In recent weeks I keep on getting requests from customers to answer their questions on the differences between using WebSphere and Tomcat as the web server for their Jazz deployments.  So like always, if I have to answer something more than twice, I try to blog about it.

So what are the differences between Tomcat and WebSphere?  At the most simple level, Tomcat is open source, and WebSphere is an IBM product.  You can Google “WebSphere vs Tomcat”, and see articles that claim that Tomcat is much better, and others that claim that WebSphere is superior.  In what I have seen in practice, and what my customers have told me, WebSphere seems to scale better, and has better support for enterprise types of functionality (like clustering, identity and authentication, and so on).  Some like Tomcat for it’s simplicity, which is pretty nice.  I think that it probably boils down to what your experiences have been, and where your organization has expertise.

From a higher level, IBM is able to sell WebSphere because it has advanced capabilities that the open source alternatives do not have.  WebSphere is easier to administer, and allows you to deploy things in different profiles, which allows you to take down one Jazz application without impacting the other running applications.  Some other Jazz related things that you can do with WebSphere that are difficult (or impossible) with Tomcat:

  • Single Sign On solutions are easier to support with WebSphere, and Tomcat does not support a distributed single sign on capability (if you have different web servers for the various Jazz products).
  • WebSphere has an Administration UI that greatly simplifies the following operations:
    • Installation of applications
    • Stopping and starting those applications (on an individual basis)
    • The configuration of the JVM properties used by the applications
    • The setting up of a reverse proxy
  • More flexibility with LDAP security and support, with an ability to map LDAP groups and roles to Jazz application groups
  • Ability to more easily use monitoring capabilities to observe web server performance

In addition, some of the newer planned capabilities for the Jazz applications will be initially implemented on WebSphere.  Now I can’t tell you what those capabilities might be, but a quick look at our plans out on should give you some idea of what those might be.