Free and Open PHP on IBM i

open php ibm iA new flavor of PHP has arrived in IBM i-land. Some call it “free.” Some call it “community.” As described in a recent IT Jungle article, PHP is now available on IBM i as a lean RPM download that does not require Zend Server.

Our friends at IBM and Zend (now Perforce) have packaged a bare-bones PHP edition for customers who want PHP but don’t feel they need to purchase the extra tools of Zend Server.

I’ll share what our open source experts at Seiden Group have learned as we’ve installed and optimized both traditional Zend Server and “open” PHP for our customers.

Benefits of open PHP

  • Lightweight installation
  • Free and open; no need to request a license
  • Industry-standard management and configuration (Yum, RPMs, PHP .ini files)
  • Flexible setup. For example, in addition to Apache+FastCGI, we can use options such as Nginx+FPM+chroot containers
  • PHP is now 64-bit (up from 32-bit). No more running out of PASE memory due to a “MAXDATA” misconfiguration

What, if anything, is missing with open PHP?

Community PHP is for shops who are comfortable configuring open source, or who get help doing so. Here are areas where open-source knowledge may be required:

  • Open PHP ships with a limited set of extensions. Several popular extensions aren’t shipped in the RPM package. If needed, they can be added using open-source tools.
  • Because the ibm_db2 extension is not included, but odbc is, we checked with Jesse Gorzinski, IBM i Open Source Business Architect, who replied:

The future strategic direction is definitely ODBC. It provides a fully supported way of talking to the database, with an ODBC driver included with IBM i software maintenance agreements (SWMA). However, ibm_db2 can still be built and used. There is a decade of history with ibm_db2 and a countless number of customers are using it. So it’s not going to vanish.

  • Although installing the PHP language via RPM is quick and easy, the RPM stops short of setting up the web server. Whereas Zend Server sets up a standard Apache instance, users of the RPM will need to know their options, and configure them accordingly, whether Apache+FastCGI or Nginx+FPM. We hope to write more about these options in the future.
  • No paid components  (Monitor, Code Trace, Remote Debugger, Job Queue, others) familiar from Zend Server.
  • No web administration GUI or green-screen Zend menu. Commands, such as those to start and end the web server, need to be learned and executed directly.

What is the same?

  • Existing PHP code will run, so long as all extensions have been installed and configured
  • Frameworks such as Laravel and Zend Framework (now called Laminas) will still work

How to get RPM PHP, and helpful resources

  • RPM packages are available from
  • We asked Jesse Gorzinski for his recommended sources of PHP on IBM i support. He replied:

The community channels are still there. I’d recommend (you need to join at If you need more hands-on assistance, there are places like Seiden Group, who was part of our RPM early access program and has a long track record of helping IBM i users embrace PHP. I’d also recommend getting support from the IBM TSS group ( before deploying to production!

Low-stress PHP on IBM i

PHP support is just a call away!

Get in touch for hands-on help and advice with PHP on IBM i (both Zend Server and RPM), including installation, configuration, and db2 and toolkit connections.

3 replies
  1. Jon Paris
    Jon Paris says:

    Any feedback on relative performance yet Alan?

    The 64 bit change plus a slimmer footprint minus Zend performance tweaks = ????


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