What is a tech stack? What is its significance to a project? And what should a not tech-savvy project owner know about the technologies used?
Tech stack is to IT projects the same way building materials are to a house. It is the list of programming languages, tools, and frameworks that software developers combine for the creation of web and mobile applications.
The term “Tech Stack” is used because when developing an application, several layers are built over each other. The layers involve the use of different programming codes, components, and hardware modules, hence forming a stack of various technologies.
This article sheds light on various tech stack types, what they are used for, and factors that dictate the best choice.
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Structure of a Tech Stack
The structure of a tech stack consists of two basic parts called the client-side and server-side, also referred to as frontend and backend.
The Frontend Tech Stack
The frontend is the user’s side, this is the interface that enables the user to interact with the program. Its primary purpose is the provision of access, convenience, a pleasuring user experience, call to actions, and events.
HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is used for building and placing content. All the positioning and order of page contents is done by this language.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is for the objectification and representation of content materials. Mostly it involves the application of fonts, colors, layout characteristics, background contents, and so on.
In its turn, native development is based on the use of native or cross-platform programming languages such as Java and Kotlin for Android, Objective-C, and Swift for iOS, React Native, Xamarin, and Flutter. The use of a native mobile app development approach is much more preferable today as it allows more control and easier hardware access.
The Backend Tech Stack
The backend is comparable to the engine block that propels an application. It ensures the proper functioning of all the features responding to user requests such as accesses to the database and executing CRUD operations – Create, Read, Update, and Delete.
Backend constituents include programming languages, server, server-side frameworks, OSs, databases, and APIs. There is also the involvement of business logic, hosting, deployments, and so on. Typical examples are the MEAN and LAMP backend stacks.
The majority of sites today are still on PHP, which allows it to remain one of the most popular technologies. Anyway, there are plenty of other languages and frameworks to choose from.
Ruby on Rails, .NET, Spring for Java, Django and Flask for Python, Swift or Objective-C are the popular frameworks for backend development. They are reliable for implementing regular features such as user authentication, data access, and others; thus preferred by most developers. For example, Ruby and Python are frequently used especially for faster prototyping.
Middleware is a software that integrates two or more systems, applications or components for easy communication. Note that middleware is not a developer tool. It functions as a hidden translation layer that connects backend and frontend parts of an application.
It is a recherché usually written in Java or C# to enable parsing, communication, and management of data between your app and server or database. The role it plays is vital in the distribution process of real-time actions, which is beyond sending requests and responses back and forth to the client and server.
Middleware consists of application servers, web servers, content management systems, and other related tools that support the development and delivery of applications.
Factors for Choosing a Tech Stack
Tech stack is consequential because it’s what you use for creating software programs. Thus, don’t underestimate the essence of research and analysis to select the right set of tools.
A wrong choice of technologies can cause you the loss of money, time, and other valuable resources for your project. A sound business analyst and well-experienced developers are needed to avoid pitfalls when choosing your tech stack.
Here’s the list of necessities to consider when choosing a purposeful tech stack.
Defining the Platform
What are the expectations of the project? This is an important pointer. Without an understanding of what you expect from the project, choosing a stack is a futile move.
At this point, you should ask yourself who are my target audience. How they will use your app, when and where. What is the popular active device among them? Is it a mobile phone or a regular computer?
For instance, a web application requires a totally different set of tools and frameworks from a mobile app. Even within mobile applications, tech stacks you need for Android and iOS development are different.
You should then plan based on your answers, decide if you need a single or multi-platform solution to choose the best tech stack to use. Keep it in mind that if you are making an MVP first. It is better to make it on the prominent platform popular amidst your target users to save costs and get user feedback.
It doesn’t matter if it’s going to be a mobile or web application. MVP is vital to the success of a project and the development process. After defining the platform, consider all functional and non-functional parameters that are essential for the project launch. A set of well-defined requirements for MVP will finger the tools you need to reach your aim and the additional tech stack you may need for the market version.
Defining the Project Type
After you cross the bridge of defining the platform, you still have more analysis to make in choosing your tech stack. You will be considering the project based on its size and complexity, processing strength, and business goals. For example, if your application involves multiprocessing or requires low latency for better responsiveness, then you must consider the relative tech stack that provides such support.
They are usually fast to deliver due to simple requirements and usually can be implemented with less sophisticated technologies like CMS or WordPress in the case of web projects.
For mid-size projects, there is a higher level of technological commitment. They may call for the use of several combinations of programming languages and tools depending on requirements and platforms. Such projects require technologies that provide more sophisticated and diverse functionalities and integrations.
If you intend to create a social network, online marketplace, CRM or order management system, then you are looking at a complex project. The combination of multiple programming languages is inevitable for such. This is just like the case of a mid-size project but with more complex features. You need several functions, integrations, and more sophistication, hence, your tech stack must be of a high level.
The role of a tech stack in the scalability of an application is to make provision for the increase in users and functions. Your developers should make a choice of the tech stack that will make room for new engaging features, user growth and seasonal rise in the number of users.
Your provision for scalability must cover horizontal scaling which involves several application servers running at the same time to handle the flow of user traffic, as well as vertical scaling for the inclusion of more programs to process new data types. Scaling horizontally and vertically will protect your application from crashing when the stormy days come.
Technology and Team Expertise
You need to weigh the expertise of your team and use it as a basis to judge your choice of the tech stack, except you are looking to outsource. Developers usually have the command of some programming languages and tools more than others, so it all balls down to how skillful your team is.
You have to be certain your team can successfully follow through the use of a tech stack, or else, there is no need to use such a stack. To avoid employing an expert to cover up for the technology your team lacks, you can train them.
That is if you have the luxury of time; but if you are pressed by deadline just outsource the project. Therefore, it is paramount to match the skills and experience of your team and see that it matches the choice of technology. Platforms like DesignRush can be very handy for picking the right agency in this case.
Also, try to ensure your choice of tech has a big developer community and the availability of reference documents such as it is on Github and Stackoverflow. This would help your team not to get stranded on a tool or technology.
You need to consider that your team must be able to maintain the application after it is released. This is the next lane after you have developed your app, and it is related to your choice of tech stack too.
Your choice of tech stack should be motivated by software architecture and existing codebase if you want feasible maintenance. Try choosing languages that are effective with short, reusable, and easy-to-maintain codes. Your codebase should be simple and of average length. It helps developers to spend a short interval of time in trying to review, debug, and process the codes.
Software architecture is a key player for enabling scalability, portability, and reusability of applications. Your choice of tech stack should be guided by your software architecture.
Based on this, you should consider technologies that enable both static and dynamic component configurations. It makes the performance of the application seamless, even when users increase or you add more engaging features.
The Cost Implication of Tech Stack
Money makes the world go round they say. Besides, nothing comes for free. On the contrary, there are several popular open-source IT frameworks and tools that are free.
However, they come with subscription fees if you will need some special or advanced features. You might need to pay for licensing, and there is also the cost of maintenance. The choice of tech stack can lean on all these factors.
Furthermore, some tech stacks demand high-salary for its developers, so you need to consider that too. You might also have to look at the cost of training developers for a particular tech if it is an option. The tug of war is between the overall cost of using a tech stack and the effectiveness of its features.
Some Popular Tech Stacks
.NET framework is a core tech in Microsoft’s technology stack. The Common Language Infrastructure from C#, F#, VB.NET, Fantom, etc has provided a variety of over 60 frameworks, platforms, SDKs, IDEs, SOA, and libraries just to mention a few.
If you desire a dynamic and interactive web app, then you should be eyeing .NET. It is a widely used and trusted framework for such purposes.
You can also use .NET alongside other open source technologies, to build different types of server-side web applications or processing systems for enterprise-level transactions. As a subset of the Overflow Stack family, it is well qualified as an all-inclusive tech stack for the development of web front-end, and database.
The runtime for .NET applications is very fast, yet, it is easy to develop, enabling developers to meet up with deadlines. Interoperability with various platforms makes room for a variety of features to be created by a developer. .NET can be ported easily, so developers can choose any framework or technology to work with. It also allows developers to work with other languages.
Lastly, the use of code access security (CAS) to sucre its programs. The common language runtime (CLR) of the .NET framework can manage its code to deny access to execute operations with a limited set of permissions.
The LAMP stack is a popular open-source software set. It mainly consists of the PHP programming language, Linux operating system, the Apache HTTP Server, and the MySQL relational database management system.
LAMP is trusted and has been around for a long time. It also works with Perl and Python as substitutes for PHP. Developers use it because it is ideal for dynamic websites and applications. Its combination with other open-source programs gives it interoperability, usability, and customizability.
Other variants of LAMP include:
- LAPP (Linux/Apache/PostgreSQL/PHP): It possesses a PostgreSQL database variation that’s configured to function with enterprise-level projects.
- XAMPP (Linux, Mac OS X, Windows/Apache/MySQL/PHP, Perl): It is a more complete stack that runs on Linux, Windows, and Mac operating systems. It also has an FTP server, which is cross-platform.
- WAMP (Windows/Apache/MySQL/PHP): It is an alternative to the Microsoft Windows OS. It is comprehensive and easy to use.
- MAMP (Mac OS X/Apache/MySQL/PHP): It is an alternative to Mac OS X operating system useable by both Windows and Mac.
The MEAN Stack is made up of:
- MongoDB – a NoSQL database;
- Express.js – a web app framework that runs on Node.js, and Angular.JS;
- Node.js – an execution domain for event-driven server-side and networking applications.
Another variant of MEAN is MEEN: MongoDB, Express.js, Ember.js, and Node.js.
Corporations and Tech Stacks
Most big corporations can say part of their success depended on the choice of tech stack. Some of them have made progressive efforts compared to when they just started by changing or adding to the technology they use.
Note that each of the technologies mentioned could include a list of individual or sub tech stack, such as libraries, hosting environments, utilities, and so on. The business functions of an application usually dictate the tools to be used for its development. For the record, here are the main technologies some popular companies use.
Airbnb Tech Stack
- Framework: Rails
- Databases: MySQL, Amazon RDS, Hadoop
- Server: NGINX
Facebook Tech Stack
- Programming Languages: PHP, GraphQL, Hack
- Framework: Tornado
- Databases: Cassandra, RocksDB, Beringei, Memcached
- Server: custom/proprietary
Pinterest Tech Stack
- Programming Languages: Python, Java, Go
- Databases: MySQL, Hadoop, HBase, Memcached, Redis
- Server: NGINX
Uber Tech Stack
- Programming Languages: Python, Java, Go, Objective-C
- Framework: Node.js, Apache Thrift
- Databases: MySQL. PostgreSQL, MongoDB, Redis
- Server: NGINX
Deciding the Destiny of Your Project
Choosing the right tech itself depends on the project requirements and skills of a team that will develop it, even if money is not a challenge. This decision can make or break a project. You should research similar types of products to what you intend to develop to see how they were built.
You can further consult your business analysts, project managers, and developers to decide which frameworks and tools work best for the intended project. You might want to hire new developers or train the old ones if your team is found-wanting.
Velvetech will be glad to provide you with consultations and assist you with your software initiatives. We will suggest to you the most appropriate tech stack and project management methodologies that guarantee successful project delivery. Learn more about our software development services and contact us today.