Only a few months ago, HHVM (HipHop Virtual Machine) was a popular buzzword in the PHP community. Many of us were curious about this technology, especially the reports of improved performance. Previously, Zend’s PHP was the only alternative — until Facebook introduced HHVM to the world.
Good news, HHVM is no longer a buzzword. Many people (including myself) dislike hyped up technologies, but I’m happy to write this as a post-buzzword article.
So let’s dive in!
In this article, I’ll cover:
- What is HHVM?
- What is Hack?
- What is the difference compared with traditional PHP?
- Why is it so important that it exists today (or maybe not)?
- What are some benchmarks to see how HHVM differs from PHP 5 and PHP 7?
What is HHVM?
To understand what HHVM is, we first need to cover what Zend Engine is (currently we’re at version 3 with PHP 7). The best explanation on this can be found on this Wikipedia article:
The Zend Engine is the open source scripting engine that interprets the PHP programming language. It was originally developed by Andi Gutmans and Zeev Suraski while they were students at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. They later founded a company called Zend Technologies in Ramat Gan, Israel. The name Zend is a combination of their forenames, Zeev and Andi.
Is it the language or an interpreter? It’s a ongoing debate with every scripting language. However, let’s say that PHP the language, is abstract, it’s a blueprint for the interpreter (parser). It’s more of a philosophical debate than a real debate. HHVM is like Zend Engine, but it takes a different approach to parse and run the source code.
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