It’s hard to overstate the importance of the humble LAMP stack when it comes to creating websites or online applications. This iconic stack comprises four pieces of unrelated open source software, each powered by the previous element, and collectively they can achieve wonderful things…
On top of the Linux operating system rests an Apache web server, delivering online content on demand. This anchors a database – typically MySQL or the Oracle-owned MariaDB – which manages variables and oversees storage. A LAMP stack’s final element is the PHP, Perl or Python scripting language, dovetailing with Apache to create and run dynamic website content such as graphical applications.
These modular elements are used to create bespoke web applications which display on any operating system or web browser. However, the stack’s components depend on personal preference, with fierce rivalries between competing elements. For instance, the debate rages within the Linux community about the relative merits of different distributions, or distros. Some cite the strong technical support of CentOS as a compelling benefit, whereas arch-rival Debian combines a smaller installation footprint with more plug-and-play add-ons.
Build me up
To build a LAMP stack, you’ll need either a dedicated server or a VPS server – VPS.NET is ideally placed to help with either option. Having acquired sufficient space and selected your preferred LAMP components, the simplest way to assemble a stack is to use the package manager bundled in with certain Linux variants. However, off-the-shelf solutions are often buggier and less advanced than self-build stacks – for instance, it isn’t possible to run multiple versions of PHP/Python or MySQL/MariaDB. Similarly, it’s easier to use an existing virtual machine rather than using a tool like VirtualBox to configure your own. Even so, some people prefer the flexibility of creating their own VM.
Each Linux distro has its own installation and configuration instructions, necessitating subtle differences in the code required to install Apache. Always download and install the latest version of this web server, checking it’s installed properly by directing a web browser to the server’s IP address and then configuring it to start automatically on boot-up. Downloading either MySQL or MariaDB will require a great deal of hard disk space, so it’s best to pick one database version and place your trust in it. Having tested, cleaned and rebooted your chosen database package, the final stage involves installing PHP on your chosen server.
Things to make and do
LAMP has been used to power everything from Wikipedia to digital libraries at CERN in Switzerland. However, the true beauty of this stack is its endless versatility, enabling it to be used for almost any purpose. The free, open-source nature of each component makes this an affordable option for companies wanting to create a new web application or online content, with few user restrictions and no payments for access. Users can also customize individual stack elements as they see fit, resolving technical issues and simplifying the development process.
These are examples of potential uses for a LAMP stack:
- Ecommerce websites, where databases underpin stock availability and enable customers to view past orders.
- Media servers, where dynamic content is provided to people on demand, often through curated suggestions powered by a recommendation engine algorithm.
- WordPress websites. As the world’s most popular content management system, dynamic WordPress sites dovetail neatly with LAMP.
- Apps. While Android apps rely heavily on Java, key functionality can be provided by a LAMP stack, such as sharing databases with an existing website.
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