What is a Tech Stack? Definition, Types, Benefits

Published on
What is a tech stack? Definition

In the world of tech, jargon and buzzwords often make their way into everyday conversations. One such term you often hear thrown around is "tech stack” – otherwise known as a technology stack. 

Tech stacks form the core of app development, enabling developers to create efficient, scalable, and feature-future applications that businesses rely on on a day-to-day basis. Whether you're a seasoned developer or someone just starting to dip their toes into the world of software and web development, understanding what a tech stack is and how it works is essential. 

In this article, we’ll define what a tech stack is, explore its meaning in modern development, and shed light on its critical role in the world of software engineering.

What is a tech stack? Definition

A tech stack is a combination of software tools, programming languages, frameworks, and libraries that developers use to build and run applications. 

Think of it as a set of building blocks that developers assemble to create web and mobile applications. It acts as the foundation upon which the app is built. 

Instagram, for example, uses a combination of frameworks and programming languages including Javascript, Python, ReactJs and Django. This is Instagram’s tech stack. 

What is a tech stack? Instagram's tech stack
Instagram's tech stack. Source: Stackshare

Of course, the exact combination of technologies chosen for a tech stack can be very different depending on the type of app.

What makes up a tech stack?

While every application is different, the majority of web applications are built on several key components that make up their tech stack. Here are the main components of a tech stack:

  • Operating System (OS) - The very bottom layer of a tech stack is the operating system, which serves as the platform for running software applications. Common examples include Windows, macOS, and various Linux distributions.
  • Server - Web applications need a server that hosts and manages the application's logic and data. Servers can be physical machines or cloud-based virtual servers, with popular choices including Apache, Nginx, and Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS).
  • Database Management System (DBMS) - Databases are crucial for storing and retrieving data in most applications. Tech stacks include a DBMS like MySQL, PostgreSQL, MongoDB, or Oracle.
  • Back-End Programming Language - The back-end of an application handles server-side operations, such as data processing and business logic. Common programming languages for this layer include Python, Ruby, Java, Node.js, and PHP.
  • Framework - Frameworks are sets of pre-written code that provide a foundation for building specific types of applications. For instance, web developers often use frameworks like Ruby on Rails, Django, Express.js, or Laravel to simplify and streamline the development process.
  • Front-End Technologies - The front-end is what users interact with. It includes technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Front-end frameworks like React, Angular, and Vue.js have also gained popularity for building dynamic and responsive user interfaces.
  • Version Control System (VCS) - Developers use VCS tools to track changes in their code, collaborate with others, and manage different versions of the application.
  • Deployment and Hosting - Finally, the choice of how and where to deploy the application is part of the tech stack. Cloud platforms like AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud are common options, along with various hosting providers.

Types of tech stacks

Tech stacks come in a variety of different configurations, each tailored to meet the unique requirements of a project. Here are some popular examples of types of tech stacks to choose from: 

  1. LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) -The lamp stack is known for its simplicity and cost-effectiveness. It’s a popular choice for developers building dynamic web applications. Some popular LAMP applications include wikis, management software such as phpMyAdmin, and Content Management Systems (CMSs) like WordPress. 
  2.  MEAN stack (MongoDB, Express.js, AngularJS, Node.js) - The MEAN stack is entirely JavaScript-based and is favoured for building real-time applications due to its rapid speed of deployment LinkedIn, Netflix and eBay are famous examples of apps built on a MEAN stack.
  3. MERN Stack (MongoDB Express.js,React,Node.js) - Similar to MEAN, the MERN stack utilises JavaScript throughout, offering flexibility and the ability to create responsive, single-page applications. This makes it the tech stack of choice for social media apps like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
  4. Ruby on Rails (Ruby, Rails, Rack, Passenger) - Ruby on Rails is known for its integrated code designs and rapid development capabilities, making it a preferred choice for many seasoned developers. Web applications like Airbnb, GitHub and Fiverr are all built on Ruby on Rails. 
  5. .NET (.NET, MS SQL Server) -The .NET tech stack, developed by Microsoft, is a powerful and versatile framework for building a wide range of applications. With its robust capabilities and cross-platform support, .NET is a popular choice for creating scalable and modern software solutions. A variety of websites, including those of Stack Overflow, Forza Horizon 5 and Chipotle, were all built on .NET. 

Benefits of using a tech stack

The use of a tech stack isn't just a matter of convenience – it's a strategic choice that can significantly impact a project's success. Tech stacks offer numerous benefits that streamline development, enhance productivity, and ensure the scalability and sustainability of applications. 

Some notable benefits include:

  • Efficiency - One of the most apparent benefits of adopting a tech stack is the boost in efficiency it provides. Tech stacks come pre-equipped with libraries, frameworks, and modules that simplify common tasks, allowing developers to focus on crafting unique features. This accelerates project timelines, reducing time-to-market and ensuring that your app stays competitive long-term. Tech stacks are also designed to leverage the strengths of their constituent components. By choosing the right tech stack. developers can optimise the performance of their applications. This results in faster load times, responsive user interfaces, and efficient resource management.
  • Scalability - A well-structured tech stack facilitates scalability, allowing developers to add resources, adjust configurations, or incorporate new technologies seamlessly. This ensures that your application can evolve as your business grows.
  • Ease of Maintenance - Maintenance is a significant aspect of software development, and a thoughtfully chosen tech stack can make it significantly more manageable. Supported tech stacks with active communities provide ongoing updates, security patches, and resources for troubleshooting issues, ensuring that your application remains secure and up-to-date.
  • Community and Support - Almost all Tech stacks have massive communities behind them that can offer day-to-day support and resources for developers. Developers can become communities to troubleshoot problems for their apps, seek advice, and stay updated on industry trends. This support network can be a lifeline when facing complex challenges or exploring new features on your app. 
  • Cross-Platform Compatibility - Many modern tech stacks are designed to be cross-platform, allowing developers to build applications that run on multiple operating systems. This versatility extends the reach of your application, enabling it to reach a broader audience.
  • Cost-Effective Development - Using a tech stack can also be incredibly cost-effective Leveraging open-source technologies within a stack can reduce licensing costs, and the availability of pre-built components can save both time and resources. This cost efficiency can be especially beneficial for startups and small businesses.
  • Security and Reliability - Security is a top priority in software development, and established tech stacks often include built-in security features and best practices. The reliability of well-known components in a tech stack contributes to a more secure overall environment for your application.

Final thoughts

In the ever-evolving world of software development, choosing the right tech stack is not just a technical decision – it's a strategic one. By carefully selecting the components that align with your project's needs and staying engaged with the tech community, you can harness the full potential of your chosen stack and drive innovation in the digital landscape. 

Ultimately, a well-chosen tech stack can be the cornerstone of your development endeavours, paving the way for success.

Join 34,209 IT professionals who already have a head start

Network with the biggest names in IT and gain instant access to all of our exclusive content for free.

Get Started Now