Difference between Web Server and Application Server

A Server is a central place where information and programs are stored and accessed by applications over the network. A Web Server is a server which accepts a request for data and sends the relevant document in return, whereas an Application Server contains an EJB container component as well to run the enterprise applications.

In this article, we will discuss the important differences between web server and application server. But before that, let’s have a look into their basics so that it will be easy to understand the differences.

What is a Web Server?

A Web Server is defined as a server which accepts a request for data and sends the relevant document in return. In other words, it is a computer program that accepts a request for a specific document and sends it to the client machine.

Web servers are designed to serve HTTP content to the client computer. In most cases, the web servers are the integral parts of the application servers. Web servers accept the HTTP requests and interpret them to serve the requested content.

Although Web Servers are designed to serve static content, most Web Servers have plugins to support scripting languages like PHP, Perl, etc. through which they can generate dynamic HTTP content.

What is an Application Server?

An application server is one that is designed to generate dynamic content. It is a software framework that transforms the data to provide specialized functionalities offered by a business, service, or application. Application servers enhance the interactive parts of a website depending on the context of the request.

Application servers contain web containers and EJB containers. Application servers are entirely responsible for creating an environment for enterprise applications. These servers are capable of supporting HTTP as well as RPC/PMI protocols. Application servers consume more resources like CPU, memory as compared to web servers.

Most Application Servers have a Web Server as an integral part, which means an Application Server can perform all the tasks that a Web Server does.

Difference between Web Server and Application Server

The following table highlights the important differences between a Web Server and an Application Server −

Factor Web Server Application Server
Purpose A Web Server contains a Web container only. An Application Server contains a Web Container plus an EJB Container.
Useful A web server is good in case of static contents like static html pages. An Application server is relevant in case of dynamic contents like bank websites.
Resource Consumption A Web server consumes less CPU, Memory resources as compared to an application server. An Application server utilizes more resources.
Target Environment A Web Server provides the runtime environment for web applications. Application servers provide the runtime environment for enterprise applications.
Multithreading support Multithreading is not supported. Multithreading is supported.
Protocol(s) supported Web Servers support HTTP Protocol. Application Servers support HTTP as well as RPC/RMI protocols.
Example Apache Web Server. WebLogic, JBoss.


From the above discussion, we may conclude that a web server is a computer program that accepts HTTP request from clients and sends the requested documents, while an application server is one that helps us to host applications and provides an environment to develop and run an application program.

Updated on: 30-Nov-2022

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