4 Open Source Application Servers (Comparison and Review)

New open source technologies are changing the way organizations develop and deploy applications. In this article, we review four leading open source application servers. Compare each tool based on business benefits, feature set, and price.

Open source software has changed a great deal over the years. Today, there are many advantages to using open source software for technology such as application servers

Here are a some popular reasons why enterprise organizations are embracing open source:

  • Entry Cost: Many open source projects don’t require a licensing fee.
  • Quality: Open source development is focused on improving technology. The industry’s best talent participates in development; therefore, quality and reliability is typically excellent.
  • Flexibility: You can modify open source code to fit your requirements, rather than depending on one vendor.
  • Continuity: If a software company eliminates a product or changes its direction, you have a problem. With open source software, other developers will step in if key developers leave the project, providing ongoing support.
  • Ability to Audit: With proprietary software, you must trust the vendor concerning the software’s capabilities. With open source, you have the ability to test for yourself or arrange for a third-party audit.

A big part of the advantage is the control that open source software offers. You can determine how to use the software and how to modify it without worrying about the market objectives of a software vendor.

Compare these four open source application servers to find one that meets your needs.

1. JBoss Enterprise Application Platform

Red Hat’s JBoss Enterprise Application Platform (JBoss EAP) is the supported version of their community’s Wildfly application server. It’s a Java™ EE 7 container that is part of Red Hat’s JBoss Middleware line of products. With everything you need to build and manage Java-based services, it’s a good combination of open source and supported software.

Red Hat has a Developer Program where you can register to gain access to the JBoss EAP for development purposes. When you are a member of the Program, you have access to Red Hat’s developer forums, knowledge base, reference material and a developers’ newsletter.


  • Supported by Red Hat, a company dedicated to open-source products
  • Compliant with Java™ EE 7 specifications
  • Includes a web services stack, container and cloud-ready architecture
  • Includes flexible management, configuration and automation features

Pricing and Support Plans

To use JBoss EAP in a production environment, you’ll need a subscription. One-year standard subscriptions cost $8,000, and premium subscriptions are $12,000. If you purchase a Premium Subscription, you’ll receive 24/7 support for severity 1 and 2 issues. Standard support is offered during standard business hours.

Related: Learn more about our JBoss Middleware consulting, services, and support

2. GlassFish

GlassFish is an open-source project started by Sun Microsystems. Oracle took over its development, but is no longer providing support. Still, the GlassFish community remains strong.


  • Supports Enterprise JavaBeans, JPA, JavaServer Faces, JMS, RMI, JavaServer Pages, servlets and more
  • Developers can create portable and scalable enterprise applications that integrate with legacy systems
  • Lightweight application

Pricing and Support Plans

There is no cost associated with downloading Glassfish software. There is product documentation available online. In addition, there are a number of resources available including forums and a product wiki.

3. Apache Tomcat

Apache Tomcat is an open-source implementation of several Java technologies. It is the result of a collaboration of the finest developers worldwide. You can get involved with the development in a number of ways.


  • Lightweight code resulting in fast load and deployment times
  • Flexible, with built-in customization options
  • Provides a stable platform

Pricing and Support Plans

There are no costs for using Apache Tomcat; it is released under Apache License 2.0. Support is provided by the community.

4. Payara Server

The Payara Server was derived from GlassFish. It offers 24/7 production and developer support. This server is optimized for production and is secure by default. Payara has implemented its own enhancements and fixes, and has no association with Oracle. Plans are in place to address advanced database capabilities, enhanced diagnostics and more.

The Payara Server will always be open source. The code is owned by a UK-based not-for-profit company that is dedicated to ensuring the ongoing development and maintenance of the Server to benefit the user community.


  • The Payara Server is a direct replacement for the GlassFish Server Open Source Edition
  • Quarterly releases contain bug fixes, patches and enhancements
  • Custom consoles can be created with enhanced reporting and administrative features
  • The Payara GitHub Profile supports an active user community

Pricing and Support Plans

There is no cost for the use of Payara Server; no license is required due to its open source status.

Final thoughts

Choosing the right application server requires careful consideration. To make sure you choose the right solution, consider the features you need. Some servers can be overly complicated if you don’t need all the features offered. In addition, decide the level of support you need based on your level of in-house expertise. Finally, consider how easy the application is to use and manage.

Not sure where to start? We recommend Red Hat’s JBoss EAP with a full subscription which comes with enterprise support.

Need help evaluating open source application services? Contact a Shadow-Soft consultant today.