Tomcat vs WebSphere: Which One is Best For You

In terms of Java applications server comparisons, there’s no more stark contrast between Apache Tomcat and IBM WebSphere’s two products.

Before we begin, let’s go over some confusion. WebSphere is a expended term in which it  covers lot of  area. WebSphere has been a registered brand phrase that IBM has used to describe various products ranging across portals servers and in-memory database grids.

Additionally, there’s an all-new, light WebSphere-branded Java application server geared towards the micro services market called WebSphere Liberty.

To simplify our discussion in this article, when we speak about WebSphere, the classic Java EE application server first launched in 1998 by IBM. It continues to be in development to this day.

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It is probably the most significant difference in the Tomcat and WebSphere debate regarding the release dates. Tomcat was launched in 1999, which was a year following WebSphere.

Both of them responded to a technological need that existed within the Java community at the time, which was the requirement to have an application server that could manage an online request-response process. Beyond this, both products differ.

Java EE API Support

The product has to implement Servlet or JSP API to be considered a Java applications server. The two products, Tomcat and WebSphere, satisfy this requirement; however, WebSphere takes it one step further by implementing the complete Java EE software stack.

It is the term used to describe how the WebSphere offers support for a wider bunch of APIs.

They have RESTful Web Services for Java API, which is compatible with  Java API for XML Web Services and Java Messaging Service. Tomcat can only keep a portion of the APIs required by Java EE Web Profile, an aspect of the complete Java EE spec.

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An Apache project called TomEE also builds on Tomcat to offer an open-source solution to the Java EE stack. If you’re in search of an alternative to Tomcat as a Java EE application server, it’s certainly worth a look.

Tomcat Vs. WebSphere Installation

The way to install both products is distinct. Tomcat is available in a compressible archive with two requirements: a JDK running and the JAVA_HOME set up.

When these prerequisites are satisfied and configured, it is possible to install Tomcat. Installing Tomcat is as simple as having to unzip the file and run the start script.

Contrary to the case of Tomcat, WebSphere requires a product known as IBM Installation Manager. Firstly user need to installed IBM Installation Manager and after that whatever updates received must be download and installed again. Then you have to applied patches if the IBM Installation Manager is update.

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The IBM Installation Manager then takes charge of IBM JDK to install the product licensing and then install the binaries for the WebSphere Application Server. The IBM Installation Manager reboots multiple times until all the patches and fix packs applied. 

It is worth noting it is worth paying attention to the expense of the IBM Installation Manager.

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By orchestrating the installation of various versions from IBM and WebSphere tools, it can ensure that tools can be installed in a way that allows for comparison between them and ensures that patches address feature, security, and performance issues in place before the software’s use.

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The installation of Tomcat can be completed in just a few minutes. It is possible to achieve a WebSphere Application Server installation that requires patch-packs and fix-packs, which would be challenging to complete within a matter of hours.

Tomcat Vs. WebSphere Application Server Support

The main difference between WebSphere and Tomcat is that, while Tomcat is an open-source software project run through the Apache Software Foundation, the WebSphere Application Server is a commercial product that IBM backs.

It is often the main distinction between them in regards to the acceptance of an services.

Established institutions like banks, governments, and insurance companies like — particularly those that already have a partnership with IBM are enthused by the confidence that comes from an IBM server supported by one of the most potent software services firms worldwide.

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In addition, those who have IBM support agreements in place may get favorable WebSphere pricing conditions, for example, bundling support hours into existing services contracts.

There’s a saying in the past that says when things fail, and it’s best to have a single place to choke. In more formal words, there’s a benefit in buying IT equipment from a trusted supplier.

This is why many companies who use WebSphere-branded software use other IBM products like DB2 and MQSeries. So, the user can benefit from the expert knowledge of the vendor about how to integrate the systems.

Some companies are specialized in Apache Tomcat support, such as Tomitribe, Payara, and others. But they are nowhere near the fame of IBM.

Tomcat Vs. WebSphere Performance Comparison

One of the most frequent criticisms directed towards the WebSphere application server is its enormous need for resources.

The typical WebSphere Application Server download exceeds 2GB in size. A JVM profiler, such as Java Mission Control, will show that a minimal WebSphere installation will use one-half to one GB of memory.

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Additionally, the requirement to load an enormous amount of files in memory for the server to run can impact the speed of a startup.

When WebSphere is deployed on high-performance servers that do not require restarts, these issues are not too significant. However, for modern micro services-based architectures or even developers working with the WebSphere installation on local computers, the use of resources is a problem.

In comparison to WebSphere, the requirements for Tomcat’s resources are much less. Tomcat can be compressed into a single file smaller than 10 MB in size. A running Tomcat server with just the default applications installed will never use more than 100MB of RAM.

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It’s not surprising to hear that many WebSphere developers run tests locally on Tomcat and TomEE installations. They only test with WebSphere to ensure quality or pre-production testing.

Tomcat’s tiny installation size and its small memory footprint make it suitable for micro service deployments and hosting RESTful web services; however, companies focused on speed and efficiency in their startup tend to favor an Eclipse-based Java Application Server Jetty.

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For performance In terms of performance, the two servers, Tomcat and WebSphere, can be clustered to provide both high throughput and availability. In a clustered configuration, there’s no difference between the two servers when it regards capacity planning.

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The difference is that WebSphere will consume a more significant amount of memory and resources for the file system to manage a similar number of requests.

Tomcat Vs WebSphere: Which Server Should You Choose?

As you can observe, the comparison of enterprise Java tools such as it is Apache Tomcat vs. WebSphere Application Server highlights the most significant differences. The open-source community runs Tomcat, WebSphere Application Server development, and IBM offers support.

While Tomcat can be installed swiftly, however, it is a WebSphere installation that requires more effort. Although the Tomcat binaries aren’t massive by size, WebSphere offers a significant download. Both products could not differ more. Which Java software server do you select?

In general, WebSphere is the ideal choice for organizations with a relationship with IBM and are satisfied with their existing range of IBM products.

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They anticipate needing ongoing support for services and software from IBM to assist with their infrastructure and develop applications to deploy to WebSphere. For such traditional organizations, the WebSphere Application Server is the ideal option.

For smaller companies that don’t have the substantial IT budgets of government agencies, banks, insurance firms, or where ongoing support for the software isn’t essential, selecting Apache Tomcat versus IBM WebSphere is likely to be a better long-term choice.

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