Yesterday at the Zend/PHP Conf I had the fairly rare opportunity to see Marc Andreessen, who recently became a member of Zend's board, wax poetic in person.
His main point: Software development is at a "crossover point," the likes of which we haven't seen since Java's emergence in 1995. Developer tools and languages are now being designed/continuously engineered to meet the needs of programmers, not the needs of machines. His prime examples are Java itself and PHP, the former which started out as a programmer-friendly language and has now evolved (de-evolved?) into a systems-programming language a la C. In contrast, high-level scripting languages like the latter (and python, ruby, et al) are attracting far, far more new programmers than Java and will be the basis of millions of new applications in the next 5-10 years.
Key quote: "PHP is to 2005 what Java was to 1995."
Java programmers, before your heads explode, keep in mind that Marc's new venture, Ning, by his own admission runs on a combo of Java and PHP.
Marc was followed by Oracle's "Dr. DBA," Ken Jacobs, who did a good job arguing that "PHP is ready for business, and business is ready for PHP." Basically Ken reinforced the fact that Oracle is behind PHP 100% (witness PHP support in Oracle App Server, Zend Core for Oracle, copious PHP dev resources on OTN, etc.) , but not at the expense of Java. Rather, the whole point of an SOA (and Oracle Fusion Architecture) is the choose the technologies that work best for you.
Capped the afternoon with a Richard Rendell (Oracle development director for PHP) tech session, on how Zend Core has replaced the formerly hard-to-build Oracle-PHP stack with a single, stable, supported binary. Underappreciated however is the fact that OCI8 has been polished up and refactored for ZC; improvements include 20+ bug fixes as well as fairly self-explanatory new php.ini parameters such as oci8.privileged_connect, oci8.max_persistent, oci8.ping_interval, and oci8.default_prefetch.
And don't forget best practices, says Richard -- particularly the fact the full functionality of the Oracle RDBMS is exposed for PHP coders via its PL/SQP APIs. (The Oracle+PHP Cookbook is a big help here...)
PHPfest at the show tonight...