Specialization is the most important aspect of technical staffing in contemporary software development. The use of the term “full-stack developer” has evolved over time from a semi-mythological basis to a fairly common practice. It is still considered to be more efficient to employ teams of specialists in Agile project management rather than to rely exclusively on the services of a single full-stack developer, even if they are considered a ninja, Jedi, or rock star. This article will discuss the benefits of using a single full-stack developer for programming and managing the launch of new projects versus the advantages of Agile teams working in remote collaboration with expert contract workers leading the design, development, and production operations of applications. Although every project is unique, we believe that the efficiency and reliability of Agile teams are better than relying on a single “10X” developer, especially for maintaining code over time and implementing the best practices for software innovation.
Cloud Software: Increasing the Need for SpecializationIn most website and mobile application development projects, there is a common division of work between front-end designers, back-end programmers, and systems administrators.
- Systems Administrators: Traditionally tasked with web server configurations and network maintenance in a data center, systems administrators have now become DevOps specialists in the cloud era. Some of the responsibilities of Systems Administrators not shared by other technicians are Apache, NGINX, Kubernetes, OpenStack, VMware, and other DevOps tools used in CI/CD or version control.
Agile Software Development: Use of Expert KnowledgeBecause it takes years of training and professional experience to acquire the knowledge of full-stack development, most business owners employ a team of experts across the three sectors of specialization to build software applications with Agile project management. For the requirements of staffing, it is often cheaper to contract a Photoshop specialist for web design mock-ups, a PHP programmer to build a custom theme for WordPress, Drupal, Magento, etc., and systems administrator for web server management, rather than searching for a 10x developer. Creatives and engineers often have different personality sets that are mutually beneficial to a project’s success. This places a major burden on project management leaders. Hiring for a web design or mobile application development project involves evaluation of the specializations of each employee. The project manager may or may not have hiring authority depending on the organization. Adding artificial intelligence, machine learning, and event-driven architecture like Apache Kafka or Pulsar to a project adds an extra layer of technical expertise. If your project involves all of these elements, it may make more sense to adopt a microservice approach to application development rather than rely on monolithic CMS or DXP apps. Low-code solutions rely on APIs with microservices and make full-stack development a process of coordination between third-party services, custom code, branding, and GUI design. A Software Architect may be hired or elected to direct the process of finding the best experts or specialists in each category of development required to make a software project a success. By using the resources of a team of experts collectively, businesses can more effectively build apps with better functions and features than a single full-stack developer is usually able to manage.
Avoid Single Vendor Lock-In with Agile TeamsMany CIOs have been forced to adopt multi-cloud architecture to avoid single vendor lock-in and secure better pricing on cloud services over time. The same logic applies to full-stack development projects. Relying on a single programmer can make the project difficult to upgrade or manage long-term if the key developer leaves the project and does not document the code. Agile project management places the focus of responsibility on team members to document their code so that it is more easily understandable and upgradable by future programmers. Even in CMS plugin, module, and theme projects, we see the same problems with undocumented code repeat over and over when the development team changes and new upgrades are made. If you are considering adding artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning (ML) functionality to your websites, industry best practices and well-documented code are even more important. Many projects waste time correcting errors, debugging issues, or deconstructing programming logic when taking over a project that was built by a single individual, i.e. full-stack developer. Agile team members are more easily replaced when new employees can join a project where the code is fully documented from the start. Project managers can ensure that best practices for long-term maintenance and security testing of code are implemented from day one. Full-stack development with Agile teams allows you to hire the best experts for each framework and easily bring on new team members as the project grows and expands over time.
Web Server Software Stack RequirementsSince the decline of the Sun Microsystems mainframe server in the DotCom era, Apache has been the most popular web server solution on Linux hardware. Apache HTTP Server competed with Windows Server in various versions for most of the last 20 years. The emergence of NGINX challenged both projects, which also competed with legacy Java or UNIX servers. It is important to consider the web server stack in any conception of “full-stack development”. This is even more important in the cloud hosting era where infrastructure is considered as code (IaC) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solutions are widely adopted. Some of the most popular web server stack combinations used in web/mobile application development are:
- LAMP: Linux, Apache, MySQL, & PHP. This stack can support any Linux server distro like Debian, Ubuntu, RHEL, CloudLinux, SUSE, etc. Some web servers will support Perl, Python, Ruby, and Node.js along with PHP as extensions. MariaDB is a drop-in MySQL replacement and many hosting providers also offer PostgreSQL support for databases.
- WAMP: Windows, Apache, MSSQL, & PHP. Although Apache is compatible with Windows Server software, many systems administrators use IIS as an alternative. These servers are widely deployed for ASP.NET development with C languages. The Microsoft SQL database replaces the MySQL option (now owned by Oracle) of LAMP servers.
- LEMP: Linux, NGINX, MySQL, & PHP. NGINX is a Russian company that launched a web server platform that outperformed Apache for some time, mostly on the basis of reverse-proxy caching, with its own stack requirements for running PHP & other scripts.