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QuickStudy: LAMP

September 25, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld -

Listen to the Computerworld TechCast: LAMP.

DEFINITION: LAMP is an acronym taken from the initial letters of a set of free software programs commonly used together to run dynamic Web sites or servers. The components are Linux, Apache and MySQL, with the final “P” standing for any of three scripting languages: PHP, Perl or Python.

In the jargon-laden world of IT, new terms are created as shorthand ways of referencing or discussing otherwise cumbersome phrases. One addition to the lexicon that has gained increased popularity and use is LAMP, which refers to a group of free, largely open-source software that forms the basis of many — maybe most — Web servers in use today. LAMP has four components: Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl, PHP and/or Python. (There are often variations on Linux and MySQL as well.)

While these programs were not specifically designed to work with one another, the open-source ethos and community-based development efforts made interoperability a strong focus and helped make this combination a popular and highly reliable choice. The fact that all are available to use for free didn’t hurt either.

In brief, here are the elements that make up LAMP.

Linux is, of course, the open-source operating system kernel originally created by Linus Torvalds and based loosely on Unix. 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.

Thanks to the large open-source development community for the operating system kernel itself, individual development groups for the many different distributions, and a number of commercial versions that are supported by credible vendors, Linux is regarded as a safe, reliable choice for many server applications.

Apache is, hands down, the most widely used Web server on the planet. Apache has been an open-source effort from its beginnings around 1995 and is controlled by a group called The Apache Software Foundation. As of August 2006, according to a survey by Netcraft Ltd., Apache served 62% of all Web sites on the Internet and is clearly the world’s most popular Web server, although in recent months it has been losing market share to Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Information Server. Still, Apache remains the de facto reference platform against which all other Web servers are judged.

MySQL is a multithreaded, multiuser, SQL-based database management system with more than 6 million installations. Unlike the other components, MySQL is not open-source but has been copyrighted and owned by a single for-profit company since its 1995 inception. Uppsala, Sweden-based developer MySQL AB makes it available as free software under the GNU General Public License but also dual-licenses it under more traditional, proprietary arrangements in situations where the intended use is incompatible with the GPL.

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