PHP software and apps developer Zend Technologies has launched phpcloud.com, a new environment designed to help PHP developers create, deploy and manage cloud apps from within the cloud.

Zend’s aim in creating the new platform-as-a-service offering is to give developers focused on PHP—the infrastructure on which Amazon Web Services (AWS) is based—the ability to leverage the elastic nature of the cloud and the agility of PHP to deliver web apps more quickly and cost-effectively. phpcloud.com offers developers tools, PHP runtime and app life cycle best practices, according to Zen.

Among the features of phpcloud.com are the cloud development environment Zend Developer Cloud and Zend Application Fabric, an application platform that delivers best of breed PHP on Amazon Web Services. Zend Developer Cloud provides a free PHP developer sandbox and tools such as code tracing that allow real-time debugging and problem resolution, as well as collaborative capabilities designed to let developers show work in progress. Developers have the option to integrate with multiple environments, including Zend Studio, Eclipse PDT, command line interface and other tools.

phpcloud.com resides on AWS infrastructure, the established reliability of which Zen believes makes it an appealing alternative for SMB and enterprise developers.

The website Ars Technica reported that Zend’s environment underscores the expanding importance of PHP in the developer community and offers good flexibility for developers:

While languages like Ruby may have become the popular kid as of late, PHP is still the leading web technology in terms of the raw number of deployments, with over 20 million domains using the Apache PHP module alone. A number of PHP-based platform-as-a-service providers are already out there, including PHP Fog , Red Hat's OpenShift, and Orchestra (recently acquired by Ruby-on-Rails PaaS provider Engine Yard). But unlike some “platform-as-a-service” plays, Zend’s allows developers to pick the infrastructure provider for deployment—a public or private cloud solution, or an in-house Zend Server system.

For Web shops that have invested in PHP development, Zend’s combination of tools seems to offer a lot: high developer productivity, cheap and effective collaboration and debugging before committing to a full deployment, and the flexibility to move from one hosting or cloud environment to another without code changes. And given the level of lock-in that comes with many cloud platforms, that has to be a good thing, right?

phpcloud.com was introduced by Zend co-founders Andi Gutmans (CEO) and Zeev Suraski (CTO) during the opening keynote at ZendCon 2011, an annual gathering of the PHP community held at the Santa Clara Convention Center.