eWEEK at 30: The Lamp Stack Switches on Large-Scale Web Development

eWEEK 30: The Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP (LAMP) combination provided a reliable set of servers, operating systems, languages and tools that helped the Web rapidly grow into what it is today.

For much of computing history, application delivery came by way of proprietary, vertically integrated application stacks that were designed and engineered by IT vendors. In the late 1990s that changed.

The Linux open-source operating system emerged in the early 1990s just in time to serve as an important tool that would drive the nascent Internet. But an operating system alone isn't enough to define a platform. What was needed was the ability to deliver applications especially Web applications and services that would support the rapid growth of the Internet. That's how the LAMP stack came to be.

LAMP is an acronym that stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP, though the 'P' can also stand for Perl or Python as well. LAMP is one of the defining success stories for Web application development, Linux and the open-source movement that eWEEK has covered since the rise of the Internet.

Linux is the foundational bare-metal operating system on which the stack runs. The Apache web server first came on the scene in 1995 just as global Web use was starting to grow explosively, tracing its roots back to the very first NSCA HTTPd webserver. From April 1996 to the present day, the open-source Apache HTTP Server has held the enviable distinction of being the most widely deployed Web server on the planet.

Initially, Apache was only available on Linux and other Unix variants, though it has been available for Windows since 1997. Installing Apache on Linux-based servers is the most typical deployment.

A Web server alone is only enough for static Web page delivery and that's where the other pieces of the LAMP stack come into play. The MySQL database also first debuted in 1995 providing an open-source database that was able to run on top of Linux and connect with the Apache Web server.

The final piece of the LAMP puzzle initially came in the form of the open-source PHP programming language. As is the case with both Apache and MySQL, PHP's roots date to 1995, though it was with the PHP 3 release in 1997 that the language began to gain real traction. Once PHP could be integrated directly with Apache to run together a Linux operating system server, the LAMP stack was born as the serendipitous confluence of developer needs and technology.

"Just as Linus Torvalds (creator of Linux) didn’t set out to create a kernel that would run on multiple architectures and power everything from cell phones to stock exchanges, no one set out to create an open source stack that would revolutionize the software industry," Amanda McPherson, vice president of marketing and developer programs at the Linux Foundation told eWEEK.

McPherson added that it just made sense for developers and companies to build infrastructure with a fully open-source stack, allowing for innovations, reduced cost and faster development.

"As more people saw how the stack worked together and used it together, it just kept on getting better and more integrated," McPherson said.

While the initial LAMP stack was a natural evolution, there were and still are commercial vendors that benefit commercially from helping to build and extend the stack. One of those vendors is Red Hat, which Markets Red Hat Linux and related products. Marty Wesley is a senior principal product marketing manager at Red Hat and was with the company during its early days, seeing first-hand the importance of LAMP to Red Hat's growth.

Wesley told eWEEK that the LAMP stack was something that really evolved naturally as developers determined what tools they needed to build their applications.

"But once it became clear that [LAMP] was a popular solution, the commercial vendors moved to standardize and enhance the stack in various ways," Wesley said.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.