DZone: Could you introduce yourself and your experience with software development and the Zend Framework?
Jason: I'm a Columbus, Ohio-based developer with a focus primarily upon using open source technologies. My experience using PHP and MySQL stretches back to 1997 when I started looking for practical solutions to building dynamic Websites. They served me well back then and still do today!
When Rails ignited the mass migration to framework-based development a few years ago, I spent some time working on Rails-driven projects, however when the Zend Framework project started gathering steam I did
some investigation and liked what I saw, primarily because it gave me an opportunity to continue using my favorite language in the most efficient way possible.
Over the years I've used the Zend Framework to implement a number of projects, including EasyPHPWebsites.com, which serves as the support site for my programming books, including "Easy PHP Websites with the Zend Framework".
DZone: What differentiates the Zend Framework from other popular choices like Ruby on Rails and the Spring Framework?
Jason: All of the popular frameworks accomplish the common goal of helping developers embrace best practices when creating Websites. I guess the Zend Framework differs from other solutions in that the component-based approach makes it very convenient for developers to quickly implement a specific feature, such as connect to Amazon S3 or create an RSS feed. In fact, the Zend Framework is packaged with so many components that sometimes the greatest challenge is keeping tabs on all of the latest features!
DZone: What does it mean that the Zend Framework is a "use-at-will" framework? Why is this preferable?
Jason: The Zend Framework developers have deftly managed to create a framework which embraces a great number of best practices without necessarily forcing users to use all of them. For instance, the Zend
Framework implements the Table Data Gateway design pattern, but does not force you to use it when talking to a database. This strategy fits the PHP community well, given the community's history of independent thinking. So while I'd not necessarily call this particular approach superior to others, I'd say that it's quite suitable to the PHP community.
DZone: What are some of the latest enhancements in the PHP language that are supported by the Zend Framework?
Jason: The current version of the Zend Framework requires users to install PHP version 5.2.4 or later, something I'd recommend doing in any case. However, users are not required to possess any particular knowledge of PHP 5.3's most advanced features such as closures or namespaces; in fact I believe the Zend Framework is a great solution for developers possessing only a basic understanding of PHP and object-oriented programming, precisely because it facilitates the use of best practices.
DZone: What can we expect to see in future releases?
Jason: High profile features have been added to the Zend Framework seemingly with every release, however at this point it seems the framework has reached a level of maturity in which near-term future releases will focus upon refactoring the codebase to take advantage of new PHP features such as namespacing. Of course, as new Web services appear I'm sure we'll see new components added as well! A 2.0 roadmap was published just a few months ago, with quite a few proposed improvements, so I can't wait to see how it turns out!