What Is the Difference Between Apache Web Server and Tomcat?


Heather Bennett

What Is the Difference Between Apache Web Server and Tomcat?

When it comes to serving web applications, two popular choices are Apache Web Server and Tomcat. While both are commonly used in the industry, they have distinct differences in their functionality and purpose. In this article, we will explore these differences and help you understand which one might be more suitable for your specific needs.

Apache Web Server

Apache Web Server is an open-source HTTP server that has been around since 1995. It is widely regarded as one of the most reliable and secure web servers available.

Apache excels at serving static content, such as HTML pages, images, and CSS files. It supports various operating systems like Windows, Linux, and macOS.

Some key features of Apache include:

  • Performance: Apache is known for its excellent performance under high loads. It can handle a large number of concurrent connections efficiently.
  • Security: With regular updates and a dedicated security team, Apache prioritizes security and provides robust protection against common vulnerabilities.
  • Flexibility: Apache supports a wide range of modules that extend its functionality. These modules enable features like URL rewriting, caching, compression, and more.


Tomcat, on the other hand, is an open-source Java servlet container developed by the Apache Software Foundation. It is designed specifically for running Java web applications and serves dynamic content generated by Java Servlets or JavaServer Pages (JSP).

Here are some notable characteristics of Tomcat:

  • JSP/Servlet Support: Tomcat provides a robust environment for running Java web applications. It supports the latest Java Servlet and JSP specifications, making it an ideal choice for Java developers.
  • Java Virtual Machine (JVM): Tomcat runs on top of a JVM, allowing it to take advantage of Java’s platform independence and extensive libraries.
  • Embeddability: Tomcat can be embedded into other applications, providing developers with the flexibility to deploy servlets or JSPs within their own software.

Differences and Use Cases

While both Apache Web Server and Tomcat are capable of serving web content, their primary use cases differ. Apache is best suited for static content serving, while Tomcat shines when it comes to running dynamic Java-based web applications.

If you have a simple website consisting of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files, Apache will be more than sufficient. It can handle high traffic volumes efficiently while providing excellent security features.

On the other hand, if you are developing a complex web application using Java technologies like Servlets or JSPs, Tomcat is the recommended choice. Its built-in support for these technologies simplifies deployment and management of your application.

In some cases, an ideal setup might involve using both Apache and Tomcat together. Apache can act as a reverse proxy server, handling static content requests efficiently, while forwarding dynamic requests to Tomcat for processing.

In Conclusion

In summary, Apache Web Server and Tomcat are powerful tools used in different scenarios. Apache excels at serving static content efficiently and securely, while Tomcat is specifically designed for hosting Java-based web applications. Understanding your specific requirements will help you make an informed decision about which one to choose or whether a combination of both is the best approach for your project.

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