What is the difference between Tomcat, JBoss and Glassfish?


I am starting to look into Enterprise Java and the book I am following mentions that it will use JBoss. Netbeans ships with Glassfish. I have used Tomcat in the past.

What are the differences between these three programs?

2/7/2016 3:59:02 PM

Accepted Answer

Tomcat is just a servlet container, i.e. it implements only the servlets and JSP specification. Glassfish and JBoss are full Java EE servers (including stuff like EJB, JMS, ...), with Glassfish being the reference implementation of the latest Java EE 6 stack, but JBoss in 2010 was not fully supporting it yet.

3/21/2018 1:04:05 PM

You should use GlassFish for Java EE enterprise applications. Some things to consider:

A web Server means: Handling HTTP requests (usually from browsers).

A Servlet Container (e.g. Tomcat) means: It can handle servlets & JSP.

An Application Server (e.g. GlassFish) means: *It can manage Java EE applications (usually both servlet/JSP and EJBs).

Tomcat - is run by Apache community - Open source and has two flavors:

  1. Tomcat - Web profile - lightweight which is only servlet container and does not support Java EE features like EJB, JMS etc.
  2. Tomcat EE - This is a certified Java EE container, this supports all Java EE technologies.

No commercial support available (only community support)

JBoss - Run by RedHat This is a full-stack support for JavaEE and it is a certified Java EE container. This includes Tomcat as web container internally. This also has two flavors:

  1. Community version called Application Server (AS) - this will have only community support.
  2. Enterprise Application Server (EAP) - For this, you can have a subscription-based license (It's based on the number of Cores you have on your servers.)

Glassfish - Run by Oracle This is also a full stack certified Java EE Container. This has its own web container (not Tomcat). This comes from Oracle itself, so all new specs will be tested and implemented with Glassfish first. So, always it would support the latest spec. I am not aware of its support models.


jboss and glassfish include a servlet container(like tomcat), however the two application servers (jboss and glassfish) also provide a bean container (and a few other things aswell I imagine)


It seems a bit discouraging to use Tomcat when you read these answers. However what most fail to mention is that you can get to identical or almost identical use cases with tomcat but that requires you to add the libraries needed (through Maven or whatever include system you use).

I have been running tomcat with JPA, EJBs with very small configuration efforts.


JBoss and Glassfish are basically full Java EE Application Server whereas Tomcat is only a Servlet container. The main difference between JBoss, Glassfish but also WebSphere, WebLogic and so on respect to Tomcat but also Jetty, was in the functionality that an full app server offer. When you had a full stack Java EE app server you can benefit of all the implementation of the vendor of your choice, and you can benefit of EJB, JTA, CDI(JAVA EE 6+), JPA, JSF, JSP/Servlet of course and so on. With Tomcat on the other hands you can benefit only of JSP/Servlet. However to day with advanced Framework such as Spring and Guice, many of the main advantage of using an a full stack application server can be mitigate, and with the assumption of a one of this framework manly with Spring Ecosystem, you can benefit of many sub project that in the my work experience let me to left the use of a full stack app server in favour of lightweight app server like tomcat.


Both JBoss and Tomcat are Java servlet application servers, but JBoss is a whole lot more. The substantial difference between the two is that JBoss provides a full Java Enterprise Edition (Java EE) stack, including Enterprise JavaBeans and many other technologies that are useful for developers working on enterprise Java applications.

Tomcat is much more limited. One way to think of it is that JBoss is a Java EE stack that includes a servlet container and web server, whereas Tomcat, for the most part, is a servlet container and web server.


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