PHP Versions: Upgrades, Observations, and Troubleshooting

As you may have noticed, we now offer three versions of PHP on our web servers. Version 5.2 is really on its way out and is no longer recommended. The most stable version is 5.3, but we did make 5.4 available for those of you who wanted to move ahead with that upgrade. Please note that with the latter, you may be noticing incremental upgrades and patches from time to time. If you have 5.4.x installed on your domain, these upgrades may or may not affect you. If it does affect you, you will have to either remove the affected application or downgrade your php version for that domain in the DreamHost panel to 5.3 (Click Edit for your domain on Manage Domains, and find it in the Fully Hosted settings). That said…

Due to some site incompatibility concerns that arose since the last time we upgraded to the latest PHP version (currently 5.4.2), we are starting a conversation with you, the customer, to gain better insight and to provide a forum for you to contribute your findings, ideas, questions and concerns.

Here we will post all version upgrades (incremental or full), and will be monitoring it. We would like to hear from you: what did you notice, did it affect your site, what exactly was affected, etc. We are hoping this to become not just an information exchange among our customers, but that we can also learn from it to better prepare for our upcoming upgrades. We perform the upgrades to continue protecting the servers your sites are hosted on, but we understand that there is always room for improvement. Thanks for taking part in the discussion!

“zomg DH updated and fux0red my app!”.

I have to say that running stuff for myself and others at a few webhosts, DH response to PHP concerns and their commitment to supporting a multitude of in-house versions is outstanding. Their environment across the board is sane and offers the gamut of extensions necessary to host every application worthy of note. If you reckon something is missing, chances are it’s there but not loaded by default. Take a squizz in /usr/local/php54/lib/php/extensions/ and load any available extras you might require via phprc. So easy.

I’d recommend giving 5.4 a shot. If it doesn’t work for your app then recode or drop back if you didn’t write it.

I have a few apps that don’t handle PHP 5.4 yet, but for the most part, it’s WordPress and Moodle which both seem to keep up compatibility on the latest PHP versions very well. I’m running 5.4.11 as the default on most of the servers I manage without issues. While I don’t prefer to be bleeding edge on PHP, I’d rather we made those point updates more frequently to stay on top of minor bugs and security issues. For example, I had to upgrade to 5.4.x because the version of PHP 5.3.x on my VPS servers was being hacked regularly on one of them.

I like that DreamHost manages my VPS environment, but I’d prefer things got upgraded more frequently than they do. Perhaps an opt-in to a “rapid upgrade program” for those of us who would rather be more current would allow those who prefer to lag behind to do so while those of us who prefer to be updated more frequently can be upgraded more quickly and the benefit to DreamHost is that group will hopefully be a bit more tolerant of issues that happen due to the updates.

The upgrade from PHP 5.2 to PHP 5.3 requires coding changes. Not backwards compatible at all.

I am THANKFUL that Dreamhost isn’t forcing that upgrade and “grandfathering” PHP 5.2 to those that were using it originally. Not all clients have the resources and budget to recode their “custom apps” every time PHP gets upgraded.

The point release upgrades within a version (eg. 5.4.1 to 5.4.2 etc.) could be automated if the VPS owner “opts in” to automated point release upgrades. Again, there has been occasions when a PHP point release breaks something.

The whole point of having a VPS is more stability and a little more control over what is running on it. So by all means offer automated point release upgrades within a version, but ONLY if I opted into it.

Any plans to make PHP 5.5 available? It’s been out of beta for several months now.

Automate your build and integration process, provide all stables.

I love that you offer several PHP versions, make it easy to switch, and seek feedback from your customers! This is the sort of thing that makes me a very happy customer.

I would like the most stable version of PHP to be default, and the newer versions to be optional. Personally, my site has some fairly old code so I am concerned about upgrading.

If the default version is going to change or my current version is to be retired, I would like to notified by email several weeks in advance.

It would be nice if PHP management in general was a little more transparent. I’d guess it’s probably something that nearly all of your customers use, but effort should be made to ensure that as few users as possible are on outdated versions. I’m surprised the default for new domains is not at least 5.4 yet, as 5.5 is already out (and is considered the CURRENT stable release).

Any one-click installs that can use a newer version should be, and software that doesn’t support 5.4 should probably be taken off the list.

I love the fact that I can select which version to use for each domain - but am feeling a little left out when it comes to 5.5 availability.

A tentative schedule of upgrades/retirements would be really helpful in order to plan what to do in each specific case, so I have plenty of time to deal with things that are still on 5.3.

Checking in on this topic again.

PHP 5.6 is in alpha, with beta quickly approaching.

PHP 5.5 has been stable for about ten months, but is still not available on Dreamhost.

PHP 5.4 is the latest version available on Dreamhost, and has about 11 months of support remaining.

So we’re basically at the midpoint between 5.5 going stable and 5.4 hitting end of life. I see no news from Dreamhost about making 5.5 available to customers. This should be happening now.

What are the reasons that this happened yet? Is there some technical hurdle that DH techs are struggling with? Is this being investigated at all?

An update would be appreciated.

I would really love to see support for PHP 5.5.
PHP 5.2 has been EOL for many years now (since 6 Jan 2011) and PHP 5.3 will hit EOL as of the 11th of July this year. I realize that not all teams have the time or resources to upgrade their PHP versions, and for them, the older PHP versions are still supported, but for the sake of security and performance, for newer teams/sites, having support for newer versions of PHP is greatly appreciated.

Any update on when PHP 5.5 will be supported on shared servers?

Do you mean natively by Dreamhost or just at all?

If I’m not mistaken, you can install your own PHP to a local directory if you know what your doing.
There’s an advanced PHP configuration wiki page for it, but I believe it’s unsupported by Dreamhost if you do.

It is unsupported. PHP 5.5 won’t be for a while yet on our shared (or dedicated) boxes at this rate. Getting everyone off PHP 5.2 has been educational :slight_smile:

Twice in the past I have moved to a new web host in order to get a more recent version of PHP.

updates would be appreciated.

From (their emphasis, not mine):

[quote]14 Aug 2014
The PHP development team announces the immediate availability of PHP 5.3.29. This release marks the end of life of the PHP 5.3 series. Future releases of this series are not planned. All PHP 5.3 users are encouraged to upgrade to the current stable version of PHP 5.5 or previous stable version of PHP 5.4, which are supported till at least 2016 and 2015 respectively.[/quote]

I hope you learned a lot from getting everyone off PHP 5.2, because it’s officially time to get everyone off PHP 5.3. Why don’t you take this opportunity to move up to 5.5 rather than 5.4? Heck, it might even be time to start thinking seriously about PHP 5.6, which very likely will ship before Dreamhost offers its users PHP 5.5.

You were correct. The first stable release of PHP 5.6 is now available. It’s apparent that getting people off of PHP 5.2/5.3 is difficult, but could we get PHP 5.5/5.6 as options too? Dreamhost now only has one supported version of PHP available. I think if people had more options, they may be more likely to upgrade. If I had a custom app and I could go from 5.2 to 5.6, I’d think it was more worth the time of upgrading my app’s code from 5.2 to 5.6 than if I was only going from 5.2 to 5.4 and would have to upgrade my code again to go from 5.4 to 5.6 later.

Why can’t DH add the latest stable version (currently 5.6)? What does this have to do with some people still using 5.2? 5.5 has been stable for over a year and is still not available on DreamHost.

Here’s an interesting news post on about version 5.4:

And here’s the relevant content:

[quote]18 Sep 2014
The PHP development team announces the immediate availability of PHP 5.4.33. 10 bugs were fixed in this release. All PHP 5.4 users are encouraged to upgrade to this version.

This release is the last planned release that contains regular bugfixes. All the consequent releases will contain only security-relevant fixes, for the term of one year. PHP 5.4 users that need further bugfixes are encouraged to upgrade to PHP 5.6 or PHP 5.5.[/quote]

No more planned bugfixes for PHP 5.4. And an anticipated end of life around September 2014.

This means the latest version of PHP available on Dreamhost has less than a year of support remaining and zero planned bugfixes.

sigh We’re so thrilled too.

Because the OS on your servers can’t always handle it. Which is (part of) why we’re upgrading and moving from Debian to Ubuntu. Speaking of security/bugfixes not being applied…

We want to get everything to a place where we CAN do exactly what you guys are suggesting :slight_smile: It’s not easy when you look at all the servers we have, and really, having them be more and more out of sync with each other is a nightmare.

As for what we learned from 5.2? People who installed their own brands of PHP and people who are using some pretty archaic code are still out there, and many have forgotten about the things they did to make their sites work. So debugging those has been interesting. It tells us a lot about things to look out for when we upgrade again.