Why Do We Need Web Server and Application Server?


Heather Bennett

Why Do We Need Web Server and Application Server?

When it comes to hosting a website or running web applications, having a clear understanding of the roles and functionalities of web servers and application servers is essential. These two components play critical roles in the delivery and execution of web-based services. In this article, we will explore the purpose and significance of both web servers and application servers.

The Web Server

A web server is a software or hardware component that serves static content to clients upon their request. It acts as an intermediary between users’ browsers and the requested web pages, ensuring the seamless delivery of requested resources.

The primary function of a web server is to handle HTTP requests from clients, such as browsers, and respond with HTML files, images, CSS stylesheets, or other static content. It is responsible for processing client requests and delivering the corresponding responses.

Examples of popular web servers include:

  • Apache HTTP Server
  • Nginx
  • Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS)

Key features of a web server:

  • HTTP Protocol Handling: A web server understands and processes HTTP requests from clients.
  • Static Content Delivery: It serves static files like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, images directly to clients.
  • Virtual Hosting: Allows hosting multiple websites on a single physical server.

The Application Server

An application server, on the other hand, provides an environment for executing dynamic applications or scripts. It is responsible for running server-side code and generating dynamic content that can be served by the web server to clients.

Application servers are designed to handle business logic, data management, and communication between various components of a web application. They provide a runtime environment for applications to execute, manage application resources, and ensure scalability and availability.

Examples of popular application servers include:

  • Apache Tomcat
  • JBoss
  • IBM WebSphere

Key features of an application server:

  • Dynamic Content Generation: Application servers execute server-side code (e.g., PHP, Java) to generate dynamic content.
  • Data Persistence: They provide access to databases or other data sources for storing and retrieving information.
  • Session Management: Application servers manage user sessions and maintain state across multiple requests.

The Relationship Between Web Server and Application Server

A common setup in web development involves using both a web server and an application server together. In this configuration, the web server acts as a front-end component that handles static content delivery and manages client requests. It forwards requests requiring dynamic processing to the application server.

The web server communicates with the application server through well-defined protocols like FastCGI or HTTP. The application server processes these requests by executing the necessary business logic, accessing databases or other resources, and generating dynamic content. Once the content is ready, it is sent back to the web server for delivery to the clients.

In Summary

In conclusion, understanding the roles of both web servers and application servers is crucial for building and deploying web-based applications. While a web server handles static content delivery and manages HTTP requests, an application server executes dynamic code, manages data, and generates dynamic content. Together, they form a robust architecture that enables the efficient delivery of web services.

So, whether you’re setting up a personal website or developing complex web applications, knowing the purpose and significance of web servers and application servers is essential for successful deployment.

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