4-page Case Study
Posted: 11/20/2011
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Graham Weldon PHP community collaboration unlocks SQL Server technologies for open source Web app developers.

“Over the last few years, Microsoft has invested a huge amount of time, effort and money in making the Windows platform more accessible to PHP developers.”

Graham Weldon, CakePHP Core Contributor, Sydney

Microsoft increasingly encourages third-party developers to collaborate with its own engineers to improve Windows and open source interoperability. PHP pioneer Graham Weldon wanted to take advantage of this flexibility to make world-class database technologies more accessible to open source Web app developers.

In June 2011, he accepted an invitation to join 16 other PHP specialists in Redmond to collaborate with the company’s own SQL Server developers. Together they created the tools and support code that enable developers to easily integrate Linux Web app drives with Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft SQL Azure databases. As a result, Weldon and his colleagues have dramatically increased the choice of database technologies open to Web app developers, expediting development and stimulating innovation.

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* “Now, open source Web app developers have the choice of some of the world’s best database platforms.” *

Graham Weldon,
CakePHP Core Contributor,
Sydney

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Business Needs

Graham Weldon is an internationally acclaimed platform developer and integration specialist. With a resume that includes numerous high-profile online games build-outs, he has gained a reputation for integrating incompatible platforms – especially open source Web apps and closed source databases.

Since 2000, Weldon has worked at the forefront of the PHP developer community. He is currently a core contributor in the CakePHP project, through the Cake Development Corporation in US. This project has created a rapid application development framework for PHP developers that provides up to 80 percent development functionality, dramatically expediting Web site development projects for the PHP community.

A recurrent challenge for Weldon is evolving the Cake PHP framework so that it helps non-Microsoft developers create applications in PHP on Microsoft platforms.

“Over the last few years, Microsoft has invested a huge amount of time, effort and money in making the Windows platform more accessible to PHP developers,” says Weldon. “Developers can now go to the CakePHP Web site and download source code that has been developed in co-operation with Microsoft experts, providing great opportunities for independent product development on the Windows environment.”

“However, integrating open source Web server technology with Microsoft database technologies was difficult and created sub-optimal results.”

According to Weldon, developers building Web applications on a standard LAMP stack had to change open source data schemas to the SQL formats. In addition, some data types were unsupported, so developers had to write migration scripts themselves, which could take days.

“The biggest issue was with data handling,” Weldon says. “Getting a good interface between Linux Web drivers and an SQL Database could be difficult and the results weren’t always 100 percent reliable. As a result, request times for pages containing data could be too long, and the database drivers were either unreliable or significantly behind the times in their language support.”

“And we also need to meet the challenge of cloud-based hosting. Web apps will tend to work more slowly if they have to work with databases that are hosted off-site. Hosted databases are becoming more prevalent, so we have to address these issues.”

As database technologies evolved, Weldon detected increasing demand for easier integration with SQL Server databases.

“Ultimately, developers want the best technologies for every element of their application. For me, that means being able to integrate Linux Web servers and drivers with Microsoft SQL Servers, so Web applications benefited from SQL’s world-class database technology.”

Solution

In June 2011, the Microsoft SQL Server development team in Redmond invited Weldon and other PHP developers to a ‘JumpIn!’ development camp. The Microsoft corporate objective was to gather PHP expertise from around the globe to help them build support in SQL Server technology for the PHP community.

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* “Knowing there is active support for drivers to support open-source Web apps dramatically speeds development times.” *

Graham Weldon,
CakePHP Core Contributor,
Sydney

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“For me, this was an exceptional opportunity to build out the CakePHP framework,” says Weldon. “And instead of trying to second-guess what the non-Microsoft developer community wanted, they decided to bring the community on-board.”

Seventeen developers attended four days of immersive collaboration, working closely with Microsoft SQL Server project managers, engineers and developers. This included a briefing on Denali, the working name for the next SQL Server release, and presentations on the directions and objectives of SQL development.

“We got the sort of exposure you can’t get anywhere else,” says Weldon. “We were able to explain the issues and problems the PHP community encounters with Web application development. We found the big roadblocks, and we worked out how to remove them.”

The JumpIn! camp resulted in several critically important innovations. Microsoft developers created a driver for SQL Server for the PDO abstraction layer for PHP applications. This enables developers to build Web applications with PHP that integrate with SQL Server 2008 and SQL Azure databases, as well as the upcoming Denali release.

“In addition, we demonstrated a viable read-through caching capability that enables applications to perform in a high speed capacity on top of SQL Azure.”

According to Weldon, the event generally improved awareness about the tools being created to support PHP developers working with a variety of Microsoft platforms, including Web Matrix. And Microsoft has also released a data schema transfer tool called SQL Server Migration Assistant (SSMA) that enables developers to readily migrate data from open source databases such as MySQL to the SQL Server platform.

Benefits

With improved developer frameworks and dedicated support assets, the PHP community can work faster and more confidently with SQL Server platforms. As a result, mixed-source Web applications can in the future attain higher performance standards, and developers will have the freedom to choose from a greater range of technologies.

Breakthrough in development capabilities

For Weldon, collaboration with Microsoft has resulted in a dramatic extension of Cake PHP capabilities, when used to create data-rich applications.

“Knowing there is active support for drivers to support open-source Web apps dramatically speeds development times,” says Weldon. “Developers are not fumbling about for code. They know it is accredited and developed by experts, so they have the assurance that the database interface will be reliable and stable. What’s more, the support is not expensive to install and run.”

“In addition, it’s now also much easier to migrate an application built on a LAMP stack onto the SQL Server platform. With SSMA, no coding is required. All you need to do is switch the data server in the Cake PHP configuration.”

For Microsoft, new PHP capabilities are the practical results of efforts to make its platforms more open at the engineering level.

“We are actively working with open source community members to find solutions to complex interoperability challenges,” says Robert Evans, Platform Strategy Lead, Microsoft Australia. “JumpIn! is a great example of Microsoft and the open source community working collaboratively to break new ground.”

Genuine choice and flexibility for developers

The decision to open Microsoft technology development to the open source community is stimulating creativity of third party developers. For Weldon, genuine Linux–SQL database interoperability heralds a dramatic expansion of choice.

“Now, open source Web app developers have the choice of some of the world’s best database platforms,” says Weldon. “Instead of SQL technology providing a base-line capability, it can become the optimal, high-performance choice. It means they have the option of building world-class query engine technology onto their Web applications.”

Weldon cites several examples – including Mongo DB and Graph databases – where recent innovations in data storage and retrieval technologies hold huge potential for Web applications developers. According to Weldon, the expanded Cake PHP framework will help bring these niche database technologies into mainstream open-source Web app development.

“In addition the caching capability really opens up cloud-based options for Web app developers,” says Weldon. “By hosting on SQL Azure, companies can access the top grade administrators who maintain, operate and secure their databases, but without the application suffering any of the latency issues you would expect from a remote hosted solution.”

Greater innovation

“Expanded choice will have two important consequences,” says Weldon. “We will see database solutions with improved response times, because developers can build more sophisticated Web apps that work better with huge data sets, or databases with complex data relations.

“Second, we will also see more attractive Web applications because developers can concentrate on creating slick and original interfaces, knowing their database interface is secure.”

“Ultimately, SQL Server interoperability will trigger innovation right across the Web app development industry.”

Microsoft product that was featured

SQL Azure delivers cloud database services which enable you to focus on your application, instead of building, administering and maintaining databases. It is built on SQL Server technologies and is a component of the Windows Azure platform.

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products and services call the sales and information line on 13 20 58 Monday to Friday 8 am to 8 pm AEST. To find a partner or solution, visit www.microsoft.com/australia/findapartner/

For more information about Microsoft SQL Server and SQL Azure, go to: www.microsoft.com/sqlserver/ and www.microsoft.com/windowsazure/.

*Cake PHP is a registered product of Cake Software Foundation. INC.

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 1 employees

Organization Profile

Graham Weldon is a core contributor of the CakePHP* project, helping to develop frameworks for open source Web application developers. His speciality is integrating database technologies into Web apps and platform development.        


Business Situation
PHP developers struggled to integrate Linux Web servers and drivers with Microsoft SQL databases, and the results were often mixed. Weldon wanted to make SQL technologies much more accessible to open source developers through the CakePHP frameworks.

Solution

In June 2011, Weldon joined 16 other PHP specialists in Redmond to collaborate with Microsoft SQL Server project managers, engineers and developers. Together they identified how to make current and future versions of SQL Server technologies more open to third party development, and created developer support tools.


Benefits
  • A breakthrough in development capabilities

  • Genuine choice and flexibility for developers

  • Greater Innovation


Software and Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008
  • Microsoft SQL Azure

Vertical Industries
IT Services

Country/Region
Australia

Business Need
Business Productivity

IT Issue
Interoperability

Languages
English

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