management solution from their parent company, Lycos Europe. The initial implementation candidate was a lean, mostly text-based Web shopping portal called Fireball. The performance management solution proved its strength by improving performance above expectations (about 10%).

“Today, it works in conjunction with Squid” says Christian Erhard, Product Manager at PANGORA. “While Squid can only be used for static images (gif/jpg) and full-page caching, the performance management solution provides full-page caching, partial page caching and more. PANGORA will implement the solution to power 17 additional Web shopping portals. These shopping portals are backed by 12 load balanced, dual-CPU Apache servers and 10 specialized index servers storing over seven million different products”.

The Circumstances Are Ripe For PHP Adoption
PANGORA uses PHP not only in the front-end, but also for its sophisticated product information processing applications. PANGORA’s unique product comparison service is made possible through complex product data analysis. Using several PHP-based tools, the product information is processed ensuring that similar search results are achieved regardless of singular and plural, typos etc.

“Initially we chose PHP because it was easier to find and train PHP programmers than other technologies. But today, strengthened by the support and products provided by Zend, we will likely choose PHP for all our in-house and Web front-end projects”.


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