Bridging Python And PHP

11 Jan 2009 10:48

Imagine you have a PHP-based application (like Wikidot). Now, you want to extend it using Python. Through all ways to do it, I'll show you how to achieve this using XML-RPC protocol.


XML-RPC is a client-server protocol for remote procedure call.

On server this works like getting a bunch of functions from your application and exporting it with HTTP.

On client this works like connecting to a XML-RPC server, finding out what function it delivers and constructing a so called server proxy — an object having a method for every function exported by an XML-RPC server.

Calling the methods of the server proxy connects to the server using HTTP, passes arguments and transport the result back to the client. So basically this works AS you have a remote located object locally available.

The data encoding between client and server is defined in XML-RPC specification and is a language based on XML (but you actually never touch it, the XML is converted to objects by libraries).


We want to run an XML-RPC server exposing a class in PHP and an XML-RPC client in Python to communicate with the XML-RPC server.

Traditionally we would need to have an HTTP server for the PHP XML-RPC server, because HTTP is used as the XML-RPC transport. But digging a bit into the specification, you'll discover, that none HTTP-specific parts of the protocol are used. It's just used as a line to transport the XML data.

So you may wonder if it's possible to use XML-RPC with transport other than HTTP. In short, yes. But you may need to hack around the XML-RPC libraries (because they usually suppose you'll want to use HTTP).

PHP XML-RPC server

First, you need some class, that you want to expose with PHP XML-RPC:

class MyClass {
     * @param string $input
     * @return string
    public function repeat($input) {
        return $input;

Notice I've set the parameter and return type in phpdoc.

Now let's expose this class with Zend Framework XML-RPC implementation.

You need to download Zend Framework first, let's say to /path/to/zf directory.

class MyClass {
     * @param string $input
     * @return string
    public function repeat($input) {
        return $input;
set_include_path(get_include_path() . PATH_SEPARATOR . 'zf/library');
require_once "Zend/XmlRpc/Server.php";
$server = new Zend_XmlRpc_Server();
$server->setClass('MyClass', 'myclass');
echo $server->handle();

Set_include_path line adds the /path/to/zf/library directory to PHP path, so you can import the Zend_XmlRpc_Server class (located in /path/to/zf/library/Zend/XmlRpc/Server.php file).

Then there is an instance of Zend_XmlRpc_Server created, then there is MyClass attached as the class for myclass XMLRPC namespace. This means the repeat method is to be called via the XML-RPC as myclass.repeat.

If you place the file on your server and have it under some URL, for example:

This URL is fully valid XML-RPC server endpoint for XML-RPC clients.

Python client

Having the XML-RPC server running we can connect to it from any XML-RPC enabled library in any programming language around.

In Python, to call the remote procedure myclass.repeat on the XML-RPC endpoint, you would do the following:

from xmlrpclib import ServerProxy
server = ServerProxy('')
print server.myclass.repeat('Hello RPC service')

Running this code:

# python

gives you:

Hello RPC service

Under the hood:

  • Python script makes a connection to
    • your webserver runs the myclass.php script
      • the $server->handle() line processes the data received
        • chooses a class and a method to run (this would be MyClass and repeat)
        • passes the arguments (a string 'Hello RPC service') to the method
        • gets the return value
      • passes it back to the client wrapped in XML-RPC protocol
  • Python gets XML reply and converts it back to simple string ('Hello RPC service')
  • and prints it on the console

Omitting the HTTP protocol

Probably you have both Python and PHP scripts to be run on the same machine, so the HTTP part is quite useless and an additional point of failure.

As I already stated, the HTTP is only a transport and you can replace it (with some cost) with some other transport.

I came into an idea to use stdout/stdin as the transport, so Python would execute a PHP script (command line interface) and pass the XML-RPC request to the script's stdin. PHP would then have to get the XML-RPC request from stdin instead of from HTTP request.

This means two modifications in server and client code.

First the server:

class MyClass {
     * @param string $input
     * @return string
    public function repeat($input) {
        return $input;
set_include_path(get_include_path() . PATH_SEPARATOR . 'zf/library');
require_once "Zend/XmlRpc/Server.php";
require_once "Zend/XmlRpc/Request/Stdin.php";
$server = new Zend_XmlRpc_Server();
$server->setClass('MyClass', 'myclass');
echo $server->handle(new Zend_XmlRpc_Request_Stdin());

The change is passing an instance of Zend_XmlRpc_Request_Stdin to $server->handle(). This is all needed. Guys from Zend Framework already predicted such a use.

Then, the client part.

Xmlrpclib allows passing a custom transport in case you want to implement some proxies or other thing. We'll make a transport, that instead of making a HTTP connection, runs a PHP script, passes the request to its stdin and gets the response from stdout:

from xmlrpclib import Transport, Server
from subprocess import Popen, PIPE
class LocalFileTransport(Transport):
    class Connection:
        def setCmd(self, cmd):
            self.cmd = Popen(['php', cmd], stdin=PIPE, stdout=PIPE)
        def send(self, content):
        def getreply(self):
            return 200, '', []
        def getfile(self):
            return self.cmd.stdout
    def make_connection(self, host):
        return self.Connection()
    def send_request(self, connection, handler, request_body):
    def send_content(self, connection, request_body):
    def send_host(self, connection, host):
    def send_user_agent(self, connection):
server = Server('', transport = LocalFileTransport())
print server.myclass.repeat('Hello XML-RPC with no HTTP service')


  • in the URL is completely ignored, use whatever value you want
  • /path/to/the/php/script/myclass.php in URL is passed as the PHP script to run

What to do next?

Having this simple skeleton, you can now extend the MyClass, actually give it more proper name first! You can also attach more classes to the XML-RPC server using different namespaces:

$server->setClass('SomeClass', 'some);
$server->setClass('MyClass', 'my');
$server->setClass('YourClass', 'your');

Only public methods are exposed to the XML-RPC clients, so you can hide some logic inside of private or protected methods and only expose what you need from given classes.

This solution is a quick way to actually use some of your well-working PHP code in your fancy-new and elegant Python application. This can help if you want to make a filesystem with Python-FUSE, but want to data be taken from PHP application.

Did it help you?

I hope this helps someone. Feel free to comment.

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