A recent article asks the same question I have asked on my own blog: “Why PHP?“–but this time, from the angle of an Oracle developer. One of the major conclusions the author makes is that, “it’s not about Oracle programmers choosing a new language; adding PHP is meant to bring more developers to Oracle. Open source developers I would assume. Fair enough.” This begs the question: “Why Oracle?” Not from a developer’s standpoint–but rather, I mean, “Why did Zend partner up with Oracle?”
The truth is that while PHP by virtue of its popularity may bring more developers to Oracle, having Oracle as an ally bolster’s PHP’s perceived value in the enterprise. It is, in fact, PHP’s popularity as a language that has hindered its reputation–a kind of double-edged sword that comes with being the most flexible, feature-rich web development language around. By attracting inexperienced programmers with low barrier to entry, massive community support, and rich features, PHP has also earned itself the same reputation as those inexperienced programmers–insecure, sloppy, unprofessional. Yet PHP is just a tool, and in the hands of an experienced, security-conscious coder you can go further faster than any other language. However, the people in the enterprise making decisions about technology don’t read code–they read headlines. Security flaws make headlines. But so do partnerships and endorsements from big companies. So, is PHP good for Oracle? In the right hands, absolutely. Is Oracle good for PHP? Again, if the relationship is managed right, I say “yes.”
The only point I would dispute is that Oracle support will attract open source developers. Oracle is, in fact, a proprietary database, and the idea that PHP is only used in open source applications (i.e. the stuff you find hosted on Sourceforge and elsewhere) is a misconception. More likely than not enhanced Oracle support will attract companies like the financial services firm I used to work for looking to uplevel their data storage infrastructure from open source databases like PostgreSQL and MySQL to Oracle. Taking advantage of the enterprise features of Oracle across the board means a more tightly integrated backend, and so bringing in those apps written against other databases into a single, unified system sometimes makes good sense.
Whatever the reason, many enterprise shops have embraced Oracle and many have embraced PHP. Tighter integration means more choice–not only for PHP developers moving to Oracle, but, hopefully, in the other direction as well. Invariably there will be skepticism, as Oracle developers look at PHP developers through the lens of their own prejudices, and vice-versa. Ultimately, it is a question of what you want to accomplish and what your company will allow. The less prejudiced thinking, the more options, the more empirical analysis of what works and what doesn’t–the better. Partnering with PHP might not necessarily signal an increase in open source in the Oracle world, but it is certainly a sign of more open mindedness. I encourage the PHP community to respond in kind.