Web servers are a familiar and necessary component of the Internet. Application servers are less familiar but also a necessary element for at least some aspects of the Internet. This tutorial is aimed at highlighting the distinctions between these two important server types and helping you to decide how and when using one (Web server) may lead to using the other (application server).
The point of any server is to serve data, but that doesn’t mean that a Web server is the best tool for serving all data. For heavy tasks, an application server is more appropriate — but how do you know when to scale up to an application server? In this tutorial, Nelson King discusses the situations where application servers are your best choice — and where you should use a basic Web server to serve your data.
Of course, Web servers and application servers are not mutually exclusive. And in the corporation their functions can certainly overlap: there are many, many Web servers that are serving data from a database, while there are more and more application servers serving up basic Web pages, if the Netcraft numbers for SilverStream and Zope are accurate.
But the key to good system design is choosing the right tool for the task. In those cases where both a Web and an application server would serve your needs, you can save yourself some headaches down the road by selecting the right tool. In this series, you’ll see where each tool is applicable.