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What is a Tech Stack?

The broadest of the stack-related concepts is the tech stack. You’ll see it applied — often without much precision — to virtually any collection of software, as well as web platforms, programming languages, digital tools and applications, data sources, and/or vendor services that are used to achieve a specific commercial or business function.

Thus, your tech stack is whatever set of IT tools and capabilities you and your team regularly use to do your jobs. Web development and operations staff might work with a so-called “DevOps stack,” while personnel in other departments such as marketing, finance, or customer care work within their own function-specific tech stacks.

Is a Tech Stack the Same as an App Stack or a Software Stack?

The terms “technology stack” or “tech stack” are often used interchangeably with other, as well as other related terms such as “application stack” (“app stack“) and “software stack.” And while the concepts are similar, the terms are distinct.

Stack management tools such as Lenovo Airstack can help you build, evolve, and administer any type of IT stack, whether you consider yours a tech stack, an app stack, or a software stack. Still, it may be useful to explore the distinctions between these terms as they are popularly used.

What is a Software Stack?

A software stack is a narrower concept than a tech stack.  As the term is most commonly used, software stack includes the underlying programming languages, server platforms, and other components needed to build and support a particular piece of software or cloud-based application.  Some people use the phrase “solution stack” instead of software stack.

For example, two popular web development software stacks are LAMP (on open-source stack comprised of Linux OS, Apache server software, MYSQL database management, and Perl, Python, or PHP for programming/scripting) and WINS (Microsoft Windows Server OS, Internet Information Services web server, .NET software development platform, and SQL Server database).

What is an App Stack?

Depending on how you view it, the term application stack can be both narrower and broader than a tech stack.  It’s narrower in the sense that it refers only to end-user tools and applications, whether they’re loaded on a PC, served over a corporate intranet or used via the cloud.  But it’s broader, too, since the universe of available apps and services (especially cloud-based ones) continues to expand.

In fact, the wide variety of business applications available today has led to the emergence of multiple role-specific app stacks focused on particular job pursuits. In addition to the DevOps stacks mentioned above, there are other departmental stacks like finance stacks (accounting, payroll, payment processing, etc.) and customer support stacks (call routing, email and chat, incident tracking, etc.) among many others. There are also marketing stacks (often called martech stacks) comprised entirely of tools used in product marketing, from advertising and content creation to social media and analytics.