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What exactly is LAMP when it comes to computing?

In the early days of the internet, most computing activities relied on proprietary software assembled by a well-funded and impersonal programming house. However, the advent of open source architecture blew this model apart and enabled everyone to personalise and adapt software packages to suit their own requirements…

Perhaps the best-known open source development platform is the LAMP web stack, which is collectively capable of assembling dynamic websites and other applications. Although there are no official tie-ups between these different components, as each is largely interchangeable with alternative packages, LAMP typically involves four key elements…

1. Linux

A Unix-style operating system for people who aren’t fans of Windows, Linux has been honed and refined over the last two decades to become a serious alternative to Microsoft’s ubiquitous OS.

The text-based interface of the early 1990s has been replaced by a family of competing distributions such as Ubuntu and Fedora, each sharing the same basic kernel architecture but incorporating different software and interfaces. Overseen by the Linux Foundation, today’s Linux is perhaps most notable for powering Android – the OS found on most of the world’s smartphones.

2. Apache

When it runs on a Linux operating system, Apache provides the second tier of this hypothetical web stack. Having been the world’s leading HTTP web server for almost two decades, it can be installed in a variety of formats to match the hosting requirements of each end user. The Apache Software Foundation oversees a spectrum of open source software development projects, from network service support and analytics through to mobile application builders.

3. MySQL

This is the database management system that underpins many of the world’s leading websites. Launched in 1995 and acquired by Oracle in 2009, this software has been downloaded over 100 million times by everyone from telecom providers to IT managers.

4. PHP

Not so much a package as an object-oriented scripting language, this hypertext pre-processor is used to create dynamic web pages. HTML documents with PHP scripts will have a .php suffix in their addresses, with the programming hidden from view – unlike the highly visible HTML part of a webpage. Like Linux, PHP was created by a single individual and has subsequently benefitted from almost 20 years of continual development and refinement by open source contributors.

Because there are few hard and fast rules when it comes to open source architecture, LAMP is a recommended modular framework rather than a specific package. For example, Perl or Python are often used as substitute programming languages in lieu of PHP. Similarly, BAMP platforms replace Linux with BSD, while MAMP is the variant for Macintosh users.

Heretics and the truly brave can even opt for a WAMP installation, using Microsoft’s Windows (the nemesis of many open source enthusiasts) to underpin their platform.