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DevOps Glossary

Software Stack

What is a Software Stack?

An application consists of a set of functions working together in a defined architecture to deliver specified services to the user. The simplest application architecture consist of three layers:

  • Presentation Layer - The presentation layer is what the client sees when they access the application through a website or web-based application portal.
  • Logic Layer - The logic layer contains application logic and business rules that help fulfill application requests. This layer makes calculations and decisions about how to process requests while controlling the transmission of data between the data layer and the presentation layer.
  • Data Layer - The data layer is a server-side system that passes information to the logic layer when it is necessary to complete a calculation or when it needs to be passed to the presentation layer where it becomes visible to users.

Each of these layers has unique requirements in terms of the programming languages and software tools that are required to establish and maintain its function. A web-based presentation layer may be written in languages like HTML5, Javascript and CSS. The application layer could be programmed in Java, C#, Python or C++. Applications like MySQL and MongoDB could be used to maintain back-end servers.

The term Software Stack refers to the set of components that work together to support the execution of the application. Some software components power back-end processes, some are used to perform calculations and some are used in the presentation layer to enable user interface. In any case, the components of a software stack work in tandem to efficiently deliver application services to the end-user.

Software Stack vs Technology Stack - What's the Difference?

When developers talk about the sets of tools that are used to support an application, several different terms may be used. The most common ones are software stack, technology stack, and solution stack. While these terms may seem interchangeable, differentiating between them can deepen your understanding of software stack components and the role they play in enabling applications of all kinds.

The terms technology stack and solutions stack are roughly equivalent. Both refer to the full set of technologies or solutions that are implemented to support application delivery. This includes software components as well as hardware components and physical IT infrastructure. A full technology stack includes networking, load balancers, storage, servers, virtual machines, operating systems, middleware, execution runtime, data and the application itself. Many software developers

A software stack consists of all software components needed to support an application. These can include things like installable files, patches, software definitions of products, programming languages, coding frameworks, database tools, operating systems, runtime environment, web servers, client interface tools, messaging applications, and other software products.

Today, many developers depend on public cloud service providers to provide the cloud infrastructure needed to support their applications. For example, a developer may use Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide storage, servers and virtualization capabilities that support a particular application. When this is the case, the cloud service itself may be considered part of the software stack although its role in application delivery is to abstract hardware infrastructure.

Software Stack Development: Front-End, Back-End and Full Stack

The process of developing an application can be broadly divided into two components: front-end development and back-end development. Each of these represents a specialization for developers, although some full-stack developers are capable of doing both.

The front end of an application is basically synonymous with the presentation layer. Front-end developers may also be called web designers or User Interface/User Experience (UI/UX) designers. Front-end developers focus on the client-side of the application, creating visually appealing and user-friendly interfaces that are easy to navigate and properly connected to back-end systems. The most commonly used programming languages for front-end developers are HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

Back-end developers focus their efforts on the server-side of the application, ensuring that the application is fast and responsive for users. They write the code that transmits information between back-end databases and the browser where it becomes accessible to clients. This requires knowledge of programming languages like Java, PHP, Ruby on Rails and Python.

It is typical for different developers working on the same application to develop different portions of the software stack.

Five Software Stack Examples

A software stack that has proved itself useful or preferable for delivering a specific type of application may occasionally be adopted by other developers. A software stack that has become popular may take on an identity of its own as a growing number of software companies adopt the same set of software components to deliver an application. Software companies may bundle specific components together and market them as a single software stack for a specific purpose. Below are five of the most popular software stacks that developers may use as an application platform:

  1. LAMP - A software stack designed to support web services, the LAMP software stack is useful for building dynamic web sites and cloud applications. The stack includes the Linux operating system, Apache web server, MySQL relational database management system and the PHP programming language.
  2. MEAN - Dynamic web sites and web applications are builds using the MEAN software stack, which includes four free and open source components: a database tool called MongoDB, the Express.js web application server framework, a front-end web framework called Angular.js, and the Node.js runtime environment.
  3. WIMP - The WIMP software stack includes the Windows operating system, IIS web servers, MySQL or MS Access as a data management system and the PHP, Perl or Python programming languages.
  4. NMP - NMP is actually a set of several software stacks that incorporate Nginx web servers, MySQL and the PHP programming language. This set of technologies works with all major operating systems and has been packaged separately with Linux, Windows, and macOS.
  5. MAMP - The MAMP framework can be used to develop web sites that function on computers that use Windows or macOS. The software stack consists of either macOS or Windows operating system, Apache web server, MySQL for relational database management and PHP, Perl or Python for web development.

Each software stack provides a unique set of advantages and disadvantages for developers. It is up to application architects to understand and anticipate the specific needs of an application before choosing the best set of software solutions that support the delivery of application services to the end-user.

Secure Your Software Stack with Sumo Logic

For applications deployed in the cloud, each component of the software stack represents a potential vector for cyber attacks. Developers can use Sumo Logic's robust security monitoring and threat analysis capabilities to effectively mitigate against cyber attacks and prevent unwanted network intrusion and data theft.

Sumo Logic's threat intelligence, threat detection, and streamlined incident response capabilities help developers react quickly to potential cyber-attacks and secure every component of the software stack.