Since I had to setup a whole new computer I decided to move away from the IIS experiment I've been working on for the last year and try something a little different. I'd heard about Zend Server CE before but after a failed attempt to get it working a few months ago, because of IIS ironically enough, I hadn't really given it the attention I thought it deserved. After having played with it for about a week I have to say I'm completely... underwhelmed.
Zend Server is supposed to be a complete Web Application Server that is purpose built for php development. It includes application monitoring, problem root cause analysis and and extended caching capabilities. Pretty enticing really.
Unfortunately, Zend Server CE doesn't include any of the above bells and whistles. Instead, it's a stripped down version that appears to just match the features and functionality of XAMP or WAMP (Apache, php and mysql wrapped in a nice little installer for Windows).
I've used both used both XAMP and WAMP and, with little exception, I've always wished I'd gone with a manual installation instead. It's not that they're bad programs, it's nice that they're available for newbies, but my needs aren't easy to package up in a "one size fits all" package. I like to try new things and experiment and sometimes what I want to do isn't easy without breaking something. Admittedly, I haven't tried to use any one size package for a few years so this may not be the case anymore.
Either way though, I know I have a bias; I might even be a bit of a snob about the issue. Totally possible.
That being said, after installing Zend Server CE, which went very smoothly actually, I was confronted with what appeared to be an incomplete installation of php; php-win just didn't work. It did nothing in fact; I couldn't get it to do a damn thing. Since I do a little maintenance scripting with php-cli (and php-win.exe is essential on Windows) this was a pretty big issue.
On top of that, I just couldn't figure out how to modify the --configure options so changing the setup was obviously going to be an issue. I don't know if I'm an idiot but I just couldn't figure it out.
Then the let down happened; I was under the impression that there were going to be some cool profiling toys to play with. Instead, there's a web GUI for configuring PHP, which is pretty nice I guess, but for me, it's just easier to edit php.ini directly than navigate through a web interface. Kind of useless. What with the integration with Zend Debugger I was really expecting more.
Ultimately, it seems that if you're a complete newbie to php Zend Server CE is a worthwhile fit but if you actually know what you're doing you're still better off setting up a development environment manually.
This is pretty disappointing. A product from Zend, that's supposed to ease the pain of php development being released to the community, offering nothing more than you could already get from a dozen other programs kind of seems like posturing. I understand the desire to have a demo of a paid product but it should, you know, be different.
A good change I'd like to see would be to include some of the more advanced features like the Application problem diagnostics and the Application monitoring (alerting) functionality in the CE version. It would benefit the community far better than the current version.