ZendCon 2011 – Introducing Zend Developer Cloud, Zend Studio 9 and Zend Framework 2

ZendCon kicked off on 17 October in Santa Clara, California. The surprise of the conference was the announcement of the launch of Zend Developer Cloud during Zend’s CEO Andi Gutmans’ opening keynote speech.

Zend Developer Cloud is a free, cloud based environment for developing and deploying PHP applications. It has tools to quickly set up PHP application stacks, including Zend Framework, Joomla, Drupal and WordPress. It includes a code tracing tool and debugging features. Once the application is ready, it can be deployed to any cloud provider supporting the “Zend Application Fabric”, including Amazon and Rackspace. Zend Developer Cloud also supports the ability to take snapshots of instances at any given time that can be shared with other developers. This could be useful for developer collaboration. It is currently available as a “technology preview release”, you can request an early access key here.

The keynote also featured a live demonstration and one of the tools featured during the demonstration was the new Zend Studio 9 beta. It features tight integration with the Zend Developer Cloud, allowing developers to deploy to the cloud instances from within the IDE. Other noteworthy features include Git and Github support build into the IDE which should make a lot of developers very happy. Emphasis was also placed on how the new IDE can be configured to only include modules that developers need, cutting down a lot of the bulk that is a common complaint with Eclipse IDEs.

During the week before the conference, the beta 1 release of Zend Framework was announced. ZendCon 2011 had several talks detailing the internal workings of the new framework. One of the major changes includes extensive use of dependency injection throughout to make it truly extensible. Most of the framework was rewritten to ensure consistency throughout and to harness the full capabilities of PHP 5.3. The architecture was also simplified greatly by introducing event driven programming to the framework. To find out more about ZF2, have a look at the community wiki. Take note that the API will change while still in Beta.

ZendCon 2009 PHP Conference – Review

October 2009 saw my return to San Jose for one of the top conferences on the PHP calendar – ZendCon. Other than taking place a month later and the conference venue shifting locations slightly, much of the format of this year’s ZendCon was the same as last year’s.

Taking the organizational reigns this time around, Eli White takes over from Cal Evans who recently moved from Zend to iBuildings. Organization was mostly smooth, with a few minor hiccups – day 1 had a serious lack of power supply, leaving most attendees with dying laptops before lunch. Compounding the problem, no notepads or pens were provided on registration. Attendees who had registered early and received free netbooks reported that the netbooks came with European plugs instead of US ones. However, most of these issues were sorted out by day 2.

The speakers at this year’s ZendCon included some familiar stalwarts – Sebastian Bergmann was back and presented on topics including testing, quality assurance and continuous integration. Accompanying him, was Stefan Priebsch and Arne Blankerts, who together with Sebastian Bergmann makes up the newly formed PHP consulting company, thePHP.cc. Cal Evans was present in the capacity as a speaker and delivered a good presentation on design patterns. Of course, Elizabeth Marie Smith was back and presented on PHP for the desktop using php GTk as well as a talk on SPL

Of all the speakers, two that stood out was Ilia Alshanetsky and Stefan Priebsch. I attended two of Ilia sessions, the first about premature optimization and the second on popular caching tools, APC and Memcache. His rapid delivery style and excellent knowledge crammed an almost overwhelming amount of content into a single one hour slot. Stefan Priebsch joined in on a code review tutorial session with Sebastian Bergmann and Arne Blankerts, but it was only when he presented on OOP best practices when he came into his own. Stefan is an engaging speaker and his OOP knowledge demands a lot of respect.

As usual, Twitter and the ZendCon IRC channel was abuzz with attendees tweeting during the conference and was a great way to keep a finger on the conference’s pulse.

The conference, however, wasn’t without negatives – drinks (soft drinks and coffee) were only served after every 2 talks and physically removed after the break, even though these weren’t refrigerated to begin with. In some instances, I had to leave the conference venue to purchase my own drinks.

This year there was no party or any afterhours activities arranged by the conference or sponsors other than the usual reception – this year sponsored by Adobe.

Regarding the format of the conference, I do feel that there are too many talks and the talks are too short – it is simply not possible (unless your name is Ilia Alshanetsky) to fit any meaningful amount of information into a one hour slot , especially the more advanced topics (which are of course the more interesting ones).

ZendCon 09 ended with a framework shootout – a representative of each of the more popular PHP frameworks were invited to appear in a panel discussion and the audience grilled them with questions. Of course, to liven things up, each panel member was provided with a toy gun. Although not particularly useful, it was highly entertaining and a great way to end the conference with.

For a list of conference speakers, talks, ratings and slides of this year’s ZendCon, check out the ZendCon Joind.in page.