Lamp open platform lights the way to web development work

Open source platform lets developers mix and match

Hot skills: Open source platform lets developers mix and match

What is it?

Lamp is a web development and deployment platform assembled from open source products. It includes a webserver, database and scripting language. These products can be downloaded free or bought, with support, from Linux distributors, specialist suppliers such as Activegrid, and major software players, particularly IBM.

The acronym usually stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP, but the scripting language could also be Perl or Python. Variants include Postgres database (Lapp), and Wimp or Wamp (Windows with IIS or Apache).

The most recent companies to announce Lamp "stack" support, through partnerships with MySQL AB, are Novell and Dell.

Where did it originate?

The acronym was coined in Germany in the late 1990s, when it was first recognised that open source products could be brought together to compete with commercial platforms. The idea was taken up by MySQL AB and developers' handbook publisher O'Reilly.

What is it for?

Lamp is an evolving integrated architecture for writing and deploying applications. In terms of coherence and tool availability it still has some way to go to catch up with J2EE and .net, but the flexibility and freedom from lock-in provide other advantages. End-users can choose between the promise and uncertainty of the leading edge, or the security of support from a major supplier.

Lamp has been viewed as a low-end development platform, although some of the world's biggest web-based businesses run on some or all of the Lamp platform elements. More conservative enterprises are now considering other parts of the platform as alternatives to J2EE and .net.

What makes it special?

Users can mix and match components to suit their needs. The software can be free but the cost of ownership is harder to establish. Open source in general lacks a single unifying authority, and the products were not developed with interaction in mind. But services are becoming available from organisations such as Sourcelabs to test if the components of Lamp will work together.

How difficult is it to master?

None of the Lamp products is particularly welcoming to beginners, and there is a daunting gap between the many "Hello World" introductions and intensively detailed practical advice on offer.

Where is it used?

The four usual components of the Lamp platform are well established. The webserver survey organisation Netcraft said 40 million of the 70 million installations it tracks run Apache. MySQL AB claims six million installations, probably a considerable under-estimate.

Analyst firm Gartner has described PHP as "the lead scripting model for enterprise web development".

What systems does it run on?

Apache, MySQL/Postgres and PHP/Perl/Python are available for Windows, Mac OS X, Solaris and others.

What is coming up?

Microsoft is fighting back with lightweight Express editions of its development and database tools, such as Visual Studio .net.


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