Time for a Switch? PHP / Symfony2 vs Python / Django

UPDATE: Check this post for a comparison of Symfony2 and Django models.

UPDATE 2: For a framework speed comparison, check out this post.

For the past few years I’ve been using the CodeIgniter PHP framework for projects at TBWA. It’s a simple, straightforward framework that has done a solid job. New devs can get up to speed quickly on it with very little training and the framework itself is speedy enough for my purposes. But things have progressed significantly over the past couple years. I’m about to embark on a new project and it’s possibly time for something new.

After a bit of research I narrowed things down to sticking with PHP and moving to the Symfony2 framework or moving over to Python / Django. I won’t get into a debate of what language is better, faster, more elegant, more awesome, etc. There’s plenty of that out there already.

For me the choice is simple, use a language I know or make the switch to something new. Final destination for this will be a 3-tier set up on AWS or a similar cloud provider. I’m using RightScale which provides ServerTemplates for both PHP and Django, making tuning and rapid deployment (via Chef) about the same for both. So the implications of running servers for one vs the other aren’t necessarily a concern (yes, performance is a valid issue but I believe either framework can be tuned to achieve acceptable throughput as demonstrated by the sites currently using them).

Before diving into Python I decided to quickly learn Symfony2 first since I already know PHP. The framework site has a ton of clearly written docs so it was easy to get up to speed. This tutorial was also very helpful. There’s a lot going on with Symfony2 – Composer for dependency management, Doctrine for ORM, Twig for templating, Assetic for asset management, PHPUnit for testing, etc. Of course all of these can be used without Symfony2, but the framework does a nice job of making them all play nicely together. It’s clearly where PHP development is headed. It you choose this direction, I highly recommend PhpStorm as your IDE as it’s got built-in support for the framework.

With that out of the way it was time to learn some Python / Django. Having zero experience with either the language or the framework, I decided to dive right into the Django docs, picking up Python along the way. Again, many of the same features can be found with this setup – pip for dependency management, Django’s built-in ORM and templating engine, webassets for asset management, unittest2 for testing, etc. Django also has a simple admin interface that can be automatically generated which I’m sure would come in handy for some projects. The getting started docs are a little sparse in comparison but a quick Google search will usually answer any question. And again, Jetbrains has a great IDE for Django development – PyCharm.

One last factor to take into account was who is behind these frameworks. On the Symfony2 side we’ve got SensioLabs (a French digital agency) and Fabien Potencier along with multiple contributors. Django, on the other hand, is backed by the non-profit Django Software Foundation with a governance board, core team and multiple contributors. License wise, Symfony2 is MIT while Django is BSD.

Based on the title you’ve probably guessed I’ve selected Django. But first, I’ll use the next couple posts to explore some of the differences in the frameworks as well as development workflow and configuration.

5 thoughts on “Time for a Switch? PHP / Symfony2 vs Python / Django”

  1. If you have an option, should go for django, I have been using django for over a year now, and now I started looking at symfony 2 (there are not many django jobs in New Zealand), can’t believe django is actually so much simpler without comprising anything!

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