Facebook re-write takes PHP to an enterprise past

Remember C++? They do


Facebook's re-written PHP to transform the dynamic language for fast performance on web-scale server farms without adding additional hardware.

The site's engineers have announced HipHop, which turns the popular and dynamic PHP code into highly optimized but static C++ and then compiles it using the GNU C++ compiler, g++. The change has been released to the community under the PHP license, and you can read more here.

It's quite a change for a social network site that's a posterchild for the Web 2.0 revolution and online services, built on the new generation of scripting languages such as PHP and Agile development methodology of hacking code for short project cycles.

C++ is traditionally associated with the reliable - but relatively unexciting - world of enterprise and server-side computing.

And, while Facebook announced HipHop on Tuesday, the truth is it's already completely committed to the architecture: HipHop's been running on Facebook's thousands of servers for the last six months, with 90 per cent of the site's traffic now running through the transformed PHP.

The company claimed it's cut the CPU use on its servers by up to 50 per cent, depending on the page thanks to HipHop's transformation of PHP.

David Recordon, Facebook's senior open programs manager, told The Reg this translates into cost savings as the company can manage its existing server farms while also adding additional traffic to its service. "We can scale the site in active users and face views and can get more from current hardware without buying more servers," Recordon said.

HipHop started as a skunkworks project two years ago as Facebook realized in 2007 it needed to make some fundamental change to its server architecture if it was to keep growing while avoiding the cost - and systems management pain - of simply adding more servers to its already large server farm. Among the options under discussion were re-writing the site in a completely different language, optimize the Zend PHP engine it uses from Zend Technologies, or work on PHP caching in the applications server

Facebook ruled out a language re-write as it would never be able to keep up while engineers did submit changes to the Zend engine, but the changes didn't go far enough Recordon said.

The plan for HipHop now is to support PHP 5.3 in the next few months - it's currently on version 5.2. Aside from that, Recordon said Facebook wants community feedback.

He noted HipHop would not create a fork in the PHP community, as HipHop would only be of interest to a narrow section of users - those, like Facebook, running very large sites. He said Facebook wanted to "minimize" the differences between PHP and HipHop.

"HipHop makes sense at our scale, but not for everyone," Recordon said. "Most people will continue using PHP today." ®

Similar topics

Narrower topics


Other stories you might like

  • Robotics and 5G to spur growth of SoC industry – report
    Big OEMs hogging production and COVID causing supply issues

    The system-on-chip (SoC) side of the semiconductor industry is poised for growth between now and 2026, when it's predicted to be worth $6.85 billion, according to an analyst's report. 

    Chances are good that there's an SoC-powered device within arm's reach of you: the tiny integrated circuits contain everything needed for a basic computer, leading to their proliferation in mobile, IoT and smart devices. 

    The report predicting the growth comes from advisory biz Technavio, which looked at a long list of companies in the SoC market. Vendors it analyzed include Apple, Broadcom, Intel, Nvidia, TSMC, Toshiba, and more. The company predicts that much of the growth between now and 2026 will stem primarily from robotics and 5G. 

    Continue reading
  • Deepfake attacks can easily trick live facial recognition systems online
    Plus: Next PyTorch release will support Apple GPUs so devs can train neural networks on their own laptops

    In brief Miscreants can easily steal someone else's identity by tricking live facial recognition software using deepfakes, according to a new report.

    Sensity AI, a startup focused on tackling identity fraud, carried out a series of pretend attacks. Engineers scanned the image of someone from an ID card, and mapped their likeness onto another person's face. Sensity then tested whether they could breach live facial recognition systems by tricking them into believing the pretend attacker is a real user.

    So-called "liveness tests" try to authenticate identities in real-time, relying on images or video streams from cameras like face recognition used to unlock mobile phones, for example. Nine out of ten vendors failed Sensity's live deepfake attacks.

    Continue reading
  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022