What is a LAMP stack?
A LAMP stack is a bundle of four different software technologies that developers use to build websites and web applications. LAMP is an acronym for the operating system, Linux; the web server, Apache; the database server, MySQL; and the programming language, PHP. All four of these technologies are open source, which means they are community maintained and freely available for anyone to use. Developers use LAMP stacks to create, host, and maintain web content. It is a popular solution that powers many of the websites you commonly use today.
Why is a LAMP stack important?
Web developers choose a LAMP stack to build web applications for the following reasons.
All LAMP technologies are open source, which means that any developer or company can use them without having to pay licensing fees. Instead of purchasing proprietary stack components, you can download the operating system, web server, database, and scripting language for free. This lowers the cost of building web applications.
Setting up a new web development stack requires rigorous testing of different frameworks, modules, libraries, and tools. On the other hand, a LAMP stack is a tried-and-tested web development solution. Web developers can prioritize and speed up application development to focus on what they are building instead of how they are building it.
Software experts from around the globe contribute to the development of LAMP stack technologies by changing, commenting on, and reviewing the publicly available source codes. They regularly maintain and update the technologies so that they remain relevant and secure.
Popular open-source technologies, such as LAMP stacks, have the support of a large, global IT community. Hence, LAMP stack users can more easily find information on public IT forums. Web developers can refer to example codes or use tested plugins created by the open-source community.
A LAMP stack gives both reliability and flexibility to web developers. While the LAMP architecture specifies the software components for each layer, developers can replace them as they see fit. For example, they can use another operating system besides Linux as the stack foundation.
What is a LAMP stack used for?
A LAMP stack is used for backend or server-side development. A backend application is software that runs in an environment that’s hidden from end users. Backend applications consist of the following:
- Data processing software
- Database components
- Business logic in code
- API for communicating with other applications
The webpage that shows up on your browser is called the frontend application. When you interact with the page, such as by clicking on a button, your browser communicates with the backend application to retrieve the required information.
Developers use a LAMP stack to create both static and dynamic web content.
Static webpage information from the web server is the same for all users. For example, the address on a company's website is static content. Web developers create static webpages with HTML and CSS programming languages and store them as files in the web server application.
Dynamic webpages contain information that changes depending on the user viewing the webpage or web application. For example, a website message that changes based on your location is dynamic content. The web server delivers dynamic websites by processing business logic or retrieving data from a database.
What is the LAMP architecture?
A software stack is a set of layered tools, libraries, programming languages, and technologies used for building, managing, and running an application. The stack consists of software components that support the application in different ways, such as visual presentation, database, networking, and security.
Similarly, the LAMP architecture consists of four software technologies that work together behind the scenes to create a working web application. It describes how each of these web development technologies interact with each other in a computer server. The LAMP architecture consists of the following layers.
Linux is an open-source operating system that you can install and configure to meet different application requirements. Linux sits at the first level of the LAMP stack and supports other components on the upper layers.
Apache is an open-source web server that forms the second layer of the LAMP stack. The Apache module stores website files and exchanges information with a browser using HTTP, an internet protocol for transferring website information in plain text. For example, when a browser requests a webpage, the Apache HTTP server does the following:
- Receives the request
- Processes the request and finds the required page file
- Sends the relevant information back to the browser
MySQL is an open-source relational database management system and is the third layer of the LAMP stack. The LAMP model uses MySQL for storing, managing, and querying information in relational databases. For example, developers store application data, such as customer records, sales, and inventories. When a user searches for information, the web server queries the stored data in MySQL. Query refers to special instructions for manipulating data in a relational database with the SQL language.
PHP, which stands for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor, is the fourth and final layer of the LAMP stack. It is a scripting language that allows websites to run dynamic processes. A dynamic process involves information in software that constantly changes. Web developers embed the PHP programming language in HTML to show real-time or updated information on websites. They use PHP to allow the web server, database, and operating system to cohesively process requests from browsers.
HTML compared to PHP
Web developers use HTML for frontend development, such as designing the layout of webpages. Meanwhile, they use PHP to determine the behavior of certain components when users load a webpage. For example, web developers design the graphical layout of an online product catalog with HTML. They then use PHP code to retrieve the latest product price from the backend server.
How does a LAMP stack work?
Web applications use a LAMP stack to respond to requests from web browsers. The Apache web server and MySQL database run on the Linux operating system and communicate using PHP. When you open a webpage in a browser, the LAMP stack goes through the following process.
The Apache web server receives the incoming request from the browser. If the request is to load a static file, the Apache server responds directly with the appropriate content. If the request is for dynamic content, the Apache server passes the request to the PHP component. The PHP component finds and loads the appropriate PHP file that can process the request.
The PHP file contains PHP functions that are codes for generating dynamic content. The PHP component processes the PHP functions, such as converting measurement units or creating a sales chart. Some PHP functions might require information from the database. In such cases, the PHP code retrieves the stored information from the database and uses it to process the function.
The PHP passes the calculated results to the web server in HTML format. At the same time, it also stores new data in the MySQL database. The Apache HTTP server sends the dynamic HTML results to the user's browser.
What are LAMP alternatives?
LAMP alternatives, or LAMP variants, are backend development technologies that use different components than those specified in the LAMP architecture. For example, web developers might use other web servers instead of Apache to receive and process requests from frontend applications. Some LAMP alternatives might use proprietary components, such as licensed operating systems.
Alternative scripting languages
While PHP is the default scripting language of the LAMP stack, developers can replace it with Perl or Python.
Perl is a programming language that has been around for more than 30 years. Developers use Perl for web development because it works well with database integration and has frameworks that help with development. Frameworks are software tools that contain well-tested components that speed up application development.
Python is a high-level programming language for building different types of software, including web applications. Developers use Python in web development because it’s simple and easy to understand.
What is a MEAN stack?
- Express.js is a framework that provides open-source tools for building backend applications.
- Angular.js is an open-source framework for developing frontend applications.
MEAN stack compared to LAMP stack
MEAN and LAMP stacks are great open-source software stacks for different types of web applications. A MEAN stack is suitable for web applications that involve heavy logic processing on the frontend. Meanwhile, a LAMP stack is great for large-scale complex websites that handle heavy traffic. For example, developers use a MEAN stack to build a video-streaming web application but choose a LAMP stack for an ecommerce web application.
How does AWS support LAMP stack development?
You can use Amazon Lightsail to develop, deploy, and manage LAMP stack applications on AWS. With Lightsail, you can do the following:
- Deploy LAMP stack applications much faster.
- Integrate your project with over 90 AWS services.
- Scale Lightsail projects by upgrading and migrating to Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS).
Get started with LAMP stacks on AWS by creating a free AWS account today.
AWS LAMP Stack next steps
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