Infrastructure vendor Engine Yard is well known in the development community for its support of Ruby on Rails. Engine Yard is now also moving into the PHP space, by sponsoring the Lithium PHP Framework.
This is not Engine Yard's first foray into the PHP development world. In August of 2011, Engine Yard acquired PHP Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) vendor Orchestra. Now by supporting Lithium, the goal is to further enable PHP developers.
"PHP 5.3 was a big step forward for the language, and Lithium was the first framework built from the ground up to leverage the new features," Bill Platt, VP Operations at Engine Yard said. "Lithium was architected by proven community leaders and innovators with extensive experience building frameworks."
One of those leaders is Garrett Woodworth, one of the co-founders of Lithium. Now an Engine Yard employee, Woodworth formerly co-led the CakePHP framework, which he left to co-found Lithium. Platt noted that Engine Yard is investing both in the financing and promotion of the Lithium framework.
"Engine Yard is not assuming ownership of the project; we're partnering with the core team for the benefit of the community," Platt said. "Engine Yard is the first official sponsor. We encourage other companies to sponsor."
Lithium vs. CakePHP vs. Zend Framework
The market for PHP frameworks is now becoming more crowded with Lithium, CakePHP and Zend Framework all vying for developer interest. Woodworth explained to that the core developers of Lithium were leaders in the CakePHP community for several years. All that experience was used to build a new framework from the ground up to leverage the new features in PHP 5.3.
When comparing Lithium to Zend Framework, Woodworth said they are both great PHP frameworks that serve different needs. In his view, Zend Framework is a library of tools that can be combined to make an application framework. In contrast, Lithium is a lightweight, full-stack framework with easy integration of third-party libraries.
"Lithium is based on the principles of rapid application development, while also providing integrated tools for quality assurance and testing," Woodworth said. "Zend Framework provides a large number of components that can be easily integrated into your application."
It's also not necessarily a battle of one framework versus another, as frameworks share a certain degree of interoperability. Woodworth explained that the PHP Framework Interoperability Group, which the Lithium team helped start, helps to standardize across frameworks (including Zend Framework). It's designed to help people integrate projects and move seamlessly from one to another.
From a language perspective, while Lithium was initially built to support PHP 5.3, the framework is now continuously tested against both PHP 5.4 and PHP 5.3.
"PHP 5.3 is the minimum requirement, and future versions of Lithium will move that to 5.4 as some of the new features like short array syntax and traits are integrated into the core," Woodworth said.
PHP vs. Ruby
With its growing support of PHP, Engine Yard is serving both Ruby and PHP developers. Platt noted that his company's overall goal is to provide customers with the best tools they need to succeed.
"PHP and Ruby, as well as frameworks like Lithium and Rails, enable our customers to develop and deploy faster," Platt said. " There is plenty of overlap in the use cases, so the decision comes down to what tool are you familiar with and will allow you to meet the needs of your customers."