Five Reasons You Should Use Tomcat (Updated for 2020)

  • Tuesday, June 17, 2014
  • Tomcat

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Update for 2020! We’ll Cover a Total of 9 Reasons to Use Tomcat in This Post.

Born out of the Apache Jakarta Project, Tomcat is an application server designed to execute Java servlets and render web pages that use Java Server page coding. Accessible as either a binary or a source code version, Tomcat’s been used to power a wide range of applications and websites across the Internet.  At the time of writing, it’s definitely one of the more popular servlet containers available.

Don’t take my word for it, though – why not give it a try yourself?

Here are five of our favorite uses for Apache Tomcat server to run your website’s Java applications – and a few reasons it’s a great choice for you.

It’s Incredibly Lightweight

Even with JavaEE certification, Tomcat is an incredibly lightweight application. If offers only the most basic functionality necessary to run a server, meaning it provides relatively quick load and redeploy times compared to many of its peers, which are bogged down with far too many bells and whistles. This lightweight nature also allows it to enjoy a significantly faster development cycle.

Of course, if you’re looking for a feature-rich application server, then Tomcat might not be the best choice for you. If you just want a quick-and-easy means to run your applications, though? Go with Tomcat – you won’t regret your choice.

It’s Open-Source

For me, open-source always counts as a win. Tomcat’s free, and the source code for the server is readily available to anyone who’d care to download it. What this means is that – assuming you’re willing to tinker with the moving parts of your server – you’ve got an incredible degree of freedom insofar as what you want to do with a Tomcat installation.

It’s Highly Flexible

Thanks to its lightweight nature and a suite of extensive, built-in customization options, Tomcat is quite flexible. You can run it in virtually any fashion you choose, and it’ll still work as intended. The fact that it’s open-source helps as well, since you can tweak it to fit your needs, provided you’ve the knowledge to do so.

Your Server Will Be More Stable

Tomcat is an extremely stable platform to build on – and using it to run your applications will contribute to your server’s stability, as well. This is because Tomcat runs independently of your Apache installation – even if a significant failure in Tomcat caused it to stop working, the rest of your server would run just fine.

It Offers An Extra Level Of Security

Many organizations choose to position their Tomcat installation behind an extra firewall, accessible only from the Apache installation. In short, depending on how you implement your Tomcat installation, it can add an extra layer of security to your server – which is never a bad thing.

It’s mature

Tomcat has existed for nearly 20 years, allowing it to mature over time. As open-source software maintained by the open source community, new releases and updates come out regularly. Tomcat’s maturity has turned it into one of the most stable application servers for software development and deploying Java applications. It is a stable option that has grown with great community support. 

It’s well-documented

Tomcat has a variety of good documentation available, including a wide range of online tutorials that can be viewed or downloaded. This makes it a popular choice to fill the role of an application server in almost all Java web applications. Whether you are looking for startup settings, hardening and security guides, installation instructions, or server configuration notes, Tomcat has you covered.

It’s the most widely used Java application server

Tomcat is estimated to hold over 60 percent of the market share of all Java application server deployments, making it the most popular application server used with Java web applications. Technically, it does not implement all the features required of a Java EE application server, but it does enable you to run Java EE applications. Tomcat acts as a “webserver” or “servlet container,” However,  that’s more of a terminology stipulation than anything else. 

It’s geared towards Java-based content

In contrast to Apache HTTPS Server, Tomcat was developed to offer the JSP functionality not available through Apache HTTPS Server. The latter is better suited for handling both static and dynamic (and usually PHP-based) web content but does not have the ability to manage Java Servlets and JSP. 

The best part is that both can be run side by side for projects involving both Java and PHP-based content. In that case, Apache can handle static and dynamic content and Tomcat can handle the JSP. For sites entirely built on JSP, Tomcat is the best bet. 

As a Java Servlet container that provides extended functionality to interact with Java Servlets, Tomcat is a powerful option to execute Java servlets and render web pages that use Java Server page coding. Tomcat enables a pure Java web server environment, bringing together Java-based technologies to run applications built on Java programming language. While its flexibility and interoperability enable Apache Tomcat to behave as a web application server under certain conditions, its true identity is primarily as a Java servlet container. 

As a lightweight, highly flexible option, Tomcat enables quick load and redeploy times without sacrificing built-in customization options. In addition to providing stability, it also offers extra security for organizations that choose to position their Tomcat installation behind an extra firewall. Developers looking to run applications that operate seamlessly and fast should consider Tomcat as an option. 

Matthew Davis is a technical writer and Linux geek for Future Hosting.

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