May 13, 2005 4:00 AM PDT

Grassroots computing languages hit the big time

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Once considered simple toys by serious programmers, scripting languages are becoming first-class citizens in the world of corporate software development.

Database giant Oracle is expected to announce on Monday a partnership to make it easier for businesses to create custom applications for its products using PHP tools from a company called Zend Technologies. PHP is an open-source scripting language used to build Web pages.

The upped commitment to PHP from Oracle is the latest of several moves by large software vendors, including IBM, Sun Microsystems and Microsoft, to capitalize on the growing popularity of scripting, or "dynamic" languages.


What's new:
Scripting languages have not been widely used for corporate development, but businesses and IT pros are now looking to these simple tools to streamline the creation of custom in-house programs and thus avoid late or overbudget applications.

Bottom line:
Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and others have taken note. These big software makers hope to tap into the growing interest in scripting and also broaden their customer base by attracting smaller companies--which may not have IT departments well-versed in Java, C++ and other relatively complex programming languages typically used to build custom business applications.

More stories on PHP

Scripting languages have been used to build millions of applications on the Web, but in general have not been adopted widely by corporate developers. But more and more businesses and IT professionals are looking to these languages as a way to simplify and speed the creation of custom in-house programs, thus avoiding the now all-too-common logjam of late or overbudget applications.

"Scripting (languages are) just getting more popular and powerful simply because they're easy to use," said Tim Huckaby, CEO of consulting firm and Microsoft partner InterKnowlogy. "It's all about time to market and money, not about how elegant it is underneath."

By teaming with Zend, Oracle can tap into the growing interest in PHP and encourage use of its namesake database. Currently, more than 20 percent of Zend customers use Oracle databases, according to Pamela Roussos, vice president of marketing at Zend.

Oracle could also broaden its customer base by attracting smaller companies, which don't necessarily have high-powered IT departments well-versed in the type of programming languages typically used to build custom large-scale business applications. Java, C, C++ and Visual Basic are relatively complex. In contrast, scripting languages can be wielded by people without a computer science degree or a lot of training.

Oracle's own line of development tools and the associated "middleware" to run custom business applications are based on Java. Similarly, IBM, BEA Systems, Sun and others continue to invest in Java standards. Microsoft tools, meanwhile, are based on its proprietary .Net software.

Zend takes the open-source PHP software and builds development tools specifically aimed at corporate developers.

Bulking up
PHP is one of several scripting languages designed for rapidly building Web applications that's getting more attention from industry

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Scripting: what about REXX?
Scripting languages seem to be a new idea - however they do exist for several decades. One of the widely used languages is REXX, invented by the IBM fellow Mike Cowlishaw more than 25 years ago. REXX (and the open source variants like REGINA) were orginally used on the mainframe but do exist now on every platform you can think of. REXX is used as as scripting language AND also as a programming language. Currently there are "traditional" (i.e. 3GL) and OO versions available. You can find more about REXX on the REXXLA homepage
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Can't Help Myself
... dude, what are you selling?! I'd put odds that you retired from
IBM, or have some strong previous affiliation.
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Link Flag
Rexx vs. PHP ?
You want to know more about rexx?

Here is a short comparison:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by (2 comments )
Link Flag
Open Source Talent
I still prefer PHP.
Posted by mentalbarcode (11 comments )
Link Flag
"Traditionally, such languages have been used by hobbyists to glue
together pages for simple Web sites." What a bizarre statement --
PHP has been used to create incredibly complex web applications
for a number of years.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
2 True
While PHP is a scripting language, name one low-level, mid-level
programming (compiled) language used for doing development
on a large scale.

Apparently that would be a trick question for the author of this
story. I don't want to waste any more of my dev time, except to
say that this is nothing more than another ad-hoc job by a CNet
author who apparently isn't worth the salt they are paid.
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Link Flag
Correction: 2 True
WEB development language, that is mid-level ( like C, C++) used
on a large scale.
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Link Flag
Point taken
We've changed the wording to try to characterize the state of usage better, which BTW people will have widely divergent views on.
Posted by mlamonica (330 comments )
Link Flag
Scripting languages are considered a 'hobbyist' thing, even though professional and other well done web site use them, because web development is not exactly a difficult thing to learn. It requires no deep knowlege of computer systems, nor the underlining low level network protocols and interfaces, and very few basic programming concepts. Which is why they are used more in web development then full-featured languages like C, Java(although this is used quite often), and C++. If there were no scripting languages, low level languages would have to be used and the cost to design an entire site would skyrocket due to having to hire real programmers.

It may seem like an elitist attitude, but there is a huge gap between web developers and programmers. A C or C++ programmer worth his salt could write all the tools he needs, including the compiler and libraries, if he really had/wanted to. Web developers, with very few exceptions, can not.

Stop whining when articles don't mention your favorite obscure scripting language. There are too many to mention. Programmers tend to do this also, even though there are literally hundreds of languages and mentioning them all in an article is pointless and nearly impossible.
Posted by pcLoadLetter (395 comments )
Link Flag
and Coldfusion?
Though it still doesn't get a whole lot of respect in the industry... CF should be considered as well.

Since the release of BlueDragon (from New Atlanta software) the expensive server license is no longer needed. It gets the job done.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
A lot of scripting languages didn't get covered
Cold Fusion is just one of them, but like the REXX fan you definitely have the right to ask ;)
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
Yahoo is a home-grown site, did you know that?
The write of this story hasn't seen the football since the game started. Jeeeezus.

"Hobbyists"? You mean like Yahoo, who use PHP as a primary development platform? How about the thousands of large companies (like mine, which is a Fortune 50 company) using PHP as a primary develpment platform for critical enterprise development?

There are about a dozen PHP programmers on our team here and they all have 6+ years of enterprise development experience, and some have 15+. Are they the "non-programmers" you were talking about?

Oh wait, I understand the logic now. Since Oracle is getting into the PHP arena its because nobody is using it for serious development. Oracle just *loves* the low-end.

"Java is overkill"? No, Java is just 3-5x SLOWER than PHP for most web application tasks. Can anybody name a major Internet website using Java as their platform? Didn't think so. PHP on the other hand has shown it can scale to the largest web sites in the world.

I'm really losing faith in here. Not only did they not research this story correctly, but it is simply self-contradictory. If all of the things they said about PHP were true, IBM and Oracle wouldn't be taking them seriously. The fact is that its a viable alternative to Java for *any* project, and Java is a political hot potato because Sun still owns it.
Posted by steveth22 (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It doesn't matter who uses PHP, it doesn't make it more of a language. Any fool can learn PHP. That doesn't make one a programmer.

A real programmer can use PHP, just like he can use any programming language to full use. Just because professional engineers use PHP, doesn't make it a programming language. It is a hobbyist language, because anyone that is reasonably intelligent can teach themselves PHP. The same can NOT be said about learning to be a legitimate programmer. Learning syntax is maybe 5% of what it takes to be a real programmer. Learn PHP, and you will still not get the background needed to be a solid, professional programmer. PHP is a powerful scripting language, but it is extremely limited. Not as much as most scipting languages, but doesn't come close to being a real programming language.
Posted by pcLoadLetter (395 comments )
Link Flag

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