89: Running eCommerce big data on PHP

In this interview from the Oregon Convention Center, where both DrupalCon and Symfony Live were taking place, Juozas "people call me Joe" Kaziukėnas talks about PHP's unique combination of ease of implementation, speed, and scalability.

Data science, competitive intelligence, and PHP

Joe is the CTO of E Revolution Ventures - an eCommerce company using PHP to run data-driven eCommerce and drive 25 million dollars of business a year, "and growing quickly": 3-year sales growth of 228% according to the INC 5000.

"A lot of people do eCommerce in very basic terms," according to Joe, "What we do is use data-driven solutions. We go around the internet, we pick a lot of different data, combine it and make decisions based on that. The whole stack - both the back end system and all the processing of the data is all written in PHP."

Big data and business logic

At this point in the conversation, I made the easy assumption that Joe was talking about "Web Experience Management" stuff, analytics and the user-facing side of eCommerce, but I was dead wrong. What eRevolution Ventures is doing is much bigger, "We focus more on the business decisions like buying and selling decisions. Rather than focusing on the customer experience, we focus on what products we should have, what we should have in warehouses, how many, at what time, at what price and cost, etc."

PHP scales with your needs

"A lot of people are shocked that we wrote it all in PHP," but as he explains, this is one of the great parts about choosing PHP, "We started off pretty small as everyone does and it was a good choice to use PHP at that time. We've scaled quite quickly in the past couple of years and PHP has stayed with us for the whole time. It was exciting and pleasant to see PHP handle the loads we put it through. And it's still working fine!"

Joe looking badazz in a kilt.

"It works better than you think it does"

"Once we migrated from PHP 5.3 to 5.4," at E Revolution Ventures, "we got a 5 times performance increase just from that ... and the processes use half as much memory."

"A lot of people assume it is a very 'hackishly' built language, it's actually not the case. A lot of things in PHP are done pretty cleverly: Although it has a few inconsistencies in the APIs, it's actually way better than you think it is." PHP is on par with other languages, "I use Python constantly, and use other languages like R. The PHP ecosystem is extremely good. That's something that PHP has always had."

"If you want to do a startup nowadays, you can do it in PHP and hack in your dorm room and then it grows to Facebook size. No other language is going to have that. For example, deploying Python projects is very hard for a novice. With PHP, you just install Apache, throw in a PHP script and it just works. It has this 'Apple feel' of 'it works'. That's very important."

PHP has grown up

"People need to know PHP can do a lot of things nowadays," if your last taste of PHP was version 5, "which was released a million years ago," you need to see what it's got going on now. "Current versions are very, very fast. They do everything you want to do with them. And they give you this freedom of being able to implement pretty much anything you can imagine."

"Having the karma to commit"

Listen to the audio to hear the story of Joe's first patch to the Zend framework (and the excitement in his voice as he tells it!) and how it led him to participate in other open source projects.

You can follow Joe on Twitter @juokaz and read more about him at http://juokaz.com.