Elieff Center for Education and Culture - PHP on IIS

by Ventsy Popov
A while ago I was called by my boss Vladimir Tchalkov on the  phone with the offer to cover for him on a talk he had to give. I say an "offer", since I have to be honest and admit, that it was more of an opportunity for me, than doing a favour to Vlado who had an urgent travel to make at that time... In other words - something of a win-win situation for both of us. The topic was "PHP Applications Hosted on IIS" and although I had literally no time to prepare, most of the work was already done for me. With some counseling by Vlado and fooling around with test application I was ready to launch :).

The talk was actually part of a small Microsoft event about PHP integration in Microsoft technologies. The other presnetation on this topic was made by Svetlin Nakov. Since the audience consisted more of PHP guys than .NET ones, we kinda had to convince them there is a real deal in using PHP along with Microsoft products... Hope at least we inclined them on the idea of giving it a shot :).

 Here are some strokes of the raw material on my side of speaking:

CGI and ISAPI 
Although CGI is a relatively easy way to delegate the generation of a web page to an executable it comes at a certain cost. Every time a command is called we pay the price of creating a new process, which can be a bit of a performance drawback.  ISAPI extensions on the other hand could be real fast (guessing they where developed properly), but require thread safety to be separately taken into account. On the top of that we cannot use scripting languages to create ISAPI extensions (or filters).

 

Here comes FastCGI 
Which we can say combines the good sides of both of the above:
 - A process is created on a first request, and then reused. Hence it is very fast.
 - Has a single-threaded execution, which is recommended for NON-thread safe PHP applications. This way we can count on stability as well.
 
How to Install
1) Well you can use Web Platform Installer and with just a few clicks have your environment ready,
or
2) You can head to a more tedious process of doing it by enabling FastCGI on IIS, downloading the latest version of PHP for Windows, and configuring IIS to handle PHP requests.

Good To Have in Mind  
After installing you might want to check out the web.config and configure the maximum requests being served, before a process is recycled, and adjust the maximum instances of a process ran on a single processor:

<fastCgi>
<application fullPath="C:\PHP\php-cgi.exe"    
	maxInstances="4" 
	instanceMaxRequests="10000"
	idleTimeout="300"/>
</fastCgi> 
 
Here is the full presnetation for PHP Applications on IIS.

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