What Is Difference Between App Server and Web Server?


Angela Bailey

What Is the Difference Between App Server and Web Server?

When it comes to hosting and serving web applications, two terms that often come up are “app server” and “web server.” While these terms may sound similar, they refer to different components of a web application’s architecture.

Understanding the difference between app servers and web servers is important for anyone involved in web development or hosting. Let’s explore these terms in-depth.

Web Server

A web server is a software or hardware component responsible for serving static content, such as HTML, CSS, images, and JavaScript files to client devices. The primary function of a web server is to respond to HTTP requests from clients (usually web browsers) by sending back the requested resources.

Web servers handle tasks like file retrieval, security enforcement, caching, and load balancing. They are optimized for efficiently handling numerous concurrent connections while ensuring high availability and performance.

Some popular web servers include Apache HTTP Server, Nginx, Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS), and LiteSpeed Web Server.

App Server

An app server, short for application server, is responsible for executing server-side applications or dynamic content generation. Unlike a web server that focuses on serving static files, an app server executes code written in languages like Java, Python, Ruby, or PHP to generate dynamic content based on user input or database queries.

The primary role of an app server is to provide a runtime environment for executing application-specific logic. It handles tasks like session management, transaction processing, security enforcement (e.g., authentication), database connectivity, and integration with other services or systems.

App servers can also act as intermediaries between clients and backend systems by processing requests, performing business logic, and returning the appropriate response. They provide scalability, fault tolerance, and performance optimizations specific to application execution.

Some well-known app servers include Apache Tomcat, JBoss/WildFly, IBM WebSphere Application Server, and Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS).

Key Differences

Now that we have a basic understanding of web servers and app servers, let’s summarize the key differences between them:

  • A web server primarily serves static content (HTML, CSS, images), while an app server executes server-side applications or generates dynamic content.
  • A web server responds to HTTP requests by sending back requested resources. In contrast, an app server processes requests and executes application-specific logic before returning the response.
  • Web servers are optimized for handling numerous concurrent connections efficiently. In contrast, app servers focus on executing application code and providing a runtime environment for application-specific functionality.


In conclusion, while both web servers and app servers play important roles in hosting web applications, they serve different purposes within the overall architecture. Web servers handle serving static content to clients, while app servers execute server-side applications and generate dynamic content based on user input or database queries. Understanding these differences is crucial for designing scalable and efficient web applications.

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