Oracle is the latest database vendor to put its weight behind the PHP scripting language for business, with a new tool that integrates PHP applications with its databases.

Oracle and PHP tool developer Zend Technologies have developed a PHP engine called Zend Core for Oracle. The tool, to be released for free in the summer, will integrate Oracle's databases and Zend's PHP environment.

PHP is an open-source scripting language used for developing Web applications. While it has been mainly used by Web developers in the past (the name originally meant Personal Home Page) the language is increasingly being used as a simpler alternative to languages such as Java for developing in-house applications. Other scripting languages gaining currency in the enterprise include Python, Perl and Ruby.

IBM formed a similar deal with Zend earlier this year for integrating PHP into IBM's corporate databases. Intel and SAP have also invested in Zend. Sun is testing integration of scripting languages into its open-source tool platform, NetBeans. Microsoft is adding support for Python in its .Net Common Language Runtime. Such developments tap into a growing need in the enterprise, but also address smaller companies, which often lack the in-house expertise to develop in Java, C++ or other heavy-duty languages.

Zend said more than 20 percent of its customers are already using Oracle. "A significant percentage of Zend's customers are creating applications using Oracle Database, demonstrating the suitability of PHP as the backbone of enterprise applications," said Zend president and CEO Doron Gerstel.

Oracle isn't planning an integrated development environment (IDE) for PHP to compare with its Java-based IDEs or Zend's products such as Zend Platform and Zend Studio, according to Oracle. However, it is planning to improve how PHP fits in with tools such as JDeveloper.

Zend and Oracle have launched a PHP Development Center on the Oracle Technology Network website and a JDeveloper 10 PHP extension. Zend's founders originally developed PHP, and the company's PHP products are deployed in more than 8,000 companies. PHP itself is used in more than 15 million websites, the company said.