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What Is Tomcat JSP Hosting?

Apache Tomcat, informally referred to as Tomcat, is an open source web server and servlet container which implements multiple Java EE specifications, including JavaServer Pages (JSP). Technically, the name of Tomcat's JSP engine is Jasper and the current version is Jasper 2.0.

JSP was developed and released by Sun Microsystems in 1999 and it is not really a framework or a programming language, but more like facilitating technology to assist in the development of dynamic Web pages on HTML, XML and other document systems. JSP is similar to PHP, but as the name suggests it is based on Java. The latest official JSP release is 2.2 and Jasper 2.0 handles JSP 2.x versions.

Tomcat, or an alternative web server with a servlet container, is used to deploy JSP pages. Tomcat's servlet container is dubbed Catalina, while the connector component that supports the HTTP 1.1 is Coyote, which allows Tomcat to act as a plain web server for local files and HTTP documents.

Dynamic Web apps with a cup of Java

Tomcat provides management and configuration tools for developers, and it uses its JSP engine to create a pure Java environment in which Java code can run. Tomcat and JSP offer developers the ability to generate dynamic Web content without having to use a full applet.

This approach is supposed to save time and money. Since Tomcat is developed and maintained by the Apache Software Foundation, it is open-source and free of charge under Apache License 2.0.

Since 1999, Tomcat has gone through a number of major releases and the current stable version is 8.0.15. However, 7.0.x releases are still widely used.

Tomcat software and hardware requirements

Tomcat 7.x requires Java version 1.6 to run properly, unlike older releases that used Java 1.1 through 1.5. Tomcat 7.x also implements Servlet 3.0 and JSP 2.2 specifications.

The requirements actually have more to do with Oracle than Apache, since most of them revolve around Java support. This means Java requirements are the ones to look out for, but they vary depending on the version of Java and Tomcat you intend to use.

For example, Tomcat 6.0.x requires Servlet 2.5 and JSP 2.1, while Tomcat 8.0.x uses Servlet 3.1 and JSP 2.3. Upcoming Tomcat 9.0.x releases will be compatible with Servlet 4.0 and possibly JSP 2.4.

Tomcat hosting choices

Finding the right kind of hosting ultimately boils down to finding a host that can accommodate Java overall. This will mean at least a couple of things.

First, check to see whether the host offers cPanel, and ensure the mod_jk module is integrated into it. This will allow for JSP and servlet functionality to be enabled. Also, you should be able to deploy JSP and servlets via the cPanel. This is usually a given for cPanel, but it's always a good idea to confirm the function before making a purchase and opening an account.

Second, if you intend to use the latest available Tomcat releases, or even use unstable releases for testing and early stage development, you will need a host with a good track record of deploying the latest Java updates.

Remember, Tomcat is a tight niche

Although solid Java support is the most obvious prerequisite for Tomcat JSP hosting, you need to bear in mind that Tomcat hosting remains a relatively tight niche.

Tomcat is not a big money maker for big hosting companies, so they focus most of their effort on more marketable plans, such as those geared toward the millions of WordPress users.

Many big hosts lack specific Tomcat hosting plans, but at the same time this also means that smaller outfits see an opportunity in catering to the Tomcat community. These plans provide you with Tomcat out of the box, saving time and effort.

These hosts usually offer starter packages at symbolic prices, while more serious (and useful) plans come in a wide range of prices. This is understandable because Tomcat is extremely scalable, hence prices range from just a couple of dollars a month for entry-level VPS plans to pricey high-bandwidth plans with 4GB of RAM, ample SSD storage and powerful octa-core Xeon processors. Prices for these high-end plans can easily end up in triple digit territory.

The fact that many mainstream hosting companies don't tend to be involved in the Tomcat niche does not mean there are no good alternatives. On the contrary, a number of small companies specialise in this space and get good user ratings, so there is nothing to worry about.

Tomcat JSP Hosting Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is JSP?

    JSP stands for JavaServer Pages.

  • What is a JavaServer Page?

    A JavaServer Page, or JSP, is a technology that allows developers to build dynamically generated HTML, XML, or other text based files formats using the Java language.

  • How does a developer use JavaServer Pages?

    JavaServer Pages files allow a developer to write static content (such as HTML) and then include dynamic content (variables, functions — Java code) into the file. This is very similar to the way PHP or ERB (Embedded Ruby) allows dynamic code to be embedded into a text file.

  • What language is JSP code written in?

    JSP code is written in the Java programming language. It can be embedded into any file format which is text based, such as HTML, XML or even CSS and Javascript.

  • Who developed JavaServer Pages?

    JSP was originally developed by Sun Microsystems, and released in 1999. It is currently owned by Oracle.

  • What operating systems can JavaServer Pages be run on?

    Because JSP is a Java technology, JSP can be run on any OS that supports a Java Virtual Machine. JVMs exist for almost every operating system and platform available, so JSP can be used almost anywhere.

  • What software is needed to run a JSP-based app?

    Besides a Java Virtual Machine, deploying and running JavaServer Pages requires a compatible web server with a servlet container, such as Apache Tomcat or Jetty.

  • How is JSP created?

    JSP is a high level abstraction Java servlet. When a JSP app is run, each JSP page is converted into a servlet which is then cached and reused until the original JSP file is modified.

  • Is JSP compatible with MVC or other type of architecture?

    Yes. JavaServer Pages can be used as a standalone tool for a small dynamic web site or app, or as the view component in a larger MVC (or other) architecture. Typically, when used in an MVC environment, the Model is built using JavaBeans while the Controller is built using Java servlets or a framework such as JavaServer Faces or Apache Struts.

  • What is the standard output of a JSP files?

    JSP files are compiled at run time into Java servelts. When a web server receives a request for the .jsp file, the servlet returns a document. Typically, this is an HTML document, but in theory any document type could be returned.

  • What is the benefit of JavaServer Pages?

    Any programming language can write output to an HTML document or other format for web consumption. Certainly, Java was capable of doing this long before JSP was deveoped. JSP, though, makes it easier to output templated documents that only need a fraction of their content to be dynamic.

    Rather than line after line of print commands, and having to worry about character escapes and reserved words, JSP allows developers to write documents in the output language. This is a much simpler approach, which has largely been adopted by other programming languages. PHP was designed this way, as was ERB (embedded Ruby). Even JavaScript has taken this route in recent years.

  • Can markup (or other output text) be included in programming blocks?

    Yes. Programming blocks can be split across blocks of markup. The output text inside the block is determined by that block. For example, markup text appearing within an IF statement will only be output if the conditional is TRUE. Similarly, markup can be included within loops and any other programming constructs.

  • Can JSP be used with the Unified Expression Language?

    Yes. Data and functions from Java objects can be easily accessed from within JavaServer Pages servlets via the usual UEL syntax. This makes JSP highly compatible with JavaServer Faces, which also uses UEL.

  • Can JSP be extended with custom tags and libraries?

    Yes. In addition to the tags created by JSP itself, developers can create libraries of custom tags to add functionality to JSP. Additionally, there is a standard library for JSP, called JSTL (JSP Standard Tag Library) which provides JSP tags for common tasks, such as XML data processing, conditional execution, database access, loops, and internationalization.

  • Are JSP pages compiled?

    Yes. Typically, a JSP file is compiled at runtime into JavaScript bytecode, which is run as a Java servlet. The compiled code is then run only when the .jsp file is requested from the web server. JSP can also be precompiled, for performance.

  • Can JSP files be modified during run time?

    Yes. Most JSP containers can be configured to periodically check the .jsp source files and recompile the servlet if changes are found. The recompile time is typically set very low (seconds) during development, and then increased or turned off altogether for deployed, production code.

  • What are the major alternatives to JavaServer Pages?

    JSP is the primary templating language for Java, but others exist. Most prominently the Tea templating language, which is open-source.

    Moving away from Java, there are several other technologies that provide the same benefits. JSP was largely responsible for moving developers off the earlier (and now defunct) ASP technology.

    PHP was designed to work like JSP, and is now a complete programming language in its own right. Embedded Ruby provides a templating language similar to JSP. Several Javascript libraries such as Mustache and Handlebars (as well as most JS frameworks) move HTML templating to the client side, so these could actually be used with a Java application on the server delivering JSON data in an Ajax context.

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