Home Server Apache Tomcat vs Apache HTTP server: What You Need to Know

Apache Tomcat vs Apache HTTP server: What You Need to Know

This comparison looks at functionality, use cases, and performance to help you decide which server technology is best suited for your web applications.

by Arun Kumar
apache tomcat vs apache http server

Apache Tomcat and Apache HTTP server are two of the most widely used servers in the world of web technologies. Both of these products are developed under the umbrella of the Apache Software Foundation, but they serve different purposes and are suited to different types of projects. In this blog, I’ll dive into the technical details of both, share some real-world examples from an Ubuntu terminal, and discuss my personal experiences with both servers.

What is Apache Tomcat?

Apache Tomcat is an open-source Java servlet container that acts as a web server and provides the environment to run Java code on the web. It is designed to serve Java applications and is equipped with tools to manage Java Servlets, JSPs (JavaServer Pages), and several other Java technologies. Tomcat is the go-to choice for developers looking to deploy and manage Java applications.

Setup on Ubuntu

To install Tomcat on Ubuntu, you typically need to install Java first, then download and set up Tomcat. Here’s a quick run-through:

# Install Java
sudo apt update
sudo apt install default-jdk# Download Tomcat
wget https://downloads.apache.org/tomcat/tomcat-9/v9.0.54/bin/apache-tomcat-9.0.54.tar.gz

# Extract and set up Tomcat
tar -xzf apache-tomcat-9.0.54.tar.gz
sudo mv apache-tomcat-9.0.54 /usr/local/tomcat9

# Start Tomcat

You can then access the Tomcat server at http://localhost:8080. The output should show the default Tomcat homepage.

What is Apache HTTP server?

The Apache HTTP server, commonly known as Apache, is a robust, commercial-grade, open-source web server managed by the Apache Software Foundation. It handles HTTP requests and serves static and dynamic web content. Apache is highly customizable through a rich selection of modules and is known for its power and flexibility.

Setup on Ubuntu

Installing Apache on Ubuntu is straightforward:zaw

# Update packages and install Apache
sudo apt update
sudo apt install apache2# Ensure it is running
sudo systemctl status apache2

After installation, you can visit http://localhost in your browser, and you should see the default Apache2 Ubuntu default page.

Comparison of features

While both are excellent in their respective fields, here are some detailed comparisons:

Use cases

Apache Tomcat:

  • Best suited for Java applications such as JSP and servlets.
  • Commonly used in conjunction with Apache HTTP server, which handles static content, while Tomcat handles dynamic content.

Apache HTTP server:

  • Ideal for serving static websites or as a reverse proxy.
  • Highly configurable for handling various performance and security tasks.


  • Apache HTTP server is generally faster when serving static content due to its ability to manage high loads and its caching configurations.
  • Tomcat excels in running Java applications, something Apache HTTP server does not natively support.


Tomcat’s configuration is centered around server.xml, web.xml, and context.xml files which can be a bit complex to handle initially. Apache HTTP server, with its .htaccess and httpd.conf files, provides a broader, more direct approach which many web administrators find intuitive.

For those who want to dig deep into technical differences, let me cover that as well.

In-depth technical comparison

Core functionality and architecture

Apache Tomcat:

  • Primary role: Java servlet container and web server designed to serve Java applications (servlets, JSPs).
  • Architecture: Built around the Java EE specifications for web applications. It uses a series of Java-specific connectors for handling web requests, most commonly the Coyote HTTP/1.1 Connector.
  • Execution environment: Runs Java bytecode, which allows it to execute servlets and JSPs, converting them into HTML to serve to clients.

Apache HTTP server:

  • Primary role: HTTP server for serving static content and as a reverse proxy.
  • Architecture: Multi-processing modules (MPMs) control how client requests are handled, with choices between prefork, worker, and event modules, allowing fine-tuning for handling concurrent connections.
  • Execution environment: Does not execute Java bytecode natively; designed to serve static files and handle PHP, Perl, or other server-side languages using respective modules.

Performance considerations

Apache Tomcat:

  • Optimized for Java application performance. It handles thread allocation based on requests and supports non-blocking IO with its NIO (Non-blocking Input/Output) connector.
  • Scalability can be managed via Java virtual machine (JVM) tuning and connectors configuration for optimal response time and memory management in high-load environments.

Apache HTTP server:

  • Superior performance when serving static content due to its ability to leverage caching (mod_cache), gzip compression (mod_deflate), and fine-tuned configuration for handling TCP connections efficiently.
  • The event MPM allows Apache to handle thousands of connections in a more memory-efficient manner than traditional threaded or process-based approaches.

Configuration and management

Apache Tomcat:

  • Configuration Files: Mainly uses server.xml for global configuration, web.xml for application-specific settings, and context.xml for context configurations.
  • Management: Offers a built-in web-based admin tool for server management and configuration. Logging is handled via Apache Commons Logging, log4j, or SLF4J.

Apache HTTP server:

  • Configuration Files: Uses httpd.conf for server configurations and .htaccess files for directory-level configuration.
  • Management: Configuration changes often require a server restart or reload. It supports extensive logging options configurable through mod_log_config.

Security features

Apache Tomcat:

  • Provides security realms for authenticating user identities, secure socket layer (SSL) configuration for HTTPS, and a comprehensive security manager to enforce access controls.
  • Common vulnerabilities usually relate to Java deserialization, cross-site scripting, and misconfiguration.

Apache HTTP server:

  • Robust mod_security module that acts as a firewall to block common web attacks.
  • Supports SSL/TLS configuration, and the ability to implement strict access control rules (via .htaccess or httpd.conf).

Personal experience

From my experience, I find Apache HTTP server to be incredibly robust for static sites and as a reverse proxy. Its wide adoption and vast community support make finding solutions to problems relatively easier. However, its configuration can be daunting for beginners.

On the other hand, Tomcat feels like a breeze when you’re deep into Java development. It’s almost indispensable in certain Java environments. Yet, its Java-centric nature might not appeal to those not using Java technologies.


Choosing between Apache Tomcat and Apache HTTP depends heavily on your project’s needs. For Java applications, Tomcat is indispensable, whereas for high-performance, high-traffic static sites, Apache HTTP server is the way to go. In many enterprise environments, you’ll find both being used in tandem to leverage the strengths of each.

I hope this comparison helps you understand where each server excels and where it might fall short. As always, the right tool for the job depends on the job itself!

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1 comment

Jalal Hajigholamali April 26, 2024 - 2:35 AM

Thanks a lot
Very nice article


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