WP Engine announced today that the company will be sponsoring John James Jacoby to work on HHVM compatibility for BuddyPress. Mercury, the host’s new enterprise HHVM WordPress hosting platform, debuted last month with initial benchmarks indicating performance improvements of up to 600%.
Jacoby is the project lead for BuddyPress and a former employee of 10up, the agency WP Engine partnered with to build Mercury. He also recently created an HHVM configuration for Varying Vagrant Vagrants, which makes it easy to test WordPress on HHVM in a local development environment.
Taking a Chance on BuddyPress
WP Engine is sponsoring the HHVM + BuddyPress compatibility work as part of its Labs project, headed up by Tomas Puig. Labs is a separate team within the company that works on new technologies and open source contribution. “Right now we can’t even load test BuddyPress without it breaking,” Puig said.
Why is WP Engine prioritizing BuddyPress compatibility with HHVM? The company is taking a chance on WordPress’ premier social networking plugin and, if successful, will become the fastest hosting platform available for running BuddyPress.
“We saw such a surge of interest when we announced Mercury. We don’t have a lot of BuddyPress customers,” Puig told the Tavern. “But I think if we get BuddyPress performing well for HHVM, then people will want to use it even more. Also, core and bbPress work great with HHVM so we felt the third project should too, so everyone can benefit.” The technical objectives of the compatibility effort are to get BuddyPress working at parity with how it currently runs on PHP-FPM.
“In my mind i’d love to see the major WP projects work with it,” Puig said. “If we see a 3-8x improvement in speed, it’s going help everyone trying to deploy BuddyPress. Also, I think more people will use it if it’s easier to support high user loads.”
Puig did not have immediate access to the number of WP Engine customers currently running BuddyPress, but he said the company will continue with the investment regardless of small usage numbers. “Technology, once it’s a performant, great option, will get adopted,” he said. “But once the main body of work and the tests are built it gets much easier to keep that way moving forward.”
WP Engine is engaging the Facebook team on the effort as well, as there might be things in HHVM that are preventing it from being compatible with BuddyPress. The company contracted Jacoby to work on the project for the month of December, before he gets started on the new year with his BuddyPress, bbPress, and GlotPress development. “It’s a bit unknown how much code needs to change to make it HHVM compliant, so we wanted the person who is the most familiar with the code base,” Puig said.
WP Engine sponsoring Jacoby to work on this initiative benefits the open source BuddyPress plugin in a couple of major ways. In addition to supporting the project lead in working with the software, the HHVM compatibility project also ensures the future of BuddyPress working with modern technologies. Many believe that HHVM is going to revolutionize PHP, which means that hosting companies will soon be rushing to adopt it. Investing in BuddyPress compatibility with HHVM now means that the plugin won’t be left in the dust.