Chapter 4. Live Stack

The "live stack" is a full stack environment that runs either in the browser or as a virtual machine. It’s the most sophisticated and flexible of all the environments, but also the most complex. Unlike tools like Codecademy or JSBin, a live stack has a number of different tools, such as a database, development tools, startup services, an editor, and other tools required to run a complete application. In many ways, a live stack is everything required to run a complete development environment.

Runnable is an IDE and execution environment built into the browser. It provides an Ace-like editor, a file manager, and the ability to push code to a server for execution. In many ways, it’s sort of like an Atlas for Heroku — you can write code in the IDE and push it so that it runs live. It supports a number of target languages, include Node, PHP, Ruby, and Python.


Heroku is a platform as a service that allows you to easily deploy an specific platform using git. When you push the repo up, Heroku determines which platform you’re using and provisions the machine accordingly. For example, if your app uses a Rails, Heroku will provision a server with a rack-server, install your gem bundles, and start the service. Heroku also has an extensive ecosystem of add on services, such as databases, email, and caching solutions.


VirtualBox is a free tool for running virtual images. With Virtualbox, you can run a fully, preconfigured machine image that has been set up with a complete stack of services. All data, software, and startup information can be pre-configured. Once the image is downloaded, the machine image runs completely locally. The advantage is that Virtualbox allows you to ship a completely custom environment that an end user can download and run.


[Vagrant] is a tool that simplifies the process of using Virtualbox. One key feature is that Vagrant can execute a puppet or chef script when it is started, allowing you to easily ship the recipe for the machine, rather than the machine image itself.