Saturday, November 15, 2008

Difference between Web server & Application server

A web server is a server designed to communicate with a web browser. Content includes text-based two-way communication with most of the com going from server to client. Data consists of text, formatting, graphics, sounds, and dynamic content.

An application server can be of several designs, but is basically a synchronous two-way sever that provides access to a single application shared among users through web-based or proprietiary methods. The content consists of data types, app commands, system commands, and data of complex types.

Typically, an app server provides a web-based platform for access to a database-driven application.

You could think of a web search engine as a focused application server. It's a web-based platform to access an application that queries a database of websites based on keywords.

An App Server may also use non-web methods to deliver traditional access to applications.

Let's say a company has software with 10 licenses and 100 employees. Well, you can't install 100 copies of the software, nor can you allow 10 employees to use the same computer at the same time.

Therefore, a computer could connect to an app server, get 1 of 10 licenses without violating the law.

You Both are typically accessed via the internet over the http protocol, so from the viewpoint of the client, theres no difference. There tends to be a common understanding, in the Java world, that application servers implements the full Java EE specification, while web servers implements only a subset.

See also.

Common understanding? Not for me anyways. Web servers have nothing to do with Java in my understanding.

I expect a basic web server to be able to serve static resources over http, that's it. I expect an application server to be a deployment platform for applications written in a specific language.

For example, if I extend Apache httpd (which is, in its default configuration, an already very advanced webserver with some application server characteristics) with mod_php, I get a PHP application server.

For Java, I would distinguish between Servlet Containers (like Tomcat, Jetty, etc.) and J(2)EE Application Servers (like JBoss, Websphere, etc). I expect Servlet Containers to be able to handle webapps containing servlets and JSP, while I expect J(2)EE Application Servers to implement the full J(2)EE stack. Because most of these applications are web applications, both Servlet Containers and Application Servers are usually able to act as web servers.


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