Turning on the LAMP: The Clapper for Developers

Sam Guiliano
by (86 posts) under Development
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What is LAMP, and how can you use it to light the way of development with a simple hand motion?

  • What is LAMP?
  • Platform vs. Stack
  • Operating System – Linux
  • Webserver – Apache
  • Database – MySQL
  • Scripting Language – PHP
  • One-Click LAMP: The Clapper for Developers

Clap On! Clap Off! You may remember the jingle for the “as seen on TV” product The Clapper, a sound-activated electrical switch that captivated the imagination with its simple brilliance. Just as you can turn on a lamp with that simple hand motion of bringing your hands together, you can turn on a LAMP Cloud Hosting with the simple hand motion of clicking a mouse button.

What is LAMP?

LAMP is a web development platform that is made out of open-source software. It includes the operating system, web server, database, and scripting language. LAMP itself is 100% free, so you don’t have to worry about any licensing costs when you use it – just the resources to power your server.

The term LAMP was first used by technology journalist Michael Kunze in the German magazine Computertechnik in 1998. Kunze was essentially trying to make an argument that free open-source options could be formed into a stack that was reasonable and perhaps a preferable replacement for proprietary development environments. Organizations such as MySQL AB and O’Reilly & Associates subsequently brought greater attention to LAMP, resulting in higher adoption rates.

Platform vs. Stack

You can think of LAMP as a development platform or as a stack. A stack is basically layers of software working together, allowing developers to perform necessary functions, explains Russell Kay in Computerworld. “These layers are comparable with the ones that make up commercial stacks like Microsoft’s .Net framework,” he says. “When used in combination, they support application servers.”

It doesn’t really matter if you consider LAMP a platform or a stack. The important point about these technologies is that they are being joined together so that you can create and release applications.

The four components of LAMP are:

Operating System – Linux

This open-source OS kernel was developed by Linus Torvalds using UNIX as its basis, Kay comments. “From its university student, hobbyist roots, Linux has become a family of highly reliable operating systems that are used by both large and small organizations worldwide,” he says.

The popularity of Linux is incredible. In fact, as of November 4, 2015, there are 82,250,632 users of the OS worldwide, according to the Linux Counter Project.

The community surrounding Linux is robust since it is considered a strong alternative to proprietary options such as Windows. There are numerous distributions – also called flavors – of Linux as well, since people have been able to modify the code as they desire. Popular examples include Ubuntu, CentOS, Debian, and Fedora.

This operating system is widely considered to be secure and stable. It is used to power Google, Facebook, Twitter, McDonald’s, and NASA. The U.S. Navy even trusts it as the backend for control of its submarines.

Web server – Apache

First hatched in 1995 by the Apache Software Foundation, Apache is the most popular webserver worldwide – although it has been battling it out with Microsoft’s Internet Information Server lately. The current global usage statistics from Netcraft are as follows for October 2015:

  • Apache – 35%
  • Microsoft – 30%
  • Nginx – 17%

Nginx is a streamlined Russian open-source competitor that only accounted for 1% of users in 2008. If you opt for Nginx, that’s called a LEMP stack (since Nginx is pronounced “Engine-X”).

Despite the lost ground by Apache, it’s still considered the open-source standard for web development environments.

Database – MySQL

Kay describes MySQL as “a multithreaded, multiuser, SQL-based database management system.” That’s accurate. He also says that “[u]nlike the other components, MySQL is not open-source but has been copyrighted and owned by a single for-profit company since its 1995 inception.” That comment is not quite right.

Although the Swedish company MySQL AB does offer commercial versions of the database, the free version offered under the GNU General Public License is open-source. That is the version of the software that is used in the vast majority of LAMP stacks.

Scripting Language – PHP

Although Perl and Python are often used as the coding language, PHP is the original standard. Each of these scripting options are dense, relatively simple, codified systems that allow the execution of programs via a browser window.

The use of scripting began with the introduction of Common Gateway Interface (CGI) applications more than 20 years ago. PHP, Perl, and Python are all examples of CGI languages. CGI passes a request to an interpreter that is configured with the web server. It allows for easy serving of dynamic as well as static pages.

“Programmers preferred scripting languages for these applications because they made it relatively easy to manipulate text streams from a variety of sources,” notes Kay.

One-click LAMP: The Clapper for Developers

Well, here’s the thing about The Clapper: it’s a little ridiculous because the light switch was already a simple hand motion. It’s perhaps more apt to say that one-click LAMP deployment is as easy as turning on a light.

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