I'm being asked you evaluate a fairly complex web project using the MS SQL
Server 2000 back-end.  A large application will be built, involving lots of
technical and financial information from multiple sources and types of
input daily, weekly, monthly, etc.  Reports will also be run daily, weekly,
monthly, etc., against this data.  All the data including input, views and
reports has to work well with a standard web browser client, although some
the reports will be emailed to clients who use Blackberry PDAs.

I'd rather take more time with the specifics before committing to a single
technology but the client is asking which technology we'd propose before
award the job.

At this point I'm leaning towards PHP as the solution (although to CIOs, I'm
sure 'Java' is still a sexier word than 'PHP'), but I'd like to ask for
general opinions on the value of PHP vs. Java (specifically Apache
J2EE applications) for this kind of web-enabled application.

I am not going to go at this from a JAVA vs. PHP viewpoint as each have
strengths in certain applications. What I will do is evangelize about PHP
for the application you describe.

We regularly use PHP for "Enterprise Level" applications for a number of
reasons including development time, application speed, modularity,
cross-platform stability, usability in many situations (for instance, we
have many PHP functions that run as standalone scripts or in conjunction
with other shell scripting languages that can be called from timed events,
such as those found in CRON jobs and other command line executions). I will
give you an instance;

Retrieve files from remote location each day,
Extract needed files each day,
Parse files,
Import parsed files into database,
Do multiple reports in multiple versions (Excel, HTML, PDF, etc),
Request needed files from database,
Put those files into usable form for billing application,
Forward those files to the appropriate location for billing.

Eventually we will move our entire billing, customer service, aging and
collection information to a PHP application(s) running in a set of
web-interfaces...replacing legacy software, some of which still runs as a
DOS application. PHP is a terrific solution for developing such a large
scale application as modules can be added to the application either
singularly or in groups to add needed functionality to the overall
application without compromising other modules utilizing the same data. We
receive millions of records each week that are handled by the PHP
applications, it has the needed horsepower.

>From a testing and approval standpoint it allows the cycle to be shortened
from conception to production, a very good thing. Errors can be quickly
found and corrected while new functionality does not require rewriting tons
of code. If you plan carefully each module can remain independent enough
from other modules, allowing modules to be added or depricated without
affect the performance of other modules. Sound database planning is also key
to this.

As for the PDA's PHP plays well with XSLT, CSS, and any other formatting
tool that you can think of to deliver reports. The same report data can be
formatted by PHP using these tools for many different interfaces (again,

PHP, to my way of thinking, is easier to maintain for others who may have to
come in contact with your code after you have gone down the road to another
project. It is well documented and features tons of extensions that can be
added to the core for increased functionality (i.e.

And finally, you can use JAVA with PHP should the need arise, therefore not
locking yourself into a particualr technology and allowing you to flex the
strengths of appropriate technologies for appropriate tasks.

My .02


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