MVC and Front Controller frameworks in PHP – more considerations

Having recently stumbled upon this thread on Sitepoint community forums, I found a certain Mr. Selkirk advocating page controllers instead of front controller – meaning that the state machine logic is distributed in each page/state. I have some pragmatic problems with the approach since this means that a large (hundreds of pages) site would imply modifying each page if a new generic transition appears.

On this same thread, there’s a sensible approach coming from an Interakt guy which I also happen to know personally [hi, Costin]. He describes PHP website design using MVC (from a controller point of view) as having 3 steps :

- Design your site with a fancy IDE which will generate a lot of XML gunk - Let the framework compile the XML to good old PHP code, prefectly human-readable and all - Enjoy ! Speed and structure.

Unfortunately his solution is not exactly open-source nor free, and I’ll gladly use my 500 maccaronis for a shiny new flat screen. Besides, it looks like my PHP episode is coming to an end (I see some serious consulting on Java apps on the horizon). Anyway my piece of advice to Costin (as a non-customer) is “don’t do any serialization, keep the code clean as the bottleneck usually comes from the database – and the world will be a better place to live”.

On a lighter note, there is John telling us cool stuff about PHP:

Does this reloading of all data on every HTTP request mean that PHP is not scalable? Fortunately, as I’ve said before in other posts, that’s a superficial view of things. The reloading of data is precisely the reason why PHP is scalable. The way PHP works encourages you to code using state-less designs. State information is not stored in the PHP virtual machine, but in separate mechanisms, a session variable handler or a database.

This makes PHP very suitable for highly scalable shared-nothing architectures. Each webserver in a farm can be made independent of each other, communicating with a central data and session store, typically a relational database. So you can have 10 or 1000 identically configured PHP web servers, and it will scale linearly, the only bottleneck being the database or other shared resources, not PHP.

Whew ! Only if vendors ‘knew’ that removing state information from their appservers, it would instantly become very suitable for highly scalable shared-nothing architectures. Somenone should tell this to IMB, BEA and Sun. And maybe to Microsoft. Oh, only if the things were that simple !

PS For those wondering about my sudden passion into PHP, there is an older entry on my weblog explaining the whos and the whats.