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Digital Communication

AMZ DIGICOM

Digital Communication

webserver vs. application server: comparison

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Despite their differences, web servers and application servers can work together. We compare them in the rest of this article.

webserver vs. application server: what is it?

Networks respond to many requests in a very short period of time. These requests are sometimes very large and require the most modern security standards. For this, the different programs must cooperate optimally. The client-server model has proven to be a powerful system: tasks and services can be distributed, allowing efficient and seamless operation. The two possible instances within this architecture are: web server vs. the application server. They are often confused with each other for their many commonalities, but also have differences that allow them to be distinguished.

What is a web server?

When you browse the Internet, the Web server is your permanent contact. It is on this server that the content of websites is stored in order to be made available to users. As a rule, these servers are hosted by certain providers dedicated to website operators. Some large companies have their own web server and, optionally, their intranet. The main task of a web server is to transmit data to the clientthis is static data.

A web server also has other features:

  • HTTP caching: To handle large amounts of data, web servers can buffer complex content through caching.
  • Communication: Messages are shared with the affected browser via status codes or error pages.
  • Protocol: All requests are recorded in a log file.
  • Security : Web servers are encrypted via HTTPS.
  • Cookie management: Cookies can be managed by web servers.
  • Redirects: Web servers can redirect to another document using a rewrite engine.
  • Access restriction: the Web server is used to control access through authentication requests.

What is an Application Server?

An application server makes programs available and executes them. These can be different services such as databases, calendars or directories, but also Office programs or management software. The client therefore has access to these programs thanks to the application server. They are often used in the IT infrastructures of large companies. In particular, this avoids compatibility problems between software, strengthens the security architecture and can improve performance.

Application servers have explicit and implicit characteristics. The explicit features are:

  • Connection to powerful databases and services
  • Asynchronous communication
  • Data encapsulation
  • Persistence
  • Directory Services

There are also some implicit characteristics like these:

  • Calibration
  • Execution Management
  • Logging functions
  • Surveillance
  • Scalability
  • Application lifecycle management

The perfect solution for your needs: when you rent a server with IONOS, you not only benefit from maximum flexibility and simple installation, but you also have the choice between a VPS server, a cloud server or a dedicated server . In addition, our expert advisors are at your disposal and answer all your questions!

webserver vs. application server: what are the differences?

By comparing the two types of servers, it becomes clear that they certainly have points in common, but that they are also clearly distinguished by their field of use and some of their functionalities.

Difference 1: the field of use

A web server is a software or one material computers allowing access to sites via the Internet or Intranet. Visitors make requests, which the web server responds to. In contrast, an application server is a software structure which makes certain programs or databases available to customers.

Difference 2: content

A big difference is in the type of content served by the two types of servers. Content served by web servers is static. The server responds to HTTP requests and performs website functions. The hosted content can for example be text, images, JavaScript or CSS. An application server, on the other hand, stores dynamic content. Thanks to different protocols, it provides the Business Logic for the applications. These may in particular be http protocols.

Difference 3: the main functions

The main functions also vary. The main function of the web server is to provide HTML, PHP and ASP files for web browsers. When a user accesses a website, its content is immediately delivered. The application server allows access to different applications that can then be used freely by each client on a network.

Difference 4: other functions

Web servers and application servers can also be used for other applications. Thus, some games, business applications or databases can work with a web server, and web-based software and business programs through application servers.

Difference 5: Resource Utilization

There is a big difference in the use of resources. Compared to a web server, an application server generally needs many more resources. One reason for this is that application server files are larger and processes take longer. Data traffic is also significantly higher than with a web server.

Difference 6: Multithreading

Multithreading refers to the simultaneous processing of several tasks or the parallel execution of different processes. This mode of operation is not supported only by the application server, because it is able to handle multiple requests at the same time. A web server, on the other hand, does not offer this option, as it always performs one task at a time.

Difference 7: Architecture

The architecture of a network working with a Web server is much simpler : a client sends a request in HTTP format directly to the Web server; it accesses a database and returns the requested files in the form of an HTTP response. The structure is therefore relatively simple and uses routes that are as direct as possible.

The application server, on the other hand, is located between web server and database. In this case, the client also sends an HTTP request to the web server. This then sends it to the application server, which in turn transforms it into a servlet element and sends it to the database. The request is processed there and sent back to the application server. It then forwards the response to the web server, which converts it back to HTTP format before sending it to the client. In this way, it is also possible to share dynamic content.

Difference 8: Suppliers

The best known and most used web server providers are:

  • Apache HTTP Server
  • Caddy
  • Cherokee
  • Lite Speed ​​Web Server
  • Microsoft IIS
  • NGINX

You can also find a full NGINX vs Apache comparison in another Digital Guide article.

The most popular application servers are:

  • Apache Tomcat
  • IBM CICS
  • Lite Speed ​​Web Server
  • NGINX
  • Oracle WebLogic
  • Red Hat JBoss Enterprise Application Platform
  • wildfly

For both web servers and application servers, there are many commercial and open source solutions.

Can the two servers work together?

Looking at the architecture, we can see that there are certainly big differences between the two types of servers, but that the two can also work together. It is precisely when a website wishes offer static and dynamic content that it is interesting to combine the two types of servers. The web server forwards requests to the application server and returns its responses to the client. It is therefore not always necessary to choose between the two. Some application servers even already contain web servers.

webserver vs. application server: which is the best option?

The web server is responsible for presenting the full content of a website quickly and at any time. The application server is mainly responsible for the business logic and the availability of the various applications. The question of which type of server is appropriate then arises:

  • Use a web server if you only want to integrate static content on your website.
  • If dynamic content are also needed, it is necessary to combine the use of a web server and an application server.

The line between web server and application server is increasingly blurred. Popular providers like Apache or NGINX now offer a combination of both server types and thus adapt to the demands now placed on modern websites. Today, fewer and fewer sites are satisfied with static content. That’s why it’s a good idea not to consider the web server and the application server as adversaries, but as two solutions to be combined so that you can adapt your website to your requirements.

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