Should you use PHP on IBM i to Help Build Better Applications?

  • IBM

The short answer? It’s a yes from us. But why should you use PHP? PHP is one of the most common languages for building web and mobile applications – and is rapidly growing in popularity on the IBM i.

According to HelpSystems’ 2016 marketplace survey, 21.7 % of businesses using the IBM i platform use PHP as the primary language for new development projects. So, a huge number of websites and browser-based applications on the IBM i are already being developed in PHP, and the move from coding in RPG to PHP is (relatively) straightforward.

PHP supports the procedural programming model familiar to RPG developers, and comes with a toolkit that allows access to native IBM i resources. The other great thing about using PHP on the IBM i? Open source.

Many of the tools out there to help you to run your web applications are open-source. As the source code has been made available to you, free of charge, you can use that as a basis for your PHP web application. There are also a host of applications freely available that run perfectly happily on IBM i.

Applications such as Magento, Joomla, WordPress and Drupal for example are all open source. This can save your business time and money, as you essentially have a useable template right away (though of course, it is then up to you to install it, update it, maintain it and keep it backed up – we recommend taking look at the online resources for each tool for help).

So, where can you get started with PHP on IBM i? There are a few things to consider before you get started developing your web and mobile applications in PHP on the IBM i. You will need to install Zend Server and decide exactly how to start writing your PHP code.

The main options are to edit source files directly in IBM i’s Integrated File System (IFS); write code in your PC’s text editor and upload it to the server with an FTP tool like FileZilla; or you could use an Integrated Development Environment (IDE), like BCD Software’s WebSmart PHP, a fully integrated IDE with a range of templates which can act as a quick-start option, or Zend Studio, another IDE, designed to allow you to code your application from the ground up.

The other thing you’ll need, if you don’t already have it, is a good working knowledge of HTML, CSS and JavaScript – all skills that are relevant when writing web applications in other languages. Again, there is a wealth of online resources to help you get to grips with the basics. So, transitioning to PHP to build your web and mobile applications on IBM i is an ideal way to bring your applications into the browser – the move and set-up is straightforward, and it is a widely used and established platform, with a sea of resources out there to help. Not sure where to start? Then give us a call, we would welcome the ability to share our experiences and expertise.

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