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What is an Application Server?

By David White
Updated May 16, 2024
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An application server is a server that is designed for or dedicated to running specific applications. At its most basic, it might be used to run one application. If that application is the one that keeps a company network going and is, therefore, a massive application, it might take up the entire RAM and ROM requirement of one server.

Another possibility is that a server is used to run certain kinds of applications. For example, a company might have several word processing, spreadsheet, or desktop publishing programs, and all of those applications might reside on one type of server. Everyone who needs to access those programs would then log on to the Desktop Publishing Server, for example, to use whatever design program that the company might recommend and have on hand.

Another kind of application server is one that runs an operating system. This is more old-fashioned, but it is still used. Certain computers, more commonly called terminals, connect to a server in order to access basic functions.

Like ants and bees that have specific roles in life, application servers have specific parts to play in the overall anthill or beehive of a company. As with many things computer-related, there is a more complicated example. Oracle, one of the main server developers, has come out with a J2EE (Java Platform Enterprise Edition) server. A huge number of companies worldwide use the J2EE server, which is able to run very powerful applications that can be accessed by multiple computers connected to that server on a network.

What it all boils down to, though, is the computer world's propensity to designate certain resources to perform certain actions. In the same way that someone might use a word processing program to write a paper but a photo manipulation program to touch up vacation photos, tech departments use application servers to compartmentalize the way that a company's multiple computers do certain things. If they're doing their job well, most people will hardly be aware that such activity is going on.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By cobiacomm — On Feb 14, 2014

Tomcat can run servlet based applications, and is a lightweight open source application server alternative. If you desire to augment your Tomcat environment with integrated user management, monitoring and clustering, take a look at the WSO2 Application Server, which is Tomcat++. The application server has a Tomcat core, with additional security, scalability, and availability features. Also, the WSO2 Application Server has server-side JavaScript, API and services support.

By anon304963 — On Nov 23, 2012

One thing that is not clear in this explanation: the purpose of the application server is to separate business logic from presentation logic.

A server that generates HTML via PHP, and in which also the PHP performs the necessary business logic, is not an application server.

In the Application Client/Server model, the client running the presentation layer (i.e., GUI) makes requests and formats responses according to specified presentation rules.

The request is sent to an application server which understands the business model and business logic and executes the request against those rules. It then returns the response data in a structured format for the presentation layer (such as a JSON object or xml).

By anon243851 — On Jan 30, 2012

I know what an application server is, but how do I deploy it? I want to install office on the server. How do I access it from client systems?

By anon112784 — On Sep 22, 2010

thanks for the short and neat explanation.

By anon99294 — On Jul 26, 2010

finally i understood what an application server is. Thanks for keeping it short and simple. worth reading!

By anon93849 — On Jul 06, 2010

Wow, what an explanation. Thumbs up, guys. your explanations are worth reading.

By anon92275 — On Jun 27, 2010

great explanation. Can you give more information about how do we decide the number of application server instances that may be required. for example say a company has 25 app server instances running. does that say anything about the number of applications running?

By anon86633 — On May 26, 2010

Thanks a lot. very useful to me. dananjayadod

By anon83774 — On May 12, 2010

This is the best for any learner and also me.

thanks.

By anon68753 — On Mar 04, 2010

This article helped me a lot to understand what an application server is. Could you let us know a few examples of software for an application server? - Vinay.

By anon68396 — On Mar 02, 2010

This was excellent. I easily understood it. now I know process of application servers. -Sarvam

By anon63889 — On Feb 04, 2010

thanks for being clear and comprehensible. --saurabh

By anon58702 — On Jan 03, 2010

I compliment you for making it this easy. I have been through a lot of other material but none of them clarify the concept so well.

By anon54111 — On Nov 27, 2009

Very good explanation given about an application server. The application server became a synonym for j2ee servers.

By anon52439 — On Nov 14, 2009

thank you. it is very useful to me.

Apparao

By anon45976 — On Sep 22, 2009

Application sever has been defined in simple language that is really good. I would like to know some examples of application sever or webserver like 'Apache' with some more elaboration. --Sharmila Juvekar

By anon45962 — On Sep 22, 2009

It didn't help us at all.

By anon45541 — On Sep 17, 2009

Thank you. That so helped.

By anon45259 — On Sep 15, 2009

Thanks. That is a good reference for me.

By anon44404 — On Sep 07, 2009

thank you. I got to know exactly what i wanted to know.

By anon40331 — On Aug 07, 2009

I appreciate your effort to explain Application Server. now I know what an application server is. --Soujanya.

By anon39989 — On Aug 05, 2009

Thanks. Now i can have a decent conversation with the vp of it at my job!

By anon31815 — On May 12, 2009

This is a really good illustration of application server, explaining exactly what the application servers do.

Bhagat Singh

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