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Announcing our support for Facebook's HipHop

Posted by on February 2, 2010

By now everyone in the PHP community – and most technical leads at companies who rely on PHP – should have heard about Facebook’s revolutionary new open source tool, HipHop. HipHop,
like PHP itself, stands the chance of being a serious game changing technology. Their stated goal was to allow their developers to continue to enjoy the speed of development that PHP gives them while improving the overall performance of their application by transforming it into C++. The resulting “transformed and compiled” application can consume up to 50% less CPU resources than the native PHP application.

There have been attempts in the past to create a PHP compiler to try and improve its speed. There are two points that set HipHop apart from the pack though.

  • First, HipHop does not attempt to compile PHP. It reads PHP code and writes C++ code that is then compiled. The distinction is very important.
  • Second, unlike other projects, this one is actually being used in production on one of the largest web sites on the Internet.

HipHop was not an idea that someone just wanted to write, like all good open source projects, it was written to scratch an itch. Facebook needed to increase the performance of each server they were deploying in an attempt to reduce the number of new machines they had to bring online to keep up with their demand. However, they did not want to lose the one thing that allowed them to innovate quickly, PHP. Thus was born, HipHop.

Currently HipHop supports about 90% of PHP and the core extensions, so it is not yet a perfect tool. However, development is ongoing and as Facebook opens up the technology for others to get involved, expect to see not only 100% coverage but extensions from PECL to begin to be supported as well.

While all of this is great for Facebook and the PHP community at large, it will take companies deploying applications on PHP a while to understand this new technology and begin deploying it own their own. We at Blue Parabola are doing all we can to help this transition.

“We think that HipHop has the potential to bring significant changes to the way we use and interact with PHP; as a result, we are going to support it through a series of diverse initiatives—from knowledge to consulting.” – said Marco Tabini, CEO of Blue Parabola.

How php|a and Blue Parabola will support HipHop
First, we will be opening a new section of the php|architect website with content and discussion on HIPHOP starting February 15th, 2010. This will be the repository for content and links to content about HipHop. Our hope is to build a central resource that developers, admins and managers can all use to find answers for HipHop related questions.

Second, in Q2 we will announce consulting services that will be designed to help companies move their applications to HipHop. We will help with everything from pre-move code analysis, initial setup and deployment and finally, training PHP developers on how to write HipHop friendly code in the future.

Third, in Q3, we will announce training offerings to assist companies in training their developers on how to work with HipHop. This will include not only best practices for development but deployment and tooling training as well.

We are really excited at the possibilities that HipHop can offer to companies and want to help spread the word about it. Make sure you get involved. As you and your company start looking at HipHop, let us know what you think. If you blog about it, make sure you send us the link. This could be good for us all and we want to make sure everyone has all the information they need to use this great new tool.

Cal Evans is a veteran of the browser wars. (BW-I, the big one) He has been programming for more years than he likes to remember but for the past [redacted] years he's been working strictly with PHP, MySQL and their friends. Cal regularly speaks at PHP users groups and conferences, writes articles and wanders the net looking for trouble to cause. He blogs on an "as he feels like it" basis at Postcards from my life.


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