Web Server vs Application Server – What’s the Difference?

Web Server vs Application Server – What’s the Difference?.  Have you ever wondered how do you access information through network applications? Have you ever heard about Servers? Well! Servers are central repositories that store large data and devices. It is a computer program that receives web clients’ requests and responds to them with the requested information through the Internet. These are highly reliable and scalable computer programs that store, process, and share information over the network. They have the ability to perform complex functions. Web Servers, Application Servers, Proxy servers, Virtual machines (VM) are a few types of servers. In this blog, we will focus on Web Servers vs Application Servers. Let us compare the two popular servers and understand their key features.

What is Web Server?

Web Server vs Application Server

Web Server is a computer program that uses HTTP and other protocols to run websites and deliver web content as per the client’s request. Each web server has a unique name and IP address. The main role of a web server is to store, process, and transfer the requested web pages to the client. These can be images, files, text, videos, etc. It is a client and server model that supports other protocols like SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) and FTP (File Transfer Protocol) as well for storage and transferring files. Web servers are easy to configure and often used in web hosting and applications. Apache HTTP Server, Nginx, Sun Java System Web Server, Resin, etc., are a few web servers.

When a user sends a request for a web page through the web browser using HTTP, the server looks for the request information in the database and sends it to the client with an HTTP response. But, if the requested information is not available, the client will receive an error stating 404 Not Found. In case there is a demand for other resources from the web client, the web server will reach out to the application server to construct the HTTP response.

The web server’s hardware is responsible for connecting to the network and handling all the data exchange processes with other connected devices. However, the software controls how the web client retrieves the transferred files. The server follows the client server model and is mandatory for all systems hosting websites.

Key Features of a Web Server

  • Fast and Easy to Configure
  • Helps control bandwidth
  • Log Files settings configuration
  • Configure directory security
  • Handles both static and dynamic content
  • Supports CMS for website configuration
  • Bandwidth throttling
  • Provides large data storage facility
  • Creates secure and encrypted connections
  • EJB container support is not present
  • Manages static content
  • Does not support Server side Programming
  • Supports various scripting languages like ASP, PHP, JSP, Perl, etc.

What is Application Server?

what is application server

Application Servers are a server type that uses server protocols to install, operate, and host applications. The main role of an application server is to provide business logic for an application program. They are the middle tier of a server centric architecture. Earlier, many applications were introduced to the world of the Internet, which resulted in demand for adding more functionalities to these applications. As a result, it became too difficult to run and maintain these applications. In order to run these complex applications in a more organized manner, a program was initiated. Application servers are these programs that help deliver the business logic to the clients for running an application. They help create a server environment for the application to create and run a web app.

With application servers, web servers work as a subset. Also, they have the power to carry heavier workloads than a web server. The only idea behind introducing application servers was to reduce the size and complexity of these programs, add more security to the data, and control data flow for better performance and results. It supports a load balancing feature to distribute requests to other servers depending on their availability. Websphere, JBoss, Weblogic, Glassfish, Sybase Enterprise Application Server, etc., are a few Application Servers.

There are various benefits of having an Application Server. These servers support both Web and EJB containers, enhance security to applications, deploy patches, security updates, dependency injection, etc. It also supports Multithreading. Decision support, Real time analytics are a few examples of Application Server.

Key Features of an Application Server

  • Easy to Install Applications at a central place and Deploy Patches
  • Supports Web and EJB containers
  • Deals with session management and client notifications.
  • Configuration can take place from a central location
  • Security Updates Deployment
  • Enhanced security to applications
  • Provides transaction support
  • Manages backend logic and serves
  • Dynamic content
  • Supports web and enterprise based applications.
  • Supports Multithreading feature
  • Uses APIs to retrieve data
  • High storage capacity
  • User server protocols (including HTTP) to host applications

Web Server vs Application Server: Head to Head Comparison

With the increasing demand for websites, we notice that the designs of both Web servers and application servers have started to overlap. If you notice, some of the popular applications act as both servers. Using plugins for scripting languages has led web servers to create dynamic content depending on server side logic. Similarly, most application servers use HTTP as a primary protocol for communication. To make it easier for the readers, we have penned down the strengths and weaknesses of each server so that there is no confusion or overlap between the Web Server and Application Server.

Point of Comparison Web Server Application Server
A computer program that helps run websites and hosts web pages.
A server that hosts applications
The client sends an HTTP request to the server, and the software in return delivers HTTP responses.
Shares business logic to users that helps in creating dynamic content.
Type of Content
Web Servers generally deliver static content to the web clients, such as images, text, videos, etc.
An Application Server delivers dynamic content to the web clients, such as real time analytics, decision support, etc.
Mode of Transfer
Web Server delivers web content using HTTP protocols.
The application provides business logic to programs through server protocols. These protocols also include HTTP.
Type of Application
The computer program supports only web based applications.
Application server supports both web and enterprise based applications.
It does not support multithreading
Supports Multithreading feature
Web and EJB containers
Does not support EJB containers. It only comprises Web containers.
Supports both Web and EJB containers
Resource Consumption
The computer program consumes fewer resources (CPU, Memory, etc.)
Compared to web server, application servers consume more resources.
Scripting Languages
Scripting Languages such as ASP, PHP, JSP, Perl, etc, are supported by the webserver.
Helps assist services such as connection pooling and object pooling
A web server delivers a hypertext document containing the requested data on a web browser.
An application server delivers XML, JSON, HTML files containing the requested information.
Retrieve Information
The requested information is retrieved using HTTP requests and protocols.
The requested information is retrieved using APIs.
Web Traffic
A webserver facilitates lightweight web traffic in comparison to an Application Server
An Application Server facilitates heavy web traffic
Storage CapacityContent
It supports low storage capacity on comparing with Application Servers.
Application servers have a high storage capacity.
Database connection
A web server can access a static database.
An Application Server can access the application database.
It is a subset of an application server
It is a superset of the web server

Web Server vs Application Server Conclusion

Servers are often used for professional and private use. They are scalable computer programs that store, process, and deliver information to web clients through the network. There are various types of servers. Once you know how the two popular servers, Web and Application Servers work, you can utilize their capabilities for your benefit. Each server stores a large amount of information that can be retrieved through the Internet. Web Servers are computer programs that help transfer web content to users. Web Servers are computer programs that deliver static content when requested by web clients. However, Application servers host applications and deliver dynamic content on the user’s demand. Also, they are the business logic behind an application. Comparing the two, each has its own use, feature, and capabilities that make it unique. Web servers use HTTP protocols to deliver the request information, whereas the Application servers use server protocols to host applications. Follow the above listed points of comparison to differentiate between the two popular servers.

Avatar for Hitesh Jethva
Hitesh Jethva

I am a fan of open source technology and have more than 10 years of experience working with Linux and Open Source technologies. I am one of the Linux technical writers for Cloud Infrastructure Services.

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