Is Tomcat an Web or App Server?


Angela Bailey

Is Tomcat an Web or App Server?

When it comes to developing and deploying web applications, the terms “web server” and “application server” are often used interchangeably. However, there are differences between the two. In this article, we will explore whether Tomcat is a web server or an application server.

Web Server

A web server is responsible for serving static content, such as HTML pages, CSS files, JavaScript files, and images to web browsers. It receives HTTP requests from clients and responds with the requested resources. The primary function of a web server is to deliver these static resources efficiently.

Examples of popular web servers include:

  • Apache HTTP Server
  • Nginx
  • Microsoft IIS

Application Server

An application server, on the other hand, provides an environment for executing dynamic applications. It not only serves static content but also processes business logic by executing code written in programming languages such as Java, .NET, or PHP.

Key features of an application server:

  1. Support for dynamic content generation: Application servers can generate web pages dynamically by processing user input or retrieving data from databases.
  2. EJB (Enterprise JavaBeans) support: Application servers provide support for running enterprise-level Java applications using EJBs.
  3. Distributed computing: They offer features like load balancing and clustering to distribute incoming requests across multiple instances of the application for better performance and scalability.

Tomcat – A Web or App Server?

The answer to whether Tomcat is a web server or an application server lies in its capabilities.

Tomcat can function as both a web server and an application server. Here’s why:

Tomcat is primarily known as a web server that serves Java Servlets and JavaServer Pages (JSPs). It can handle static content efficiently and process dynamic content using these Java technologies. Therefore, it fits the definition of a web server.

However, Tomcat also provides additional features that make it an application server. It supports the Java Servlet API, which enables developers to write dynamic web applications. It also supports Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) through integration with other frameworks like Spring, enabling the execution of enterprise-level applications.

In summary, Tomcat can be considered both a web server and an application server. Its ability to serve static content and execute dynamic applications makes it versatile for various development scenarios.


In conclusion, while Tomcat is primarily recognized as a web server, its support for Java Servlets, JSPs, and EJBs allows it to function as both a web server and an application server. This flexibility makes Tomcat a popular choice among developers for deploying Java-based web applications.

If you are looking for a lightweight yet powerful solution for your Java web development needs, Tomcat is definitely worth considering!

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