What is an Application pool?

All non-static pages and applications (static: "HTML only" pages, images, etc.) are interpreted and executed by the server. Application Pools were introduced in IIS 6 as a way of keeping the effects from the code executed by different virtual servers as encapsulated as possible.

An application pool is a group of URLs that are routed to one or more worker processes that share the same configuration. The URLs that you assign to an application pool can be for an application, a Web site, a Web directory or a virtual directory.

How Application Pools Work

When you run IIS in worker process isolation mode, you can separate different Web applications and Web sites into groups known as application pools. An application pool is a group of one or more URLs that are served by a worker process or set of worker processes. Any Web directory or virtual directory can be assigned to an application pool.

Every application within an application pool shares the same worker process. Because each worker process operates as a separate instance of the worker process executable, W3wp.exe, the worker process that services one application pool is separated from the worker process that services another. Each separate worker process provides a process boundary so that when an application is assigned to one application pool, problems in other application pools do not affect the application. This ensures that if a worker process fails, it does not affect the applications running in other application pools.

Use multiple application pools when you want to help ensure that applications and Web sites are confidential and secure. For example, an enterprise organization might place its human resources Web site and its finance Web site on the same server, but in different application pools. Likewise, an ISP that hosts Web sites and applications for competing companies might run each company Web services on the same server, but in different application pools. Using different application pools to isolate applications helps prevent one customer from accessing, changing or using confidential information from another customers site.

An application pool is represented by a request queue, from which the user-mode worker processes that service an application pool collect the requests. Each pool can manage requests for one or more unique Web applications, which you assign to the application pool based on their URLs. Application pools, then, are essentially worker process configurations that service groups of namespaces.

Multiple application pools can operate at the same time. An application, as defined by its URL, can only be served by one application pool at any time. While one application pool is servicing a request, you cannot route the request to another application pool. However, you can assign applications to another application pool while the server is running.

Benefits

By using an application pool, you can assign specific configuration settings to a worker process (or, in the case of a Web garden, to a set of worker processes) that services a group of applications. For example, you can configure worker process recycling, which offers several configuration options to match the needs of each application. If, for example, you suspect that an application has a memory leak, you might configure the application pools worker process to recycle when its memory use reaches a certain threshold. If another application fails because of the volume of requests that it receives, you can set the application pools worker process to recycle when the application exceeds a specified number of requests.

By creating new application pools and assigning Web sites and applications to them, you can make your server more efficient, reliable, and secure, and ensure that your applications remain available even when a worker process serving an application pool is recycled because of a faulty application.

Resources such as memory (RAM), CPU load and required CPU time can be limited separately for each application pool. Pools that generate too many errors within a specific time frame can be disabled automatically. Application pools can be restarted automatically (recycling), e.g. every night or if certain resources are exceeded. Note however, that all information on the current sessions (session variables) will be lost.