Is WebSphere Application Server a Web Server?


Angela Bailey

Is WebSphere Application Server a Web Server?

WebSphere Application Server (WAS) is a powerful and versatile software platform designed to host and manage Java-based applications. However, it is important to understand that while WAS can handle web applications, it is not a web server in the traditional sense.

In this article, we will explore the differences between a web server and WebSphere Application Server, shedding light on their distinct functionalities and roles in the application architecture.

What is a Web Server?

A web server is a software program that serves static content like HTML pages, images, CSS files, and JavaScript files to clients over the HTTP protocol. Its primary function is to respond to client requests by sending back the requested resources.

Popular examples of web servers include Apache HTTP Server (Apache), Nginx, and Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS).

WebSphere Application Server as an Application Platform

Unlike a web server, WebSphere Application Server is designed to provide an environment for running dynamic Java-based applications. It acts as an application platform that hosts various components required for running enterprise-level applications.

These components include but are not limited to servlets, JavaServer Pages (JSPs), Enterprise JavaBeans (EJBs), and database connectivity.

WebSphere Application Server provides extensive support for enterprise features such as load balancing, high availability, scalability, security, and transaction management. It also offers advanced features like session persistence across multiple servers and clustering capabilities for improved performance.

Differences between Web Servers and WebSphere Application Server

While both web servers and WebSphere Application Server play crucial roles in the application architecture, they serve different purposes:

  • Functionality: A web server focuses on serving static content, whereas WebSphere Application Server focuses on running dynamic Java-based applications.
  • Protocol: Web servers primarily support the HTTP protocol, while WebSphere Application Server supports a wide range of protocols such as HTTP, HTTPS, and more.
  • Extensibility: Web servers can be extended using modules or plugins to add additional functionalities like URL rewriting or caching. In contrast, WebSphere Application Server offers a comprehensive set of features out of the box and is highly extensible through its robust Java-based APIs.


In summary, WebSphere Application Server and web servers serve different purposes in the application architecture. While web servers focus on serving static content over the HTTP protocol, WebSphere Application Server provides an environment for running dynamic Java-based applications with enterprise-level features.

Understanding these differences is crucial for effectively designing and deploying applications in complex enterprise environments.

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