Originally created in 1995, PHP is one of the prominent server-side scripting languages that still helps 7 out of 10 websites succeed. Google Trends reveals in the year 2019, nearly 25 years after its birth, PHP still outshines all its competitors.
To speed up development, there is a wide range of PHP frameworks to choose from—CakePHP, Laravel, Codelgniter, Symfony, and Zend, to name a few—and all are unique in their approach.
Amongst these, the venerable CakePHP is often crowned as the workhorse of PHP frameworks. Let us explore why.
A Brief introduction of the Hero
CakePHP is an open source PHP framework for building web applications in a faster manner. Most importantly, it helps make the task simpler by minimizing the requirement of building your application from scratch.
Once the developer is done learning a few convention rules like call a class in a certain way or end the name of a foreign field of a table with “_id”, the framework’s backend creates everything by itself, thereby making the code faster, stronger, tastier—as its website suggests.
The official CakePHP website describes itself as:
“CakePHP makes building web applications simpler, faster while requiring less code. A modern PHP 7 framework offering a flexible database access layer and a powerful scaffolding system that makes building both small and complex systems simpler, easier and, of course, tastier. Build fast, grow solid with CakePHP.”
CakePHP’s advantages and popularity have helped it gain a lot of support from the community—over 7500 stars and 3400+ forks on GitHub, plus a forum, and official as well as unofficial docs. Because of this support, CakePHP developers get motivated to work hard and come up with the latest versions to keep up with the ever-evolving PHP web development ecosystem.
Recently, on 12th April 2019, it announced the first alpha release of CakePHP 4.0.0—Strawberry.
Some VERY exciting news! The CakePHP core team is proud to announce the first alpha release of CakePHP 4.0.0 Strawberry. We are calling out to the community to check it out, test it and give us feedback on any issues you encounter #CakePHP #oss #php #phpc https://t.co/awDvsAsQBF pic.twitter.com/alRD9j3kGv
— CakePHP (@cakephp) April 12, 2019
Ingredients that Make the CakePHP Recipe Tasty
“Cake is a rapid development framework for PHP which uses commonly known design patterns like Active Record, Association Data Mapping, Front Controller and MVC. Our primary goal is to provide a structured framework that enables PHP users at all levels to rapidly develop robust web applications, without any loss to flexibility.” ~ CakePHP
The Cake framework’s MVC implementation largely follows the concepts used by Ruby on Rails.
It is a simple paradigm to structure an application into three parts: Models, Views, and Controllers.
- A model layer represents that part of your application, which implements the business logic. It supports data handling.
- View supports data rendering on the screen. Being structurally separated, the data can be represented differently, depending on who requests them.
For example, for an app, it can ideally be JSON while for an HTML Browser, CakePHP does this transparently.
- Controller processes and responds to events and can modify data before it interacts with the model (database).
Why Use MVC?
- MVC is a tried and true software design pattern that turns an application into a maintainable, modular, rapidly developed package.
- Crafting application tasks into separate models, views, and controllers make your application very light on its feet.
- Cake PHP MVC framework supports rapid and parallel development.
- With this pattern, it’s very easy to separate the logic from the presentation, which is very useful for large applications and sites.
Convention over Configuration
Convention over Configuration is a software design paradigm used by various software frameworks including CakePHP. Its major focus is to ease the work of developers by decreasing the number of decisions they have to make without losing flexibility.
Now, ‘Convention’ here is referred to as ‘Arbitrary Decision’. A convention, that is already decided, saves the time of developer and reduces the number of defects.
Defects get reduced because:
- Developers have fewer decisions to make, therefore, saving focus on important problems.
- Mismatches between modules or components are reduced.
- The code visually reflects the standard, making deviation apparent.
Why CakePHP Uses Convention over Configuration
CakePHP loves Convention over Configuration and mentions that:
“We are big fans of convention over configuration. While it takes a bit of time to learn CakePHP’s conventions, you save time in the long run. By following conventions, you get free functionality, and you liberate yourself from the maintenance nightmare of tracking config files. Conventions also make for very uniform development experience, therefore, allowing other developers to jump in and help.”
Naming pieces of your application using CakePHP conventions allows developers to gain functionality sans the hassle and maintenance tethers of configuration. The following example explains it pretty well:
- Database table: “articles”
- Table class: ArticlesTable, found at src/Model/Table/ArticlesTable.php
- Entity class: Article, found at src/Model/Entity/Article.php
- Controller class: ArticlesController, found at src/Controller/ArticlesController.php
- View template, found at src/Template/Articles/index.ctp
Using these conventions, CakePHP knows that a request to http://example.com/articles maps to a call on the index() function of the ArticlesController, where the Articles model is automatically available and renders to a file.
None of these relationships have been configured by any means other than by creating classes and files that you’d need to create anyway.
Active Record Pattern and Association Data Mapping
The Web Development process with a modern framework, makes use of an ORM (Object-Relational Mapping). It is a programming technique for converting data between incompatible type systems, using object-oriented programming languages.
ORM is the layer that gets sandwiched between your database and your application. And the most famous ORMs are the Active Record Pattern and Association Data Mapping. Most frameworks include either of the two.
Active Record Pattern
The core concept of the Active Record Pattern is that your database records remain ‘active’ in your system. In a nutshell, it is an approach to access data in a database.
It means that if you are touching 4 MercCars objects, and you save them into your database, they will end up as five rows in your merc_cars database table. And, if an object is updated, its corresponding row in the table also gets updated. Thus, if your MercCars object has carColor and purchaseDate properties, it paves the way for the assumption that those are columns in the above-mentioned merc_cars table.
Active Record Pattern Advantages
- Active Record definitely flows directly out of simplicity. And once you learn how to use it effectively, you can write beautiful, composable queries that are easy to understand and maintain.
- Because of how tightly matched and conceptual the records in your database and the objects in your system are, it’s really easy to pick up a project, examine its database schema, and have a strong sense of what the project is doing.
Association Data Mapping
A Data Mapper is a Data Access Layer that performs bidirectional transfers of data between a persistent data store (often a relational database) and an in-memory data representation (the domain layer). The goal of the pattern is to keep them in memory representation and the persistent data store independent of each other and the data mapper itself.
Association Data Mapping Advantages
- Data Mappers allow for greater flexibility between domain and database.
- Doctrine2 and other data mappers can be much more performant.
Which ORM does CakePHP Use—Active Record Pattern or Association Data Mapping?
Many live in an illusion that CakePHP uses Active Record Pattern as an ORM. However, the reality mentioned on CakePHP official website is as follows:
“The CakePHP ORM borrows ideas and concepts from both Active Record and Data Mapper patterns. It aims to create a hybrid implementation that combines aspects of both patterns to create a fast, simple to use ORM.”
The amalgamated ORM version of CakePHP provides a robust and flexible way to work with relational databases.
VOYlegal and its Scalable Journey with Net Solutions
For instance, VOYlegal, a recruitment firm for lawyers, wanted a job portal built for them on which both lawyers looking for jobs, and prospective employers, could register to let the firm help them reach informed decisions. The problem with the job portal was that it started attracting more traffic than expected, and therefore, started to slow down.
Being a large site with heavy traffic, we redesigned the whole architecture of the website using CakePHP so that it became scalable to handle more traffic, especially at peak hours. In addition, we built an advanced search in the portal. It helped to join nearly all the tables of the database to handle the challenge of providing an advanced search, covering millions of data units, and to join it to nearly 20 tables.
Should You Bake Your Code in CakePHP?
Undeniably, CakePHP is one of the most popular frameworks for PHP development. It is an extensive, feature-rich framework. Besides that, it helps reduce the development costs and quickly build applications, using code generation and other scaffolding features.
The pillars, discussed in the blog, on which CakePHP stands, reveal that CakePHP is more ‘Strict’ than other PHP-based frameworks. ‘Strict’ here, it implies that a user is ‘forced’ to follow a certain way of laying out the code. Therefore, it paves the way for the code base to be more consistent, understandable, and readable.
Rather than allowing a developer to choose how the code should be written, CakePHP development helps the code to be written consistently by following Cake’s conventions, ensuring that the code is well written and applications stand the test of time.