PHP is beginning to compete with Java, according to speakers at a PHP conference. "We think PHP is ready for enterprise use," said Ken Jacobs, Oracle's vice president of product strategy.

Eclipse Foundation director Mike Milinkovich was more circumspect: "Java and PHP compete at some level and I think it's great." It should serve as a reminder within the Java community to "get over itself", he added.

PHP is also having an impact in the C language community. There have been many C extensions written for PHP, said Andi Gutmans, Zend vice president of technology. There also PHP extensions for Microsoft's .Net Framework, according to Zend. Some 50,000 sites are using PHP, Zend CEO Doron Gerstel said.

Yahoo has standardized on the open-source scripting language, which has helped change its perception, said Zend CTO Zeev Suraski. "It was no longer considered a nice toy and a nice language for simple stuff. It was evident that we could support one of the largest Internet sites in the world," he said.

Responding to the question of whether PHP can scale, panelists at the conference tried to refute the notion that it does not.

"I think that any technology can be made to scale if you work at it hard enough and any technology can be made to fail if you don't give it the attention that it deserves," said George Schlossnagle, vice president of engineering at OmiTI, which develops e-mail infrastructure solutions and has been using PHP since 1999. A tremendous amount of Web traffic is being run at PHP sites, Schlossnagle added.

An ADP official agreed. "So far, PHP has certainly scaled and I know from an architectural standpoint, we'll have the capability of getting around any bumps in the road that we see," said Mark Rankin, director of application architecture and infrastructure.

"We're rebuilding our website at Eclipse.org and we're using PHP," rather than Java, Milinkovich said, noting Eclipse has a high-volume site.

Upcoming versions of PHP include version 5.1, planned for early next month, and PHP 6, expected in 2006. Version 5.1 will feature a faster engine as well as improvements in data integration, including PHP data objects support as well as PHP service data objects, for interfacing with databases and XML. Version 6 is to feature internationalisation.

PHP releases are developed by a variety of participant organizations including Zend, and more than 450 people work on them.