How Is Web Server Different From Application Server?


Larry Thompson

How Is Web Server Different From Application Server?

When it comes to hosting and serving web applications, two terms often come up: web server and application server. While both play crucial roles in the functioning of web applications, they have distinct differences.

In this article, we will explore these differences and understand when to use each of them.

The Basics: What is a Web Server?

A web server is a software that handles HTTP requests and serves static content such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript files, images, and other media files to clients. It acts as an intermediary between the client’s browser and the web application.

The primary function of a web server is to respond to client requests by sending back static files.

Web servers are designed to handle a large number of concurrent connections efficiently. They are optimized for serving static content quickly and reliably.

Popular examples of web servers include Apache HTTP Server and Nginx.

Understanding Application Servers

Unlike web servers, application servers are responsible for executing dynamic code and processing business logic. They often work in conjunction with web servers to serve dynamic content generated by applications.

Application servers are capable of running various types of software frameworks or containers such as Java Servlets, JavaServer Pages (JSP), Ruby on Rails, Node.js, etc. These frameworks enable developers to build complex web applications that interact with databases, perform calculations, handle user sessions, and more.

Differences in Functionality

  • Serving Static Content: Web servers excel at serving static files efficiently by directly responding to client requests without any additional processing.
  • Dynamic Content Processing: Application servers are designed to process dynamic content generated by the web application. They execute code, interact with databases, and perform business logic.
  • Load Balancing: Web servers often handle load balancing by distributing client requests across multiple application server instances to ensure optimal performance and scalability.
  • Web Application Deployment: Application servers provide a runtime environment for deploying web applications. They manage resources, handle security, and provide various services required by the application.

Combining Web Servers and Application Servers

In many cases, both web servers and application servers are used together to achieve a complete web application infrastructure. The web server handles static content delivery, while the application server processes dynamic requests.

This combination allows for efficient handling of different types of requests, ensuring that static files are served quickly while dynamic content is processed accurately. Moreover, using an application server provides additional features like session management, database connectivity, and security measures.


In summary, web servers primarily focus on serving static content efficiently, while application servers execute dynamic code and process business logic. Understanding the differences between these two components is crucial when designing and deploying web applications.

By combining both technologies effectively, developers can create robust and scalable applications that meet the needs of their users.

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