What is LAMP Stack?

January 6, 2022

Introduction

Solution stacks are sets of individual components that create a complete environment for application development. The components are usually independently developed, but their frequent combined usage and compatibility qualify them to become a stack.

Different applications require different stacks. For example, developers need an operating system, a web server, database management software, and a programming language to create a web application.

In this article, you will learn what the LAMP stack is, how it works, and its advantages and disadvantages.

What is LAMP Stack?

What is LAMP Stack?

The LAMP stack is a popular open-source solution stack used primarily in web development.

LAMP consists of four components necessary to establish a fully functional web development environment. The first letters of the components' names make up the LAMP acronym:

  • Linux is an operating system used to run the rest of the components.
  • Apache HTTP Server is a web server software used to serve static web pages.
  • MySQL is a relational database management system used for creating and managing web databases, but also for data warehousing, application logging, e-commerce, etc.
  • PHP, Perl, and Python are programming languages are used to create web applications.

Each component represents an essential layer of the stack. Together, the components are used to create database-driven, dynamic websites.

The illustration below shows how the layers stack together:

Visual representation of the LAMP stack.

LAMP Stack Architecture

Linux

Linux is the operating system layer and the backbone of the LAMP stack. The flexible and customizable nature of Linux, combined with the fact that it is open-source, make it a popular OS solution for running the rest of the LAMP components.

Note: Apache, MySQL, and PHP/Perl/Python are cross-platform, meaning that they also support other operating systems such as Windows, macOS, etc.

Compared to SQL, ASP.NET, and ASP, which work more efficiently on Windows, PHP and MySQL are optimized to provide the best results on Linux. This compatibility makes them fit well into the stack.

Apache

Apache HTTP Server is a popular web server software that runs on top of the Linux operating system in the LAMP stack. The role of the web server is to process requests and transmit information through the internet, using HTTP.

With its Multi-Processing Modules, Apache can be configured as a process-based and threaded server. The server's modular architecture supports features such as modular protocol handling.

Apache is also known for its filters, processes applied to the data that is handled by the server. Both static and dynamic content can be encrypted, scanned for viruses, and compressed using filters.

An increasingly popular alternative to Apache is NGINX, a web server whose popularity has been continually increasing since 2008. While Apache and NGINX are both capable servers, users will prefer one depending on the usage scenario, content type, and hosting options available.

A Netcraft chart showing the market share of web server developers.

NGINX is considered to be a better choice for static content, and there is a minor difference in performance between the two when it comes to dynamic content. Also, Apache is commonly used by shared hosting users, whereas NGINX is mainly used for virtual private servers, dedicated hosting or cluster containers.

Note: For a more detailed comparison between the two popular server solutions mentioned above, read Apache vs Nginx.

MySQL

MySQL is a database management system that supports SQL and relational tables, making it a good choice for creating and maintaining dynamic enterprise-level databases.

MySQL is cross-platform compatible. This feature qualifies it to be part of the web development stack such as LAMP since web applications typically target multiple operating systems.

One of MySQL's main disadvantages, especially compared to non-relational solutions such as MongoDB, is that it scales only vertically. Given that it is also inefficient in handling large databases, using MySQL in projects that expect a lot of traffic requires careful planning.

MariaDB is another relational database management system that can be part of the LAMP platform. It claims to be fully compatible with MySQL, allowing users to transfer their database without any complications or losses.

PHP

PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) is a programming language that combines all the elements of the LAMP stack and allows websites and web applications to run efficiently. When a visitor opens the webpage, the server processes the PHP commands and sends the results to the visitor's browser.

PHP is the fourth layer of the original stack because it interacts well with MySQL. It is commonly used for web development because it is a dynamically typed language and can be embedded into HTML, making it fast and easy to work with.

The P in the LAMP stack acronym can also refer to two other programming languages – Perl or Python. All three are simple yet useful dynamic tools for creating environments in which applications can be developed successfully.

What is LAMP Stack Used for?

LAMP stack is used for building and delivering web-based applications. Its flexibility and efficiency allow smaller developers to compete with commercial software development solutions.

The four components of LAMP were picked as optimal solutions for developers who wish to host, serve and manage web-based content. They provide a route for accessing content, software, and other web-based tools.

Advantages and Disadvantages of LAMP Stack

Advantages

  1. LAMP is open-source. The software's source code is shared and available for people to make changes and improvements, enhancing its overall performance.
  2. It is easily customizable. Users can replace every component with another open-source solution to suit the particular application's needs.
  3. It is easy to find support due to the size of the LAMP community.
  4. It is a mature stack that is easy to set up.

Disadvantages

  1. It does not support operating systems other than Linux.
  2. The relational property of MySQL makes the entire LAMP stack less efficient and flexible than its competitors who use non-relational solutions.
  3. Apache can run into performance problems under heavy workloads.
  4. Switching between coding in Python and PHP on the server-side and using JavaScript on the client-side can disrupt the development workflow.

LAMP Stack Alternatives

Open-source alternatives are:

  • MEAN (MongoDB, Express, Angular, Node.js)
  • LEMP (Linux, NGINX, MySQL/MariaDB, PHP/Perl/Python)
  • LAPP (Linux, Apache, PostgreSQL, PHP)
  • LEAP (Linux, Eucalyptus, AppScale, Python)
  • LLMP (Linux, Lighttpd, MySQL/MariaDB, PHP/Perl/Python)
  • XAMPP (Cross-platform, Apache, MariaDB, PHP, Perl)

Non-open source alternatives include:

  • WAMP (Windows, Apache, MySQL/MariaDB, PHP/Perl/Python)
  • WIMP (Windows, Internet Information Services, MySQL/MariaDB, PHP/Perl/Python)
  • MAMP (macOS, Apache, MySQL/MariaDB, PHP/Perl/Python)

Note: MEAN stack is the most popular alternative solution to LAMP. Learn how LAMP and MEAN compare.

Conclusion

After reading this article, you should have a better understanding of what the LAMP stack is. The article explained the common uses for the stack, presented its components, advantages, and disadvantages. Finally, it provided a list of popular alternatives.

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Sofija Simic
Sofija Simic is an experienced Technical Writer. Alongside her educational background in teaching and writing, she has had a lifelong passion for information technology. She is committed to unscrambling confusing IT concepts and streamlining intricate software installations.
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