by April 1, 2009 0 comments

Microsoft has always been known for its very tightly integrated pieces of
software. For instance, if you look at components like ASP.NET, Active
Directory, SQL Server, Exchange and SharePoint, all of these work extremely well
together and provide a whole bunch of services to each other as well as a great
development platform that lets you use and extend the features as you wish.
However, one of the biggest complaints against Microsoft technologies was that
they did not play fair with others’ platforms.

The above complaint has been taken quite seriously by Microsoft and when
developing the current version of Windows Server, they did a fairly surprising
turn around. During the development phase for the latest version of Internet
Information Services (IIS) 7.0, they collaborated with developers of PHP — one
of Microsoft’s biggest rivals in the Web application platform space and what
they both came up with is an interesting combination of features.

Direct Hit!

Applies To:PHP programmers
Learn to use put PHP to use on Windows
Primary Link:
PHP, Windows

PHP has always been possible to run on Windows and IIS. However, it is in
IIS7 that it really shines. Not only is PHP fully compatible with IIS, it also
is a first class citizen in IIS along with Microsoft’s own ASP.NET! PHP on
Windows gets a large number of features, and that too for free, that simply do
not exist on other places where PHP can run.

One of the big changes in IIS7 over previous version is the introduction of
what is known as the ASP.NET Integrated Pipeline Mode. This mouthful actually
means that development platforms that integrate into IIS7 (like PHP), gain
access to many of the features of ASP.NET that are now “exposed” as IIS
features. This means that you can actually add a number of features into a PHP
site on IIS7 very easily either using IIS management or an ASP.NET extension.
Let’s take a look at a couple of scenarios below to illustrate these points.

Adding Caching to
your PHP application in IIS7.

Let’s say you have a large PHP site hosted on IIS7 using the Integrated
Pipeline. You might find that performance of the site is not up to par and might
want to go ahead and do something about it. The very first thing that you might
want to do is introduce caching into the web site so that repeated queries for
the same page (or page signature – that includes queries to the database as
well) are cached on the Web server and does not require a re-generation or round
trip to the database. There are of course ways to achieve this in PHP itself —
either by writing your own (non-trivial) code or by including third party files
or controls and configuring them.

However when working with IIS7, you can go ahead and use the IIS7’s built in
Output Caching mechanism that is based on the caching module feature of ASP.NET.
You can either use the IIS7 GUI or add a ASP.NET Web.config file with the
relevant tags to your PHP site. In either case you can select different options
for the cache, timeouts, change monitoring and expiration policy. With a couple
of clicks you can enable your PHP site to get the comprehensive caching features
of ASP.NET without a single line of code.

Creating a
Membership provider to ADS for use in PHP.
Adding a new
connection string to ADS.

Let us take another scenario as well. Consider an enterprise PHP application
that is important for your organization. Since your organization has grown since
the time it was created, you might want to add or change the authorization and
authentication mechanisms in this app. For instance, you might want to use a
database or Active Directory to authenticate users and give different users
access to different areas of the application based on some roles. Again, if you
are running this on the LAMP stack, you will need to code in these changes
yourself — possibly in each page.

In IIS7, performing all of these tasks is simple and can be done without
changing even a single line of code in your PHP application. Simply use the
ASP.NET Membership and Roles modules as part of the IIS7 pipeline. For this, all
you need to do is setup a connection string to the place where your users and
roles are stored (database, ADS, etc.), setup a provider to point to these and
then create a simple ASP.NET page with a Login control on it. You can also
segregate different parts of the site to different users or roles by creating
authorization entries through IIS.

The final example is of diagnosing problems in your web site. IIS7 contains a
powerful tracing and diagnostics feature again taken from ASP.NET that is now
available for PHP as well. You can quickly perform traces on your web site and
get detailed diagnostic information regarding performance and failures and use
these to troubleshoot your site.

IIS7 comes with more than 40 such features built in. You can also download a
whole bunch of more modules (such as ad management, stop hot linking, URL
rewriting, media streaming and many many more) from the Internet or write your
own using the SDK. Getting access to the extremely rich and powerful feature set
of ASP.NET without having to recode your own PHP pages is also a great benefit
that clearly puts the advantages of using PHP on Windows 2008 in front.

We’ll continue this series with some other explorations — such as benchmarks
of PHP applications running on different platforms as well as a look at the TCO
of these cases.

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