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The open source PHP dynamic language is one of the most widely deployed languages on Web servers today. But what operating systems are PHP developers using to develop and deploy their applications? It’s a question that has been asked before and now it’s being answered with a new study from Zend, one of the lead commercial backers behind PHP.

The study surveyed 2,000 PHP developers in December and found that 85 percent reported that Linux was their primary operating system as a production environment for PHP.

Windows came in at a distant second at 11 percent while Mac OS X came in third at just 2 percent. However, when Zend drilled down into which platforms respondents prefer for their development, the rankings change dramatically.

According to the study, 42 percent of respondents reported that Windows was their primary operating system for development. Linux came in as No. 2 at 38.5 percent while Mac OS X remained in third place at 19.1 percent.

The findings indicate that while Microsoft Windows remains the top platform for developing in PHP, its lead may be narrowing. Back in 2006, a Microsoft executive reported that 85 percent of PHP developers were developing on Windows, but only 20 percent deployed on a Windows machine. The change comes despite joint work by Zend and Microsoft to improve the capabilities of PHP on Windows servers.

that the new study was based on over 2,000 completed surveys conducted in December 2009, some of which came from Zend customers. The survey was made public through the Zend Framework website, the Zend monthly newsletter, Twitter and DevZone.

Growing prominence for the Zend PHP Framework and server

Participants in the Zend PHP user survey, 84.4 percent of whom said that they currently use the company’s framework, also revealed some details about the state of the Zend Framework for PHP, now some four years after Zend first started developing the platform.

“The vast majority of Zend Framework projects are Web applications, and the survey indicates that most are considered to be business-critical,” Ran Gishri, vice president of product marketing at Zend, told

According to the survey, 58 percent of respondents reported that they use Zend Framework for enterprise-level, business-critical applications, while 16 percent reported using Zend Framework for department-level, business-critical applications.

“We were positively surprised by the very high percentage of Zend Framework-based business-critical applications,” Gishri said. “We know PHP in general has become very common in mainstream corporate IT, but still the numbers were higher than we expected.”

The study also shed some light on what additional features developers would like to see in Zend Framework.

“We did ask developers to rate the importance of various possible Zend Framework enhancements, and over 50 percent noted that taking advantage of new PHP 5.3 features would be very important to them,” Gishri said.

PHP 5.3 debuted in June 2009 and introduced a number of new features to the PHP language. Among the new items is namespace support, which is a way to encapsulate classes and other PHP items. Zend Framework 1.10, which Zend released at the end of January after the survey’s completion, includes new support for autoloading PHP 5.3 namespaced code.

The study also found growing traction for the Zend Server platform when it comes to actually deploying PHP on a server. The survey found that 27 percent of its respondents are now using Zend Server, which was first released in April 2009 as a PHP middleware deployment stack technology.

“We definitely plan to run a similar survey next year; we would expect to see an increase in the number of business-critical applications and an increase in the use of Zend Server, which has been designed to run and manage business critical applications,” Gishri said.

Perhaps not surprisingly, when it comes to the IDE that developers are using to build PHP, the Zend study also found that 70 percent of respondents reported using Zend Studio or Eclipse PHP Development Tools (PDT). Zend Studio is built on top of the Eclipse PDT project, which is also led by Zend. Still, 18 percent of respondents reported that they use the Vim text editor for development.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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