129: Meet Paul Wander - 1/3 - PHP and Open Source in the Enterprise

Part 1 of 3: Paul Wander, co-founder and VP Sales and Marketing at the UK PHP service provider Inviqa – the co-parent company of SensioLabs UK – was kind enough to give me an hour of his time recently to talk about some interests we have in common. In this podcast, we talk about when Paul discovered open source software, Inviqa and SensioLabs UK's history, Symfony and open source software in the enterprise. In parts 2 and 3, we cover Symfony2, Drupal 8, behavior driven development, open source in the public sector, and more.

PHP's position on the web

Paul explains PHP's importance: "What's critical for me is that PHP seems to be the only language which is actually designed to be executed on the web, it plays well with other technology, it executes on the web servers themselves and it is now the preeminent language for executing web, full stop. We see that today, with numbers that are astonishing. There are various different measures, but anyone will tell you at least 70% of the internet is running PHP."

PHP is mature and enterprise-ready

"PHP is really easy to learn and that's a really good thing and a really dangerous thing." Comparing PHP today to its hobbyist-tinged history, "The maturity is not just the language itself. There's a lot of associated technology through the LAMP stack and browser technology as well through to the modern Javascript frameworks. The ecosystem around PHP is quite broad, but at the heart of it, you've got this incredible language. Now, with the advent of modern frameworks, security is a non-issue. You can code bad applications in any language of your choice, but all the old 'itties': reliability, security, availability ... all of those are accepted and acceptable around PHP. If you know how to use PHP in the right way, then it's a mature, enterprise-standard language.

"For the parts of the business that need to be agile, that's where they favor PHP. The marketing team who can never get campaigns, landing pages, social engagement, omni-channel ... They want to do things quite quickly, quite cheaply, see if it works. If it works, they'll do more. It allows organizations – startups and enterprises alike – to dip their toe in the water of web technology."

Open Source is better in the enterprise

"Why do enterprises want to adopt open source technologies? At the outset – there's no getting away from this – they imagine it's going to be cheaper, which it is a little bit compared to licensed software. But that's not the point. Enterprises now and the 'social revolution' that's happened and everything that's going on around omni-channel ... Enterprises realize now that the old ways don't work. Where you used to have licensed technology, a lot of people pay a company a small amount of money and they'll have a whole floor of developers producing an application for you. The inverse is now happening where you have a lot of people involved in building those applications themselves. People are contributing to these open source projects; a lot of people are. And because the software is free – free of encumbrances when it comes to licenses – and easy to use, it means that a very wide community adopts that software."

It means that to an enterprise, they've got a piece of software which is better tested. In the dark corners of that software, they will have more people using that one weird feature than you would ever have in a piece of licensed software. If we talk about a CMS, that's really vital. You get complex workflows and editorial sign-off processes which have to be followed. If you're customizing Drupal, you just know you've got thousands of cohorts out there who have done or are doing the same thing as you. So your certainty, you level of confidence in the software is very high because you've got a massive community which is testing and hitting that software all the time. Licensed software vendors don't like that so much.

Supporting the enterprise choice

"When it comes to enterprises looking at open source software, they are particularly interested to have a throat to strangle. They want an organization to help support their software and the community is a bit amorphous. So it's very important that around the key open source projects we've got organizations out there who do offer that package support, service level agreements, etc. for the large enterprises." Paul mentions Acquia in this context for Drupal and I should point out that SensioLabs provides the same kind of support for the Symfony2 PHP framework. "It's really important that enterprises see that maturity out there in the commercial marketplace in order for them to start adopting these projects into their environment."


The audio and image were out of sync for portions of our conversation. The video reflects that at times.