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Glassfish vs. Tomcat: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 16, 2023
GlassFish is a full Java EE application server, while Tomcat is a servlet container and web server for Java applications.

Key Differences

GlassFish and Tomcat serve different purposes within the Java ecosystem. GlassFish is a fully featured Java EE (Enterprise Edition) application server, offering robust capabilities for enterprise applications. It comes with a variety of enterprise-level features and tools which cater to large-scale applications and services.
Tomcat, on the other hand, is primarily a servlet container and a web server for Java web applications. It's designed to run Java servlets and JavaServer Pages (JSP) but does not offer the full suite of Java EE features that GlassFish does. Tomcat is lightweight, and its focus is on simplicity and speed, making it a popular choice for web-based applications.
In terms of functionality, GlassFish offers a comprehensive platform for building enterprise Java applications. It encompasses functionalities beyond web services, such as Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB), messaging, and more. GlassFish has tools and features tailored for scalability and large-scale deployment, which are essential for enterprise projects.
Tomcat, in its essence, is leaner than GlassFish, focusing on the web component of Java EE. Developers often use Tomcat for projects where the full Java EE stack is not required. Its lightweight nature allows for faster deployment and a more straightforward setup, especially for simpler applications that only need servlets or JSPs.
In summary, while both GlassFish and Tomcat facilitate Java-based web applications, their capabilities and purposes vary. GlassFish is comprehensive, catering to enterprise needs with a broad feature set. Tomcat is streamlined, primarily serving web applications without the additional Java EE features.

Comparison Chart


Java EE application server
Servlet container & web server


Full Java EE suite (EJB, JPA, JMS, etc.)
Primarily Java servlets and JSP

Use Case

Enterprise applications requiring full Java EE capabilities
Web applications not requiring the full Java EE stack


Optimized for larger enterprise applications with more overhead
Lightweight and fast for smaller web applications


Comprehensive tooling and extension capabilities for large-scale projects
Simplified extension for web-focused tasks

Glassfish and Tomcat Definitions


GlassFish offers a platform for scalable enterprise applications.
Developers praised GlassFish for its robust scalability options.


Tomcat is lightweight and suited for web applications.
They chose Tomcat for its swift performance in web hosting.


GlassFish is an open-source Java EE application server.
The company migrated their services to GlassFish to leverage its enterprise features.


Tomcat focuses on Java servlets and JSP.
For their servlet-based project, Tomcat was a perfect fit.


GlassFish supports features like EJB, JMS, and JPA.
With GlassFish, the team could integrate JMS messaging seamlessly.


Tomcat is a web server and servlet container for Java.
The new web app was hosted on a Tomcat server.


GlassFish offers tools tailored for large-scale deployment.
GlassFish's deployment tools ensured a smooth rollout of the new app.


Tomcat offers fast deployment for simpler Java applications.
The developers appreciated Tomcat's quick setup for their app.


GlassFish is designed for comprehensive Java applications.
. GlassFish was their top choice for the complex Java project.


Tomcat is a subset of Java EE functionalities.
While GlassFish had more features, Tomcat met their web-specific needs.


Any of various small, semitransparent fishes of the family Ambassidae, found in marine and freshwater habitats of Africa, Asia, and Oceania and often kept in home aquariums.


A male cat.


Any of several not closely related small fish that have almost transparent bodies, especially those of the genera Ambassis or Chanda


To be sexually active with more than one partner. Used of men.


How is Tomcat different from GlassFish?

Tomcat is a servlet container and web server, while GlassFish offers a full Java EE suite.

How does the performance of GlassFish compare with Tomcat?

Tomcat is optimized for speed in web applications, while GlassFish is tailored for comprehensive enterprise applications.

What is the primary function of GlassFish?

GlassFish is a fully featured Java EE application server.

Which is more lightweight, GlassFish or Tomcat?

Tomcat is more lightweight than GlassFish.

Which is better for a simple web application, GlassFish or Tomcat?

For a simple web application, Tomcat is often preferred due to its lightweight nature.

Can Tomcat and GlassFish be integrated?

While both serve different purposes, it's possible to use them together in a larger system architecture.

Is Tomcat open-source?

Yes, Tomcat is an open-source servlet container and web server.

Do GlassFish and Tomcat have good documentation?

Both GlassFish and Tomcat have extensive documentation and community support.

Is GlassFish open-source?

Yes, GlassFish is an open-source application server.

Which is more secure, GlassFish or Tomcat?

Both offer security features, but the security robustness depends on configurations and how they are maintained.

Can I use EJB with Tomcat?

By default, Tomcat doesn't support EJB; it's primarily for servlets and JSP.

Can Tomcat handle large-scale enterprise applications?

While Tomcat can handle various applications, for full-fledged enterprise features, GlassFish or other Java EE servers are recommended.

Can I migrate from Tomcat to GlassFish?

Yes, but it may require adjustments depending on the application's dependencies and configurations.

Does Tomcat support JavaServer Faces (JSF)?

Tomcat can run JSF applications, but additional libraries might be needed.

Is GlassFish suitable for microservices?

While GlassFish can be used for microservices, there are other lightweight options designed specifically for that purpose.

Which has a larger community, GlassFish or Tomcat?

Tomcat has a larger and more active community.

Can I use JMS with GlassFish?

Yes, GlassFish supports JMS as part of its Java EE features.

What is the primary use case for Tomcat?

Tomcat is primarily used for hosting Java web applications using servlets and JSP.

Can GlassFish run servlet-based applications?

Yes, GlassFish can run servlet-based applications and more.

Can I run web applications on GlassFish?

Yes, GlassFish can run web applications and offers broader Java EE features.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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