What Is Web Server and Web Container?


Larry Thompson

What Is Web Server and Web Container?

In the world of web development, two important components that play a crucial role in serving web applications are the web server and the web container. While they sound similar, they serve different purposes and work together to deliver dynamic content to users.

Web Server

A web server is a software application that runs on a physical or virtual machine and handles HTTP requests from clients, such as web browsers. Its main purpose is to serve static files, such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and images, to users over the internet.

A web server listens for incoming requests on a specific port (usually 80 or 443 for secure connections) and responds with the requested content. It can handle multiple types of requests, including GET (retrieve resources), POST (submit data), PUT (update resources), DELETE (remove resources), and more.

Some popular web servers include:

  • Apache HTTP Server: A powerful and widely used open-source web server.
  • Nginx: A lightweight and high-performance web server commonly used for load balancing.
  • Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS): A web server developed by Microsoft for Windows servers.

Web Container

A web container, also known as a servlet container or application server, provides an environment for running Java-based web applications. It acts as an intermediary between the web server and the web application. The primary function of a web container is to manage the lifecycle of Java Servlets, JavaServer Pages (JSP), and other web components.

When a client sends an HTTP request to a web application, the web server passes the request to the web container. The container then processes the request, invokes the appropriate servlet or JSP, and generates a dynamic response. It manages essential features such as session management, security, and concurrency for the web application.

Some popular web containers include:

  • Apache Tomcat: A lightweight and widely used open-source web container.
  • Eclipse Jetty: A Java-based web server and servlet container known for its simplicity and scalability.
  • IBM WebSphere Application Server: A feature-rich web container developed by IBM for enterprise-level applications.

Differences between Web Server and Web Container

The key differences between a web server and a web container are:

  • A web server handles static content, while a web container handles dynamic content generated by Java-based applications.
  • A web server listens for incoming requests on a specific port, while a web container receives requests from the web server via predefined interfaces (e.g., Servlet API).
  • A web server can serve multiple applications concurrently, whereas each application typically has its own instance of a web container running inside the server.

In conclusion,

A web server serves static files over HTTP, while a web container provides an environment for running dynamic Java-based applications. Understanding the roles of these components is essential for building robust and scalable websites or applications that meet users’ needs effectively.

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