Application Server - An Overview

Application Server - Background

The usage of the Internet has undergone an unprecedented transformation in the last couple of years. It started with displaying very primitive static Web pages and now it has become the preferred interface between an organization, its customers, its employees, and partners. In this rapidly changing business landscape, corportate executives and critical decision-makers have to leverage the existing investment in systems infrastructure in a cost-effective manner and to address the primary marketing requirements such as reduction in cost and time. Also the organization has to be competitive technologically and to be able to provide the quality service that their customers and partners expect and demand. Software solution providers came with the concept of application server that has all the capability of addressing the above-mentioned customer requirements.

Application servers offer server-side support for developing and deploying business logic that may be located on the server or can be partitioned across client and server. Today's enterprises rely daily on server-side business processing, ranging from mainframe transaction systems to client/server DBMS stored procedures. Running business processes on the server provides the following advantages:

1. Reusability of business logic- A variety of client applications (HTML code, Java applets, COM+ components) can share the same business logic.

2. Security of business logic - By leaving the logic on the server, user access can be controlled dynamically, revoked at any time.

3. Security of network communications - Application servers allow use of Internet-standard secure protocols like SSL or HTTPS in place of less secure proprietary DBMS protocols.

4. Manageability - Server-side applications are easier to monitor, control, maintenance and update.

5. Performance - Database intensive business logic will often perform much better when located near the database, saving network traffic and access latency.

6. Download time - Intranets and extranet, the Internet clients most often require access to many different business processes that could require substantial network bandwidth and more client memory to download all logic to the client. Application servers in this regard gives a better performance.

7. Compute load - Running compute-intensive applications on servers saves client cycles.

8. Provide E-business infrastructure - Application server is evolving as a basic commodity within any e-business infrastructure.

Thus an application server provides an infrastructure and set of services that make it possible to serve applications using server and Internet-related technologies. Application servers can be classified into three categories:

1. J2EE-based Application Servers (Sun Microsystems EJB-compliant)

2. Non-J2EE Application Servers (ColdFusion, PHP and Perl)

3. Windows-based Application Servers

There are a number of hardware/Server manufacturers, such as IBM, Sun and HP, offering full-fledged J2EE-based application server products. Also there are a couple of database vendors, such as Oracle, IBM DB2, and Sybase, providing J2EE-based application servers. In addition to these, there are a few of independent Software Vendors, such as BEA WebLogic Allaire and SilverStream, supplying robust J2EE-based application servers.

The second category of application servers is not based upon Java but on other server-side scripting languages. ColdFusion application server is based on the ColdFusion scription language. PHP Zend is based on PHP, an open-source, server-side scripting language for creating dynamic Web applications.

Microsoft application server technologies are fully depending on Windows platform. Microsoft is also moving forward with the introduction of innovative server-side technologies such as ASP/COM and .NET with ASP+ and C#. Microsoft also opts for open technologies such as XML and SOAP for its server products.

With the explosive growth of the Internet, the significance of application server products is being felt among the fortune companies and enterprises.

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