Web server vs application server: Which one do you need?

A server is a device or a computer program that accepts and responds to the request made by another program, known as a client. It is used to manage the network resources and for running the program or software that provides services.

There are two types of servers:

● Web Server

● Application Server

Web server:

A web server is a server that accepts a request for data and sends the relevant document in return. In contrast, an Application Server contains a container component as well to run the enterprise applications.

A web server accepts and fulfills requests from clients for static content (i.e., HTML pages, files, images, and videos) from a website. Web servers handle HTTP requests and responses only.

A Web server handles the HTTP protocol. When the Web server receives an HTTP request, it responds with an HTTP response, such as sending back an HTML page. To process a request, a Web server may respond with a static HTML page or image, send a redirect, or delegate the dynamic response generation to some other program such as CGI scripts, JSPs (JavaServer Pages), servlets, ASPs (Active Server Pages), server-side JavaScripts, or some other server-side technology. Whatever their purpose, such server-side programs generate a response, most often in HTML, for viewing in a Web browser.

A web server is a computer system that stores, processes, and delivers web pages to clients. The client is almost always a web browser or a mobile application. Depending on the setup, a web server can store one or more websites.

This type of server only delivers static HTML content, such as:

● Documents

● Images

● Videos

● Fonts

Application server:

An application server exposes business logic to the clients, which generates dynamic content. It is a software framework that transforms data to provide the specialized functionality offered by a business, service, or application. Application servers enhance the interactive parts of a website that can appear differently depending on the context of the request.

An application server is a server that hosts applications. Application server frameworks are software frameworks for building application servers. An application server framework provides both facilities to create web applications and a server environment to run them.

As for the application server, according to our definition, an application server exposes business logic to client applications through various protocols, possibly including HTTP. While a Web server mainly deals with sending HTML for display in a Web browser, an application server provides access to business logic for client application programs. The application program can use this logic to call a method on an object (or a function in the procedural world).

Such application server clients can include GUIs (graphical user interface) running on a PC, a Web server, or other application servers. The information traveling back and forth between an application server and its client is not restricted to simple display markup. Instead, the information is program logic. Since the logic takes the form of data and method calls and not static HTML, the client can employ the exposed business logic however it wants

Application servers provide clients with access to business logic. Through business logic, an app server transforms data into dynamic content and enables the application’s functionality. Examples of dynamic content are:

● A transaction result

● Decision support

● Real-time analytics

This server type is the main link between a client and server-side code. Typical tasks of an application server include:

● Transaction management

● Security

● Dependency injection (DI)

● Concurrency

● Application servers also handle processes such as clustering, fail-over, and load-balancing

Web server vs. application server: What is the difference?

By strict definition, a web server is a common subset of an application server.

● A web server delivers static web content—e.g., HTML pages, files, images, video—primarily in response to hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) requests from a web browser.

● An application server typically can deliver web content too. Still, its primary job is to enable interaction between end-user clients and server-side application code—the code representing what is often called business logic—to generate and deliver dynamic content, such as transaction results decision support or real-time analytics. The client for an application server can be the application’s end-user UI, a web browser, or a mobile app. The client-server interaction can occur via any number of communication protocols.

● However, in practice, the line between web servers and application servers has become fuzzier, particularly as the web browser has emerged as the application client of choice. User expectations of web applications and web application performance have grown.

● Most web servers support plug-ins for scripting languages (e.g., ASP, JSP, PHP, Perl) that enable the webserver to generate dynamic content based on server-side logic. And an increasing number of application servers incorporate web server capabilities and use HTTP as their primary protocol and support other protocols (e.g., CGI and CGI variants) for interfacing with web servers. They also allow web applications to leverage services like reverse proxy, clustering, redundancy, and load balancing—services improve performance and reliability and allow developers to focus less on infrastructure and more on coding.

Many web servers and some application servers are referred to, or refer to themselves, as web application servers to make matters more confusing.

The bottom line is that today’s most popular web servers and application servers are hybrids of both. Most of the increasingly rich applications you use today feature a combination of static web content and dynamic application content, delivered via a combination of web server and application server technologies.

Most Popular Web Servers

Here is an overview of the most popular web servers:


Nginx is an open-source web server that can also act as a reverse proxy, email proxy, and load balancer. Nginx is event-driven, highly scalable, and can process multiple requests at the same time.

Apache HTTP Server

The Apache HTTP server (also known only as Apache) is an accessible, open-source web server. Apache is a part of the LAMP stack, a software stack that powers around 40% of all websites on the Internet.

Apache offers a rich selection of features, including access, IPv, FTP, HTTP/2, bandwidth throttling, and load balancing.

Microsoft IIS

Microsoft IIS (Internet Information Services) is a free web server software package for Windows Server. IIS only runs on Windows operating systems.


Jetty is an open-source project that provides an HTTP server, an HTTP client, and a java. Servlet container. While primarily a web server, Jetty can also facilitate machine-to-machine communication.


LiteSpeed is a web server with excellent performance and scalability properties. LiteSpeed offers a wide range of features and has an easy-to-use web admin console.

Web Server

Here are essential features of a web server:

● Handles HTTP Protocol (static contents)

● No Server-side Programming.

● Support web-Based Applications (JSP, Servlets, PHP, HTML, etc.)

● Not support Database Connection Pooling.

● Not provide EJB support.

● Deliver static content.

● Content is delivered using the HTTP protocol only.

● Serves only web-based applications.

● No support for multithreading.

● Facilitates web traffic that is not very resource-intensive.

Example of Web Servers:

● Apache Tomcat

● Resin

Application Server

Here are essential features of a web server:

● Serves dynamic business logic.

● It helps you to manage backend logic like calculations, database, processing, etc.

● It helps you to deploy applications, dependency injection, security, etc. database pooling, and EJB.

● The superior server of Web Server.

● Delivers dynamic content.

● Provides business logic to application programs using several protocols (including HTTP).

● Can serve web and enterprise-based applications.

● Uses multithreading to support multiple requests in parallel.

● Facilitates longer running processes that are very resource-intensive​.

Examples of Application Server:

● Weblogic

● JBoss

● Websphere

Most Popular Application Servers

Here are the most widespread application servers on the market:

Apache Tomcat

Apache Tomcat is an open-source app server often used in conjunction with Apache HTTPD.

Tomcat can execute Java Servlets, deliver pages with JavaServer Page code, and serve Java EE (Java Enterprise Edition) apps.

Oracle WebLogic

Oracle WebLogic Server is an application server for deploying distributed apps using Java EE standards. WebLogic is fully integrated with Oracle’s product and cloud service portfolio.


Glassfish is an open-source Java EE application server that supports Java Servlets and Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB). Glassfish can also function as a web server.


A JBoss application server is an open-source platform for building,

deploying, and hosting Java applications. JBoss operates across platforms, and you can use it on any operating system that supports Java.

Difference between the web server and application server:

Web Server vs. Application Server

● Web server encompasses web containers only.

● The application server encompasses Web containers as well as EJB containers.

● Web servers are helpful or fitted for static content.

● Whereas application servers are fitted for dynamic content.

● Web server consumes or utilizes fewer resources.

● While application servers utilize more resources.

● Web servers arrange the run environment for web applications.

● While application servers arrange the run environment for enterprise applications.

● In web servers, multithreading is not supported.

● While in the application server, multithreading is supported.

● Web server’s capacity is lower than the application server.

● While the application server’s capacity is higher than the webserver.

● In web servers, HTML and HTTP protocols are used.

● While in this, GUI, as well as HTTP and RPC/RMI protocols, are used.


● Web Server is responsible for accepting HTTP requests from clients and serving back that HTTP response, whereas the application server exposes business logic to the clients, generating dynamic content.

● Web servers are used to produce static or dynamic hypertext documents, and Application servers are used for text document generation to compute provided data.

● Web servers consume fewer resources like CPU memory than the application server, while the application server utilizes more resources.

● The web server supports HTTP/s Protocol, but the application server supports HTTP/s and RPC/RMI protocols.

● The web server provides an environment to run a web application, but the application server gives an environment to run the web with enterprise applications.

Both web and application servers respond to user requests for content. Yet, there are several key differences between the two server types, and knowing these distinctions can help you configure the right software and hardware infrastructure for your needs.

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