What is an Application Server? How the Choose the Right One?

An application servers, as the name suggests, is a type of server that is used to install, operate and host applications. In other words, it is a type of computer environment where computers are enabled to create and run web applications instead of deploying them locally.

It is used when there is a need to install applications on each computer. After all, manual installation can eat up a long time.

An application server is a mixed framework of software that facilitates the development of web applications and a server environment to run them.

They are integrated with both server hardware components and operating systems. Application servers are categorized into the Active Application Server, Web Information Server and Component Server. The types of application servers are Java, PHP, Oracle OC4j and .NET framework.

Understanding the Benefits of Application Servers


The performance of heavy applications can be overall improved by utilizing application servers. Their network traffic is limited while they rely upon the client-server network.


As data is centralized, the service provider has the access to all the parts making the data safer. Moreover, there is a layer of security termed as a firewall present in between the app server and the webserver.


Whether you are looking to install a copy of the configuration or changes to the applications, all can be performed from the central location. It eliminates the need of configuring each system individually, thereby saving you time and hassles.

Data Integrity:

Application servers deliver data integrity as they perform with a centralized approach. A single server manages to deliver updates and upgrades, meaning that there is no need to follow the conventional method of accessing data or controlling applications.

Transaction Support:

Transaction refers to a unit of activity in which updates to the resources can be centralized. All the coding-related works are done by the servers, saving you a huge time and money.

How Application Servers is Different from Web Servers

While an application server and a web server might sound similar, they are quite different.

A web server is designed to handle HTTP requests, whereas an application server is meant to deliver business logic to application programs through any number of protocols. An application server is a software framework that converts data to provide the specialized functionality delivered by a business, service, or application. Application servers accentuate the interactive parts of a website that can occur differently depending on the context of the request.

Here is a quick comparison between an application server and a web server for better clarity.


Web Servers Application Servers
Process static content. Process dynamic content.
Using the HTTP protocol only. Using several protocols (including HTTP).
Meant for only web-based applications. Can serve web and enterprise-based applications.
Incompatible for multi-threading. Supports multi-threading to deliver multiple requests in parallel.
Supports web traffic that is not very resource-intensive. Supports longer running processes that are very resource-intensive.



What to Look for in Your New Application Servers

Are you looking to buy a new application server?

Make sure to consider the factors given below while buying a new application server.

Middleware Services:

The middleware services are the main services your application will capitalize on. If the application is working as a simple servlet engine, there is no need to rely more on a Tomcat server. If the application requires services such as messaging, a naming service or even a transaction management service, make sure to access whether a Tomcat server can handle the complexities of your transaction processing requirements. Otherwise, you need to opt for a full Java EE application server that is designed to handle it.


You can port your applications from any application server to the other as long as they are coded against the Java EE specification. The issue occurs when you start using application server extensions, which are little hooks vendor offer that let you delve deep into the core working of the server.

A major issue with these extensions is that there is no guaranteed portability from one server to another. Make sure to look for the Java EE specifications to avoid bound yourself to one specific server.

Peripheral Tools:

Most sellers offer a set of tools that are exclusively meant for their particular server, whether it’s a tool for coding automation scripts, performance monitoring tools or even applications that simplifies the identification of existing or prospective problems through log files or application traces.

Ask your vendor for such tools. However, make sure these tools can ease installation or the scripting of automation tasks. An efficient set of tools can make the challenging tasks of installation and troubleshooting easier.

Cloud Adaptability:

Last but not least—check if your server comes with cloud readiness. After all, the cloud has become a preferred choice for data storage over data centers. Many application servers let you switch your server software to an in-house platform, software or infrastructure as a service. If you want to transfer your data to the cloud from a house system, finding out what types of cloud solutions that a server vendor offers might be a great investment.

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