Is Tornado a Web Server?


Scott Campbell

Is Tornado a Web Server?

Tornado is a powerful web framework and asynchronous networking library written in Python. While it is often used as a backend framework for building web applications, it is important to note that Tornado itself is not a web server.

Instead, it provides the necessary tools and components to create high-performance web servers.

What is a Web Server?

Before we dive into the specifics of Tornado, let’s first understand what a web server actually is. In simple terms, a web server is a software application that serves HTML content over the internet.

It listens for incoming requests from clients (typically web browsers) and responds by sending back the requested resources such as HTML pages, images, or other files.

Tornado’s Role

Tornado acts as the foundation for building scalable and efficient web servers. It provides an event-driven architecture that allows for handling thousands of simultaneous connections without blocking the execution flow.

This makes it particularly well-suited for applications that require real-time updates or high concurrency.

Key Features of Tornado:

  • Asynchronous I/O: Tornado uses non-blocking I/O operations, allowing it to handle many connections simultaneously without consuming excessive system resources.
  • Web Framework: Tornado includes a robust framework with support for routing, request handling, template rendering, and more.
  • Websocket Support: Tornado has built-in support for WebSockets, enabling real-time bidirectional communication between the server and clients.
  • Secure Cookies: Tornado provides secure cookie handling to ensure session management and user authentication.

How Tornado Works

To create a web server with Tornado, you typically start by defining a set of request handlers that determine how incoming requests should be processed. These handlers can be as simple as serving static files or as complex as handling dynamic routes and executing business logic.

Tornado’s event-driven architecture allows it to efficiently handle incoming requests without blocking the main execution flow. This means that while one request is being processed, the server can still accept and handle other requests simultaneously.

Integration with Web Servers

Although Tornado itself is not a web server, it can be easily integrated with popular web servers like Nginx or Apache. In this setup, the external web server acts as a reverse proxy, forwarding incoming requests to the Tornado application for processing.

This allows Tornado to focus on its strengths of handling asynchronous I/O and request processing, while leveraging the advanced features and performance optimizations provided by the web server.


In summary, Tornado is a powerful Python framework for building high-performance web servers. While it is not a standalone web server itself, it provides developers with the necessary tools and components to create scalable and efficient web applications.

With its asynchronous I/O capabilities and built-in support for WebSockets, Tornado is an excellent choice for real-time applications or systems that require high concurrency.

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