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Difference between Application Server and Web Server

Elias N Varghese

Joined: Mar 05, 2006
Posts: 14
Can anybody tell me the difference between Application Server and Web Server with an appropriate Example. I have some notes regarding that. But I do not have a clear cut idea about what exactly it is... According to my understanding here is the difference. If somebody have an elaborated idea, just let me know..Thanking you in advance.

"An application server is technology where developers can create, test, and execute application components. Application servers are typically J2EE-based, running EJBs or other Java components. Application servers are designed to create true applications with complex business logic, and have scalability features such as load balancing, fail-over, and process distribution. In other words, it's primarily a development environment.

In contrast, Web servers are technology designed to create and deploy Web site, serving up content more so than applications. They both use Web interfaces, but Web servers are more about the interface than the back-end logic. In other words, Web servers serve up content.

As time moves on Web servers are looking more like application server, as they adopt their functionality. I can understand the confusion."

I was born intelligent - education ruined me.
Peer Reynders

Joined: Aug 19, 2005
Posts: 2933
Actually the quote pretty much outlines what is going on but maybe some examples would help:

Apache HTTP server: A Web Server. It can serve up static content (HTML pages). Some extensions allow it to serve dynamic content (generated pages) - for example CGI; a new process is started to generate the dynamic page/response for a single request.

Jakarta Tomcat: Strictly speaking Tomcat is a "Web/Servlet Container", it�s not an Application Server, at least not in the J2EE sense. It does not require a separate Web server to work, however the recommended production configuration is to have a Web server serve the static content while dynamic content is delegated to Tomcat. Servlets were meant to replace CGI - in a servlet container each request is handled by a thread rather than a process - the Servlet/Web Container runs in a continuously running process. Even though a Web Container is not a full blown application server many applications are built in this "simpler" environment.

JBoss: This a J2EE application server. In addition to a Web Contianer it also has an EJB Container. While a Web container hosts servlets, an EJB Container host Enterprise Java Beans (EJBs). As of EJB 2.1 this includes stateless session beans, stateful session beans, entity beans, message-driven beans and EJB endpoints. According to Sun doctrine the business logic is supposed to be implemented in session beans and persistent objects are implemented as entity beans - presentation logic belongs in the Web container. However non-web Java clients can also access components in the EJB container via remote interfaces. The main drive behind the development of the EJB container was the desire for declarative transaction management, managed persistence and declarative security. However many found the EJB approach to be overkill, too heavyweight, and too heavy-handed. Often other technologies are used instead of an EJB container - examples: Spring for transaction management, Hibernate or iBatis for persistence management, etc. This shift is acknowledged in EJB 3 as now "Plain Old Java Objects" (POJOs) have become part of the core persistence strategy.
A J2EE application server also has to support other technologies in addition to a Web Container/EJB Container as per Enterprise Edition specification - JMS (Java Message Service) is just one example.
Other examples of J2EE application servers are BEA Weblogic (Weblogic Express is only a servlet container), IBM Websphere, Oracle Application Server, Sun Application Server, GlassFish, etc.
lalitha rani

Joined: May 19, 2006
Posts: 2
Your question could be answered from a design point of view. The Web Server is the software where you can handle a Web Logic of your running system, from a Java perspective, the web logic could be presented using Servlet API and JSP API and beyond.
The Application Server differs, when your system has a Business Logic, which means, the need to use a business implementations, e.g. High level network communications, high level security and high level data control, all these topics needs a minimum set of collections and APIs like EJBs, JMS technology and JNDI technology. In this case, and because of using those technologies you need an engine to take care about firing up and running those APIs, in other words, you need an Application Server. e.g. JBoss.

The Web tier is where the Web Server running, the Business tier is where the Application Server running. But, peer in mind, nowadays new topics came out! The vendors, designers and decision makers in the system architecture are increasing the gap between both servers, as you can check by your self, you can download both Application and Web servers in one engine, for example, the Sun Application server which comes with J2EE 1.4 acts like that, the JBoss Application server now could be downloaded with a Tomcat engine within it, this is because most of systems needs both parts to get the goal. And who knows what is next!
Good luck
Ben Ethridge
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 28, 2003
Posts: 108
Pretty well described above and hard to describe fully in text, but in essence:

A "web server" is the smaller front-end web interface from a web client to the larger back-end "app server" that "contains" all the back-end behind-the-scenes logic.

hyungi dibble
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 29, 2006
Posts: 42
I think the web server is for the web applications.
The applications server is used for the in house
I agree. Here's the link:
subject: Difference between Application Server and Web Server
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