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Difference between Web Server and Application Server with Comparison Chart

Updated May 20, 2019

A server is a computer program or device that responds to or accepts the requests made by client programs. Servers are useful for managing network resources as well as for running software or programs that offer the services. The two categories of servers are application servers and web servers. Application and web servers are both useful for hosting web applications. These terms are often used interchangeably but have many differences to their credit. The differences between web server vs application server is an important interview question. The primary difference between a web and application server relates to its support of EJB.

In this article, we aim to highlight the differences between these two types of servers via a web server vs application server comparison chart. We will also discuss the definition of a web server and application server, provide examples of web and application server, etc. Read on for more.

Web Server vs Application Server

Basis of Differentiation

Web Server

Application Server

Designed to Serve

Web servers are specifically designed for serving HTTP Content.

Application servers are designed for serving HTTP content. However, along with HTTP content, they are also equipped to provide support to other protocols such as RMI/RPC, etc.

Type of Service

Web servers are mainly designed for the purpose of serving static content. The dynamic HTTP content can be generated by web Servers having plugins for providing support to scripting languages of the likes of PHP, ASP, JSP, Perl, etc.

App servers are capable of doing all that is possible with the help of web servers. In addition, application servers boast of features and components for supporting app level services of the likes of Connection Pooling, Transaction Support, Object Pooling, Messaging services etc.

Type of Content Served

Web servers are suitable for different kinds of static content.

Application servers are useful for dynamic content.

Reverse Proxy

Most production environments incorporate web servers working as reverse proxy for app servers.

Reverse proxies in application servers are typically implemented for increasing security, reliability and performance.

Interpretation of Requests

While servicing web page requests, static content (like images, Static HTML, etc.) are linked with web servers that interpret the request. Web servers identify dynamic content for requests and forward the same to app servers.

Application servers work in conjunction with web servers, wherein one server displays and the next one interacts.

Provides Support for

Web Server offer support only for Servlets and JSP.

Application Server offers support for distributed transactions and EJB.


Application server cannot be contained in a web server.

It is possible for an application server to incorporate a web server in itself. App servers like JBoss, WAS, etc.  have Servlets and a JSP container within themselves.

Connection Pooling

Connection pooling is utilized for paving the way for the optimum performance of servlets, JSP database interactions, etc.

Application Server are designed to provide services pertaining to transaction management, clustering, load balancing messaging, persistence, etc. Apache tomcat provides connection pooling as well.

Logical Difference

Web servers are supposed to offer HTTP level protocol service.

Application server offers support to diverse web services and gives exposure to business level services e.g. EJB.

Resource Utilization

Web servers are not as heavy as application servers in context to resource utilization.

Application servers are heavier than web servers in context to resource utilization.

Main Functionality

The primary task of a web server is to display website content

An application server is primarily in charge of the underlying logic, interactions between the users, and the content displayed.

Handling of Requests

A web server handles HTTP(S) requests. The requests are passed on to "handlers" for proper processing. Web servers possess built-in handlers for the purpose of file requests pertaining to HTML pages, JavaScript , images, CSS, etc.

An application server handles the requests that are used for creating dynamic pages. Instead of serving HTML pages stored on hard drives, they are equipped to generate the HTML sent to end users dynamically. The commonly used languages/frameworks for this purpose are Ruby (on Rails or not), Java/JSP, PHP, Net (aspx), Python etc.

What is a Web Server?

A web server comprises of only a servlet or web container. Web servers are useful for jsp, struts, jsf, servlet, etc. They cannot be used with EJB. A webs server is a physical device that’s useful for storing web content. Generally, web servers are useful for hosting web sites. There are other web servers in use for email, storage, FTP, gaming etc.

Web servers are known to respond to client request in two ways:

  • By generating responses through the use of scripts and database communications.
  • Dispatching files to the clients linked with the associated requests.

Web Server Examples

Apache Tomcat, Resin, etc. are some popular examples of web servers.

What is Application Server?

Application server comprises of EJB and web containers. App servers are useful for servlets, jsp, ejb, struts, jsf, etc. It is in the nature of a software framework offering both facilities for the creation of web applications as well as the server environments necessary for their running. These component-based products can be found in the middle-tier of server centric architectural systems. An application server is known to offer middleware services for the cause of state maintenance as well as security, data access and persistence. App servers are designed to facilitate the designing, operation and hosting of associated services in addition to applications pertaining to IT services, organizations and end users.

Application Server Examples

  • JBoss: Open-source servers attributed to JBoss community.
  • Glassfish: Developed by Sun Microsystem and acquired by Oracle now.
  • Weblogic: A more secure platform provided by Oracle.
  • Websphere: Developed by IBM.


Once you understand the points of distinction between web server vs application server, you will be able to figure out the right kind of server for your purpose. In case you have any further queries with regards to the difference between application server and web server, web server definition, application server difference, etc. please feel free to get in touch with us. We shall provide you with our response as quickly as possible in the Comments section given below.