Web Server vs Application Server: Learn the Difference


Every web business demands begin from having the right kind of server. A server serves as a central repository where you operate and access information as well as computer programs within the network. The two popular and prominent servers running in the IT industry are web servers and application servers. They are utilized to deliver sites and deal with application operations conducted between back-end business applications and users. Both kinds of servers tend to respond to user requests for content. Yet, you can find numerous essential differences between web server vs application server. 

Acquiring insights into these differences can enable you to configure or customize the apt software and hardware infrastructure for your necessities. In this article, you will get to know everything you must know regarding web server vs application server in order to figure out which one can better suit your web business requirements. Let us begin with highlighting the quintessential brief about them. 

What is a Web Server?

A web server is referred to as the computer that facilitates the storage, processing, and delivery of web pages to clients. The clients are either web browsers or mobile applications. The web server accepts acquire the requests from the clients for the data and then, sends back the requested documents. It can also be identified as a computer system where the online content is stored. Basically, you can make use of a web server to host sites. However, you can also make multiple web servers exists conjointly such as recreation, FTP, storage, email, etc.

Based on the setup of a web server, it can become capable of storing or hosting one or more websites. With this type of server, the delivery of static HTML content becomes possible, for instance:

  • Documents 
  • Videos
  • Images 
  • Fonts

In general, web servers are not meant to work with dynamic content or server-side programming. They attempt to accept and meet (HTTP or HTTPS) Hypertext Transfer Protocol requests only. However, you get the possibility to append components to handle and manage dynamic content.

Also Read: VPS Hosting: How to Manage Your Own Virtual Private Server?

Popular Web Servers

Take a glance at the overview of the most famous web servers – 


Nginx is known as an open-source web server. It has the capability to serve as a reverse proxy, email proxy, and load balancer. The Nginx web server is event-driven and highly scalable. It can help to process various requests simultaneously. 

Apache HTTP Server

The Apache HTTP web server is also recognized as Apache. It is free to use and functions as an open-source web server. Apache HTTP is a part of the LAMP stack that is a software stack. A LAMP stack can power around 40% of all sites on the Internet. With Apache, you can obtain a rich and wide array of features. Some of these features incorporate IPv, HTTP/2, bandwidth throttling, load balancing, FTP, etc.  

Microsoft IIS

Microsoft IIS is an acronym for Microsoft Internet Information Services. It provides a free web server software package for Windows Server. Further, it only functions on Windows operating systems.


Jetty is a web server, which provides an open-source project. It comprises an HTTP server, HTTP client, and a javax.servlet container. Moreover, apart from being a web server, Jetty is also capable of rendering machine-to-machine communication.


LiteSpeed is another web server that renders efficient performance and scalable attributes. It provides numerous properties and an easy-to-use web admin console.

What is an Application Server?

The application server serves as a software framework, which makes the delivery of content and assets for a client application possible. The clients can incorporate browsers, mobile apps, or web-based applications. Moreover, the application server includes a web container and an EJB container. The application servers create the run atmosphere for businesses applications. They let the clients access the business logic. This business logic is an app server that further converts data into dynamic content. And, it also enables the functionality of the application. 

Some examples of dynamic content are –

  • Decision support
  • A transaction result
  • Real-time analytics

The application server provides the foremost link between a client and server-side code. The standard tasks that the application server performs are –

  • Security
  • Transaction management
  • Dependency injection (DI)
  • Concurrency

Furthermore, the application servers also take responsibility for the processes, for example, clustering, load-balancing, and fail-over. 

Popular Application Servers

Apache Tomcat

Apache Tomcat is one of the effective open-source application servers, which is usually employed in conjunction with Apache HTTPD. It has the capability to execute Java Servlets, serve Java EE (Java Enterprise Edition) apps and deliver pages with JavaServer Page code. 

Oracle WebLogic

Oracle WebLogic Server is another application server, which is employed to deploy distributed apps while making use of Java EE standards. It is completely integrated with Oracle’s product and cloud service portfolio.


Glassfish is also an open-source Java EE application server. It provides support for Java Servlets and Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB). Moreover, the Glassfish application server can also operate as a web server.


JBoss is an application server, which provides an open-source platform to build, deploy and host Java applications. It functions across platforms and can be utilized on any OS that renders the support to Java.

What is a Database Server?

Web servers and application servers have got one thing in common, which is the database server. A database server is required by both servers to run the software. It is employed for storing and managing databases on the servers. Further, it renders the data access to the authorized users. You can easily keep all the data in the central location with the database server. Also, this enables you to take backup of your data regularly with utmost ease. Moreover, a database server permits users and applications to access the data quickly and efficiently across the network. The organizations with the necessity of numerous databases can keep these on one server or a group of servers. Such servers are configured especially to secure data and service client requests.

Application Server vs Web Server 

Check out the key differences between the web server vs application server in the following table – 

S.No.Web ServerApplication Server
1.It encompasses a web container. It comprises a web container as well as an EJB container.
2.It is an ideal choice for delivering static content. It is an ideal choice for delivering dynamic content. 
3.It consumes or makes use of fewer resources.It requires utilizing more resources. 
4.With the web servers, you can manage to operate the environment for web applications.With the application servers, you can manage to operate environment for enterprises applications.
5.Multithreading is not supported in web servers. Multithreading is supported in application servers. 
6.The capacity of the web server is comparatively lower than the application server. The capacity of the application server is comparatively higher than the web server. 
7.The protocols utilized in the web server are HTML and HTTP.The protocols utilized in the application server are GUI, HTTP, and RPC/RMI.

Web Server vs Application Server: Which one to choose?

After coming across differences between web vs application servers, you can now well decide which can be the most suitable server for your business.  

  • You must go with a web server if you need to only serve static web pages. 
  • You should opt for the simpler application server such as Apache Tomcat or Jetty in case you need to employ JSP and Servlet.
  • You must utilize a full-blown application server such as Oracle WebLogic or JBoss if you are required to run an application with complicated features. For instance, features can be distributed transactions, messaging, etc.

Also Read: Dedicated Server Hosting – The Complete Guide 2021

Can you use both Servers in a Common System?

Deploying both a web server and an application server together has become a popular setup. This setup has been effective for those websites that render static as well as dynamic content. In such a situation, the webserver functions as a subset of the application server. Moreover, the web and application server services run on the same hardware. The major reason behind deploying both these server types is the intensified system performance. 

Summing Up

You can infer that the application and web servers render various valid solutions. There are a number of systems that can operate with a web server, application server, or a combination of both. However, you must know that not every setup equally works well. Comprehending well the differences between application server vs web server can enable you to save money, scale services, and pick the best fit for your business case.

Get in Touch

Arpit Saini

He is the Director of Cloud Operations at Serverwala Cloud Data Centers Pvt Ltd and also follows a passion to break complex tech topics into practical and easy-to-understand articles. He loves to write about Web Hosting, Software, Virtualization, Cloud Computing, and much more.

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