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book review: php development in the cloud

Note: This article was originally published at Planet PHP on 26 May 2011.
Planet PHP
Cloud computing is no longer a buzz word, a hype that's been shouted at many technical conferences. No, it has turned into a real business model many people make a living off. And in that perspective I started exploring the world of cloud computing about a year ago. I also teamed up with Microsoft to promote and explore their new Windows Azure platform and even co-organized a contest deploying PHP applications on the Microsoft cloud solution.

A couple of weeks ago, my dear friend Cal Evans asked me to review the book "PHP Development in the Cloud" written by "Ivo Jansch" and "Vito Chin". I accepted as I was very interesting in exploring more of the cloudy world I just found myself in the middle of. Another reason was that both authors were fellow co-workers at Ibuildings back in the day. I promised this would be an objective review seen through the eyes of a developer just started exploring the mystifying world of cloud solutions.

The book
Let me say the book is a fun read. You can take it up to your bedroom as late-night read, read during lunch or even in the garden when the kids are playing about. It all evolves around an photo managing application that uses the power of the cloud to process uploaded images and manage them in a new distribute way. Both Ivo and Vito build up the story where they take one feature at the time and use one of the provided cloud platforms to facilitate or expand the application's functionality.

They also explain in plain words the different cloud solutions that are being offered these days and throw terms at you like IaaS, PaaS and SaaS with a detailed description why you would choose this specific cloud architecture followed by code examples. And this little extra attention to detail is something I could really appreciate as I was exploring these architectures but couldn't tie it to useful use cases why I should choose architecture A for this, but B for that. I'm glad Ivo and Vito cleared this fog for me.

At the end of the book you have a functional photo managing application that uses cloud solutions from different cloud suppliers, each with it's specific usefulness. I think that working out the example code and playing with it was what I needed to get the clue as I'm more focussed on hacking code.

The good
Like I already explained in my introduction, this book is well written and the order of chapters make it very easy to expand functionality step-by-step. If you're already familiar with cloud solutions, this book gives you some hands-on examples you can try out on different cloud platform architectures so you can decide which vendor provides the best solution for your needs.

I also enjoy seeing various references to other open-source tools that allow you to fine-tune and optimize your application, infrastructure or platform you want to run your application or feature on.

The bad
Although the book was well written and examples were clear and understandable, I found it hard to get some of the examples deployed on cloud solutions I haven't played with before. Luckily the internet is a good resource finding solutions to issues that crosses your path in the book. But I do want to state a small warning that if you're absolutely new to cloud development, the exercises in the book might frustrate you as you have to do additional searches to get it all working.

The ugly
Although this book is complete in describing all features of cloud architectures and solutions, I do miss a little disclaimer that indicates the examples are written by technology experts and require some knowledge on some of the implementations they use. Even for me some things I had to reread as I have no degree in Computer Science and some of the concepts were unknown to me. In my case, Google was my friendly teacher to bring me back up to speed.

If you're doing PHP and you're deploying apps on cloud technology, you'll find this book very interesting as it gives you some specific usages for each of the cloud solution providers. If either PHP or cloud technology is new to you, I'd recommend to get up to speed first before you jump into the dark.