We get a lot of questions about the advantages of running WebSmart PHP applications on Zend Server Professional or Enterprise instead of the Basic (Community) edition. There are many benefits to upgrading so we’ve written a series of blog posts highlighting some of the key features. This is the first post in the series.
Reason #1: Support
Many of our WebSmart PHP customers still run Zend Server’s Basic (Community) Edition, which includes email support for one year from the time you installed Zend Server on your IBM i. After the first year, Zend only provides support if you upgrade to their Professional or Enterprise editions. That means you’re most likely running an unsupported version of Zend Server.
This may be acceptable for non-critical applications, but enterprise applications should run on a supported PHP stack. If you encounter a problem with Zend Server, our technical support team can only offer limited help (such as restarting it for you).
Here are a few scenarios where Zend’s support would’ve been valuable:
Upgrades: An IBM i organization encountered an error while upgrading Zend Server. They couldn’t complete the upgrade for several days, which delayed the delivery of critical information to their users.
Technical support: A BCD customer had problems with the DB2 connect function. This is something only Zend can help them with.
PCI compliance and audits: Would your organization pass a compliance audit if a key component on your runtime stack wasn’t supported?
Having support is a great insurance policy because it gives you someone to call if something goes wrong. With Zend Server and Professional, you get the following levels of phone support:
Professional: Response within six hours during business hours
Enterprise: Response within two hours – 24/7/365
As part of BCD’s newly upgraded partnership with Zend Technologies, BCD now offers the Professional and Enterprise Editions with support provided by Zend. Please contact us if you have questions or would like to schedule a demo.
Keep an eye out for the next blog post in this series, where we’ll also cover Zend Server’s security hotfixes for mitigating known vulnerabilities and audit compliance.
If your WebSmart and Presto programs use SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) then you most likely installed an SSL certificate on your server. Browsers recently started phasing out a common method of encryption (called SHA-1), which may be causing errors in browsers when users visit your site. These errors typically occur in Chrome and Firefox, even when the certificate is valid.
When you deliver WebSmart PHP applications, you want to make sure they perform quickly, without errors and bottlenecks.
If you haven’t already registered, you’re invited to join PHP expert Alan Seiden for this educational webinar tomorrow (Thursday, June 11) at 1pm EDT to see how you can fine-tune your PHP applications for top performance.
You’ll get easy-to-implement tips, including how to:
Optimize DB2 and the IBM i toolkit
Leverage unique IBM i performance tools
Diagnose bottlenecks and errors with Z-Ray
Configure Zend Server for performance
In the last ten minutes, we’ll also discuss why WebSmart PHP with Zend Server is the fastest way to develop PHP applications on IBM i.
The page has instructions on how to disable the weak RC4 ciphers for the IBM i. We recommend checking out the article in order to make sure your Clover, Nexus, Presto and WebSmart ILE/PHP Apache servers with SSL enabled are secured.
Please note that we’re able to provide full support for approximately the last three releases. If you’re still running WebSmart 10.0 or older, we recommend you make plans to upgrade as soon as possible.
We are currently making some internal changes to how we manage our product license keys. While this is in progress we have temporarily taken down the myBCDsoftware.com program that allows customers to generate short-term license keys.
If you anticipate needing a temporary product license key for testing purposes, please contact your BCD sales rep and we’ll be happy to provide one.
If you were relying on this myBCDSoftware.com feature as part of your actual Disaster Recovery (DR) strategy and need to have the ability to switch your applications over to another system on very short notice, we are also happy to provide longer term temporary license keys to tide you over until the portal page is back. You should, however, keep in mind that our web portal is periodically unavailable for system maintenance. An alternative is to purchase a secondary High Availability product license.
You can reach our sales office in Chicago at (630) 986-0800 to request keys or discuss your needs. Or, if you have any questions about this portal feature, please email or call me at our support office at (250) 655-1766.
Many of our WebSmart PHP customers are still relatively new to web application development, while others need more advanced templates to take advantage of MVC or a more object-oriented approach. For this reason, WebSmart 10.5 and 10.6 include new Zend Framework 2 (ZF2) MVC and PHP Data Object (PDO) templates.
You can continue to use the original PHP templates to jumpstart your development but the new templates will give you more options as your skills advance.
Watch the video below to learn more about the new templates and to see how they support all levels of development.
Error messages are an important part of the WebSmart PHP development process, providing valuable information that you can use to fix and improve your scripts. If your script encounters an error, PHP normally displays the error in the browser and, if the error is fatal, stops execution of the script.
But you can override this default functionality, replacing it with your own function that handles errors at runtime. This is a simple two-step process that involves defining your error-handling function and setting it to handle errors in your script with set_error_handler().
The BCD Product Development team has tested the following versions of our software at V7R2:
WebSmart ILE/PHP/Clover 10.2 and 10.5
Spool-Explorer 4.52 (server version 4.50)
ProGen Plus 9.7
File-Flash Plus 4.5
Nexus requires a new authorization module (available by request, and to be included in the next build of the software). With WebSmart we encountered an odd, sporadic library lock error on install; you can answer the message with a Retry (R) to get by it. We are currently working on this issue with IBM.
We didn’t run into any other problems.
If you have any questions please contact Technical Support. If you need to verify your current release levels, KB Article 5595 has instructions on how to find these for all our products.
Earlier this month, Zend released Zend Server 7, a major new release. It includes an impressive new feature, Z-Ray, which gives developers real insight into their PHP code. This allows them to inspect, debug and optimize their pages early in the development cycle, long before they go into production.
Z-Ray monitors requests to the web server and displays relevant, detailed, live information on a simple and intuitive web page component in your browser (similar to how Chrome Developer Tools and Firebug work). This information includes: PHP functions, SQL queries, sessions and cookie data, errors and warnings, memory use, request execution time metrics, and more.
Z-Ray is included in both the Professional and Enterprise editions of Zend Server but is only available as a 30-day trial in the Basic edition (formerly known as Community Edition). There were licensing changes with Zend Server 7 for other platforms, which caused a bit of confusion for IBM i users, but Zend quickly clarified that the licensing for IBM i has not changed. The Basic edition is still free and includes one year of limited support.
You’ll need to use the Professional or Enterprise editions to take advantage of all the debugging, troubleshooting and performance features of Zend Server, including Z-Ray. If you’re running mission-critical applications, we highly recommend using those editions as well.
Zend Server 7 also includes an updated PHP stack for PHP 5.4 and 5.5, and support for IBM i 7.2.