Evolution of PHP on Windows

Posted by Colette Stallbaumer
Director, Worldwide Marketing and Operations

Over the past several years, Microsoft and its partners have worked diligently with the PHP community to improve the experience PHP developers and users have on Windows Server and Windows Azure.  Now the PHP community supports Windows right alongside Linux, and this continues with today’s release of PHP 5.4.0.  We talked with René de Haas, CEO of a Dutch webhosting company called SoHosted, a partner who has been instrumental in improving the PHP on Windows experience.  According to René, “Between 2003 and 2012 we've seen the general opinion about Microsoft, Windows and PHP turn 180 degrees” due to the improvements made.  Continue reading below about how SoHosted’s customers are taking advantage of PHP on Windows.  

Please give our readers some background about SoHosted.  

SoHosted offers web hosting, domain registration related services, and B2B IT solutions to more than 25,000 customers in Western Europe. We strive to deliver a good priced, high-service, and reliable hosting environment. We chose Windows as our platform because we wanted to offer multiple web scripts, including PHP. When we started SoHosted, most customers could only use PHP because many web hosters in our region were Linux based. However, we decided to also support ASP and .NET, which gave our customers more flexibility and helped us grow rapidly.

How has the PHP on Windows experience evolved in the last several years? What was your role?  

The experience has greatly improved in the past several years.  Between 2003 and 2006, we used a FastCGI for ISAPI/NSAPI script handler and the official CGI and ISAPI method provided by the PHP binaries. The script handler had beta status and was unmaintained and imperfect, making it arduous to deliver the customer experience we wanted. However, in 2006, Microsoft stepped up its efforts supporting PHP and we started using the FastCGI script handler provided by Microsoft.  We extensively tested and bug checked the script handler, and reported the results to the Windows Internet Information Services (IIS)/FastCGI development team.  We also contributed some outstanding bug-fixes to PHP.  This along with many fixes coming from the PHP-community itself, including the hard work of Pierre Joye in particular, resulted in an excellent build of PHP 5.3.0 for Windows. The best part is that this seems like just the beginning of it all.  In the PHP 5.4.0 release we expect more performance improvements and excellent new features while maintaining compatibility with the major content management systems that our customers use.

What do your customers have to say about their PHP on Windows experience with SoHosted?

Everything just works as it should work.  They typically don’t know if they are on Linux or Windows, they just know they are on SoHosted and the experience is great.

What are some interesting ways your customers are using PHP on Windows?

Many customers use PHP in combination with a content management system (CMS) like Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, Magento, or Made Simple. Many of our customers take advantage of the flexibility to run their own CMS or integrate only small parts of PHP into their websites. The interesting thing here is that it doesn't matter whether you're just using a simple PHP plug-in in a low-volume website or whether you're a large enterprise company running your entire website in PHP.  The PHP on Windows solution works well for everyone.

What surprised you most about the PHP on Windows experience?

Between 2003 and 2012 we've seen the general opinion about Microsoft, Windows and PHP turn 180 degrees. We've seen many developers and customers who were dedicated to UNIX years ago now vouching for PHP on Windows.  If you asked someone about hosting PHP on Windows several years ago, they wouldn’t have been complimentary.  However, if you ask someone today they'll reply with the great things they've heard about it or the great things they experienced with it.

Thanks to René and the SoHosted team for their hard work improving the PHP on Windows experience.  Let us know what you think of the PHP 5.4.0 release in the comments.  What additional enhancements would you like to see for Windows in the next version of PHP?