Digital Communication


Digital Communication

Application server: how does it work?


The solution for making software available to a client in a network is to use an application server, which improves security and compatibility. However, there are several drawbacks, including additional costs and bugs.

What is an Application Server?

Systems today are getting bigger and bigger, which is why it is necessary to have well-thought-out tools to allow you to manage the volume of data, while maintaining the desired speed and managing access. In a client-server network, an application server can be an effective solution. The operation is as follows: the server hosts various application programs and makes them available to clients. It does this by using server-side business logic to generate dynamic content and deliver it to a client. Thus, an application server notably allows access to Office programs, company calendars or databases. Sensitive processes such as transactions or authentications can also be performed through an application server.

Application server: what are their properties?

Application servers must simplify And improve the process. For this, there are different properties explicit And implicit. Some characteristics are more or less pronounced depending on the type of application server. However, the common characteristics are the following:

Explicit properties

  • Encapsulation of data sources
  • Interfaces with higher level services
  • Asynchronous communication
  • Maintaining persistence
  • Directory Services
  • Standards for connecting databases

Implicit properties

The use of a system with application server generates certain implicit properties, allowing many advantages to the users. These are for example:

  • High scalability without additional application modification
  • Surveillance
  • Logging functions
  • Calibration options
  • Runtime Management
  • Software lifecycle management (patches, upgrades, deliveries and deployments)

How does an application server work?

To better understand how an application server works, you must first understand its place within the network. It is located between the different clients and the database. It receives and responds to HTTP requests, but can also issue requests to a servlet and process the corresponding responses. This is one of the main differences between application server and web server. We explain the differences between the two models in our detailed comparison between web server and application server. The typical operation of an application server in combination with a web server is generally as follows:

  1. A user wants to visit a website. He then opens a browser and enters the website address.
  2. The HTTP request is sent to the web server. This processes the request and returns the requested website to the client. It works as long as it’s static queries.
  3. If the customer wishes to use a tool instead, the procedure is identical. However, the web server does not give the response directly, but forwards the request to the application server.
  4. The application server receives the HTTP request and turns it into a request to a servlet program.
  5. It then forwards this request to the database.
  6. The database server processes the request and sends the servlet’s response back to the application server.
  7. In the last step, the application server sends the servlet item to the web server. This converts the response to http and makes it available to the client.

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What are the advantages and disadvantages of application servers?

If you are considering using an application server, we advise you to consider the advantages and disadvantages of the solution:

Benefits Disadvantages
✔ Good compatibility ✘ Higher costs
✔ High security ✘ Possible delays
✔ High performance ✘ Complicated programming
✔ Simple Setup ✘ High resource consumption
✔ High scalability and flexibility ✘ Challenging problem solving

What are the advantages of application servers?

An application server offers many advantages. Here are a few :


By installing an application server within your network, you ensure that all clients always work with the same software versions. Thus, all the data exchanged are mutually compatible. Without an application server, problems may arise if updates are not made or software is outdated.


Using an application server can also be beneficial from a security perspective. The connection between the website and its own database is direct, which reduces the risk of attacks by malware such as programs exploiting the SQL Injection flaw.


Application servers often improve overall performance. An application server allows in particular to increase the performance of voluminous or frequently used software. Scaling capabilities also help improve performance by consolidating and controlling database access.


Centralization through an application server also simplifies configuration, as it does not need to be done on each device individually. This represents a saving of time, but also of resources.


Thanks to the numerous database connection possibilities, greater scalability is possible. This also provides greater flexibility to users.

What are the disadvantages of application servers?

However, using an application server also has some disadvantages. The following can be mentioned in particular:

Additional costs

Installing and maintaining an application server costs money and time. You should therefore think carefully beforehand whether its use is really necessary for you. If so, the costs should pay for themselves.

Possible delays

Implementing an application server can cause delays. This is particularly the case when the installation is carried out with a firewall.

Complicated programming

Programming requirements are high for an application server. A little experience and prior knowledge is therefore preferable.


When several large applications are used simultaneously and many users access them at the same time, there can be negative repercussions on speed and overall performance.

Issues and bug fixes

Because of the clustering, which is actually a big advantage of the application server, even the smallest problem can quickly grow and reverberate: as many customers depend on one source, problems with software directly affect multiple parties. Problem solving is more often complicated.

What are examples of application servers?

There are many different application servers and offered by different vendors. The best known and most popular models are:

  • Apache Geronimo: usable with Java EE
  • Apache Tomcat: for servlets and Jakarta Server Pages (JSP)
  • ColdFusion: the oldest application server
  • GlassFish: open source solution for Java EE
  • Jetty: for servlets and JSPs
  • Resin: for Java and PHP5
  • WEBrick: Ruby-based solution
  • Zope: Python-based application server

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