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Apache Tomcat vs Netty: What are the differences?

Apache Tomcat and Netty are both popular server frameworks used in web development. While they share similarities, there are key differences between the two that make them suitable for different use cases.

  1. Architecture: Apache Tomcat is a traditional Servlet container built on the Java Servlet API. It follows a thread-per-request model where each request is processed by a dedicated thread. On the other hand, Netty is an event-driven, asynchronous framework that uses a small number of threads to handle a large number of connections. This allows Netty to achieve higher scalability and performance compared to Tomcat.

  2. Protocol Support: Apache Tomcat primarily focuses on HTTP and Servlet protocols. It provides extensive support for handling HTTP requests and serving Servlet-based applications. Netty, on the other hand, is protocol-agnostic and can handle various protocols such as HTTP, WebSocket, TCP, UDP, and more. It provides a flexible and extensible framework for building different types of server applications.

  3. Flexibility and Extensibility: Apache Tomcat is a monolithic server framework that provides a comprehensive set of functionalities out of the box. It offers a wide range of configuration options and features specifically designed for Servlet-based applications. Netty, on the other hand, is a lightweight and modular framework that allows developers to have more fine-grained control over the server configuration. It offers a plugin-based architecture that makes it easy to extend its capabilities and add custom features.

  4. Concurrency Model: Apache Tomcat uses a thread-per-request model, where each incoming request is assigned to a separate thread. This model can lead to high thread overhead and limited scalability under heavy load. Netty, on the other hand, uses an event-driven model with non-blocking I/O. It leverages a small number of threads to handle multiple connections concurrently, making it highly scalable and efficient even under high load conditions.

  5. Community and Ecosystem: Apache Tomcat has a large and active community with extensive documentation, tutorials, and a wide range of third-party libraries and tools specifically catered to Servlet-based applications. Netty, although less mainstream, also has an active community and a growing ecosystem.

  6. Use Cases: Apache Tomcat is a mature and widely used framework primarily designed for Servlet-based web applications. It is a popular choice for hosting Java-based web applications and is often used in conjunction with the Spring framework. Netty, on the other hand, is commonly used for building high-performance and scalable server applications that require handling a large number of concurrent connections, such as real-time communication systems, proxy servers, and other network-focused applications.

In summary, Apache Tomcat and Netty differ in their architecture, protocol support, flexibility, concurrency model, community, ecosystem, and use cases. While Tomcat is more suitable for traditional Servlet-based web applications, Netty shines in scenarios that require high scalability, performance, and support for various protocols.

Decisions about Netty and Apache Tomcat

I was in a situation where I have to configure 40 RHEL servers 20 each for Apache HTTP Server and Tomcat server. My task was to 1. configure LVM with required logical volumes, format and mount for HTTP and Tomcat servers accordingly. 2. Install apache and tomcat. 3. Generate and apply selfsigned certs to http server. 4. Modify default ports on Tomcat to different ports. 5. Create users on RHEL for application support team. 6. other administrative tasks like, start, stop and restart HTTP and Tomcat services.

I have utilized the power of ansible for all these tasks, which made it easy and manageable.

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Pros of Netty
Pros of Apache Tomcat
  • 9
    High Performance
  • 4
    Easy to use
  • 3
    Just like it
  • 79
  • 72
  • 49
  • 1
    Spring web

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Cons of Netty
Cons of Apache Tomcat
  • 2
    Limited resources to learn from
  • 2
    Blocking - each http request block a thread
  • 1
    Easy to set up

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What is Netty?

Netty is a NIO client server framework which enables quick and easy development of network applications such as protocol servers and clients. It greatly simplifies and streamlines network programming such as TCP and UDP socket server.

What is Apache Tomcat?

Apache Tomcat powers numerous large-scale, mission-critical web applications across a diverse range of industries and organizations.

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What companies use Netty?
What companies use Apache Tomcat?
See which teams inside your own company are using Netty or Apache Tomcat.
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What tools integrate with Netty?
What tools integrate with Apache Tomcat?

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What are some alternatives to Netty and Apache Tomcat?
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