Chris Tankersley

Zend's Acquisition Doesn't Matter, for now

Posted on 2015-10-06

OK, so the title sounds like it comes off as a bit harsh. Today it was announced that RogueWave Software aquired Zend, and RogueWave could now offer and support a full LAMP stack that many enterprise customers were already running. Zend is a staple in the PHP community, with it's founders Andi Gutmans and Zeev Suraski working on the Zend Engine (the thing that turns all of our PHP code into something useful), and Zend's suite of software including Zend Framework, Zend Server, and Zend Studio.

Looking at RogueWave, Zend's software will be a good compliment to what RogueWave already offers. So congrats to both parties.

Let's not stop Twitter though, and my timeline thus far is filled with congratulations all the way to doomsday predictions on the future of PHP. Let's break down what I think will happen.

Zend as they are will disappear

From what I've seen of traditional enterprise mergers, we've got a good two to three years before we start seeing anything major. There is traditionally a grace period where the newly aquired company is allowed to function like they had for a few years as everyone figures out what is going on, especially when the aquisition is amicable. Zend will continue to look like Zend for a while.

After that grace period wears off, we'll start to see changes I'm sure. Zend software will start to be licensed like however RogueWave's software is licensed, release schedules will start to match up, synergies between projects will be more heavily looked at, and so on. Whether any of that is good or bad I don't know, I know little of RogueWave personally, but Zend isn't going to stop acting like Zend overnight.

I hope that anyway. I'm looking forward to a few more ZendCons in Vegas.

The Zend Engine will change licenses

PHP, and the Zend Engine, currently follow the PHP License. There's a line at the top though that has people worried:

Copyright (c) 1999-2006 Zend Technologies Ltd. All rights reserved.

Zend holds the copyright to the Zend Engine, and thus the ability to set the license on the Zend Engine. What's the Zend Engine? It's the thing that makes PHP... well, PHP. It turns our written code into something servers understand, and makes things work. The only major player that compares to it is HHVM (yes, there are others, but HHVM is the only one I've seen with real traction).

So, as copyright holder, Zend/RogueWave is well within their rights to change the license to something more permissive, or lock it down. It is their choice.

If they do decide to do that, they can't change it retroactively. The PHP Community as a whole can continue to use previous versions of the Zend Engine, as long as they continue to follow the PHP License, and ignore the "new" Zend Engine. Life would find a way.

There's precedent for that in fact, as when Zend suddenly showed up with phpng, there was some talk about not using it. We're a fickle group, and PHP internals could, and would, move away from the Zend Engine if needed. We'd also gladly continue to use older versions of Zend Engine before the license change.

Worse case, we're all switching to HHVM and we have a few minor bugs to figure out.

Licensing Changes [EDIT - 2015-10-06 2:05pm]

A few people have brought to my attention my mistating that Zend can change the license. It's more complicated then I let on above, but as the copyright holder to the Zend Engine Zend could change the license. This will take a bit of work though, because in PHP each contributor keeps copyright over the code that they themselves have writtern. By contributing code to PHP, we don't really have one specific copyright holder, anyone that has contributed has a bit of say over the license change.

To top that off, everyone would have to agree to the license change. Joomla went through a similar process when they tried to change the license on the Joomla Framework code to LGPL. This meant determining who contributed under the old licenses and getting them to sign off on the new license. It was a tremendous undertaking, but they did it.

So, Zend has the copyright on the Zend Engine, and can attempt to change the license, if everyone agrees. I don't forsee that happening. I'd bet we'd replace the engine long before that happens.

For a bit of a doomsday scenario, I wouldn't rule out the possibility of a new engine from RogueWave that is compatible with Zend Engine/Whatever we use in the future, much like HHVM is. HHVM has already proven that there is a market for an enhanced PHP that is compatible with Zend Engine PHP but has some nice things added. That would allow RogueWave to offer an "enterprise PHP" to their customers that they control, much like we see Oracle roll their own version of Redhat.

If this happens, I hope RogueWave calls it the "Rogue Engine." RogueWave, feel free to contact me for payment on the usage of that name.

Zend Framework will die

No it won't. Zend Framework, while a nice entry point for developrs to get into Zend's over-arching product line, is an open source project. Anyone can fork it and work on it. Zend Framework is also a major player in the PHP Framework space, with a vibrant community and a huge userbase. Granted, the main contributers to Zend Framework are Zend employees, but the license is permissive and I'm sure that people will still work on it in the event of RogueWave no longer wanting to support it.

RogueWave seems to invest heavily in Open Source software though, and Zend Framework will work well with their customers. I doubt the future of Zend Framework is anything to worry about.

So, Congrats to RogueWave and Zend

I, for one, want to congratulate Zend and RogueWave on their partnership and merger. They seem to compliment each other, and it just means that PHP will get better support in enterprises.

In a few years I might eat my words, but I'm sure right now my friends at Zend will enjoy themselves going forward.