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In the past when I needed to run something on Tomcat, I just made a .war file and deployed it.

While that is a common way to do things in the Tomcat world (it seems), I was taking a hit with downtime when I was trying to deploy a new .war file.

The web application would not get served up while the new .war was getting uploaded, and then Tomcat rebooted (to my best memory a new .war required a reboot).

Is that common to have that kind of downtime when installing a new .war file each time? Or was I doing something wrong? Is there a more correct way to deploy new versions of the application on Tomcat without needing as much or any downtime?

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You can turn auto deployment on but it is not considered a best practice due to security concerns. With tomcat 7, you also have what is called "parallel deployment", which sounds cool but I have not read about other people's experiences with it. In theory, you will have your old version being served up alongside your new version. Established sessions would use your old version. New sessions would hit the new version.

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