PHP Web tool developer Zend lures big-name backers

By : |September 30, 2005 0

Eric Auchard

SAN FRANCISCO: Web pioneer Marc Andreessen has joined the board of directors of Zend Technologies Inc., the Israeli-American company behind the PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) programming craze that has become one of the most popular tool for Web site development and is now making in-roads in big businesses.

Zend said on Thursday that Andreessen, a co-founder of Netscape Communications Corp., the Web browser, and Gaurav Dhillon, former CEO of business software maker Informatica Corp. have joined Zend’s board.

“Marc understands the Internet ecosystem better than anyone I know,” said Index Ventures’ Danny Rimer, a London-based investor in Zend and a Wall Street Internet analyst in the dot-com era.

Zend and its founders are the architects of the PHP Web programming language used to program more than 22 million Web sites, Zend officials said, citing data from technology tracking site Netcraft. Its rise has largely been a grass-roots phenomenon. New publishing tools such blogs and wikis — a sort of group blog — typically are built with PHP.

But PHP has been winning greater recognition as corporate technology managers have begun to recognize how widespread its use is in all sorts of stealth projects within their organizations, Gartner analyst Mark Driver said.

“This year is a coming-out party, really, for PHP,” said Driver, who tracks open source software development. He added that while little understood outside of computer programming circles, “PHP is the king of the Web development world.”

Recognition of the growing role that PHP is playing within businesses has spurred two of the world’s top three software companies — IBM and Oracle Corp. to work with Zend and embrace PHP as a development platform, helping legitimate the use of PHP among top corporate decision makers.

Driver said that IBM and Oracle see PHP as an alternative to Web development tools from their archrival Microsoft Corp., which offers tools such as Visual Basic scripting language and the .ASP Web development framework.

Just as Red Hat helped spearhead the commercialization of Linux to transform it from free software largely used to run Web servers into a viable challenger to Microsoft’s Windows in big business, Zend is doing that with PHP.

PHP was first released 10 years ago by Rasmus Lerdorf, a Danish-Canadian programmer from Canada, as an easy way to build Web sites. Its original name reveals its early focus: PHP Personal Home Page Tools.

Zend, whose name is a hybrid of the names of co-founders Andi Gutmans and Zeev Suraski, was created to help formalize the development of PHP and help it become the most popular scripting language for building dynamic Web programs.

Based in Cupertino, California, Zend developed the kernel of the open-source Web programming system and makes money by supporting and managing PHP applications.

Andreessen is currently chairman and co-founder of Opsware Inc., a top supplier of datacenter automation software.

Zend is privately held and venture funded with investments from Azure, Index, Intel Capital, Platinum, SAP Ventures and Walden Israel.

(Additional reporting by Tom Ngyugen in New York)

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