Using RMI with Apache Jserv

One of the greatest advantages which Jserv brings to Apache is ability to leverage the large number of API’s available to Java. Remote Method Invocation (RMI) delivers several significant benefits to the servlet solution. The primary benefit of using RMI with servlets is that it significantly expands the variety of datasources which Apache can serve to the browser. Furthermore, RMI’s simplifies code on the client side of the RMI connection (the servlet), and also allows for load distribution.

One of the greatest advantages which Jserv brings to Apache is ability to leverage the large number of API’s available to Java. Remote Method Invocation (RMI) delivers several significant benefits to the servlet solution. The primary benefit of using RMI with servlets is that it significantly expands the variety of datasources which Apache can serve to the browser. Furthermore, RMI’s simplifies code on the client side of the RMI connection (the servlet), and also allows for load distribution.

For example, if you wanted a servlet to access a database through JDBC, you would start off with importing the java.sql package into your servlet. Then your servlet would have to manage handling the database connection, preparing and executing SQL statements, as well as managing the result sets. This adds a lot of complexity to your servlet, as not only does it have to handle logic & return appropriate responses to the browser, it is also bogged down managing communications with the database.

Servlet <== JDBC ==> Database
With RMI, an abstraction layer is added between the data source and the servlet. This layer, the RMI Service (or server tier), provides an simplified interface to the client, handling all of the internals of communicating with the database.

Servlet <== Remote Interface ==> RMI Service <== JDBC ==> Database
So, instead of having to manage the database communications in your servlet, RMI hides all the that from your servlet behind its remote interface.

With RMI, the server tier can be anything, as long as it implements the defined remote interface. The service could even be hosted on a different machine with a different operating system. The client will not care if the server tier stores its data in a database, LDAP server, or even text files. Your Linux Apache-Jserv box could be pulling data from an application server on a Solaris box.


Using RMI with Apache Jserv is fairly straight-forward, and the procedure in this example pretty much follows the RMI examples which can be found in the JDK documentation or Sun’s tutorial. The steps include:

  1. Design the remote interface
  2. Implement the remote interface
  3. Compile the classes, create the stub and skeleton classes
  4. Create the client program (in this case, the servlet)
  5. Deploy

In the following example, we will create a simple email address book. The server will store it’s data in a Hashtable. Of course, the data in the server will disappear when the server is stopped, but that’s okay for this example’s purposes. For a more robust server, the address book data could be stored in a database, LDAP server, or any other type of data storage. The servlet (client) will use the address book service through RMI.

There are three packages in our example. The first one, is the directory.* package. It holds the remote interface class, as well as the Entry class, a data structure representing an directory record. The server package will contain the implementation of the remote interface. The client package contains the servlet which talks to the server implementation via RMI.

{mospagebreak title=Design the Remote Interface}

First we must decide what kind of interface the address book will have; what type of interactions do we want to allow the remote client to have? For basic functionality, the directory should include the ability to search, get an entry’s details, add an entry, and to retrieve all the entries.


package directory; import java.rmi.Remote; import java.rmi.RemoteException; public interface Directory extends Remote { Entry getEntry(String key) throws RemoteException; String addEntry(Entry newEntry) throws RemoteException; Entry [] getEntries() throws RemoteException; Entry [] search(String query) throws RemoteException; }
The above Java file defines the remote interface through which the remote client and server will communicate. The requirements for a remote interface is that it extend the java.rmi.Remote class and that each remote method defined throw the java.rmi.RemoteException in addition to whatever application specific exceptions it might throw. One issue to be mindful of is that the methods’ arguements and return values are transported over RMI, so they must implement the Serializable interface.

The Entry class represents the directory records which are stored & managed by the a class implementing the Directory interface.

{mospagebreak title=Implement the Remote Interface}

The server.AddressBook is the implementation of the Directory interface, extending UnicastRemoteObject. A UnicastRemoteObject is a convenience class, facilitating RMI communications. It is not necessary for the server to have the UnicastRemoteObject superclass, but then you would have to call serveral UnicastRemoteObject methods yourself to make the service RMI-enabled.

package server; import java.rmi.*; import java.rmi.server.*; import java.rmi.registry.*; import java.util.Vector; import java.util.Hashtable; import java.util.Enumeration; import directory.Directory; import directory.Entry; public class AddressBook extends UnicastRemoteObject implements Directory { public Entry getEntry(String key) throws RemoteException { // getEntry() method body } public String addEntry(Entry e) throws RemoteException { // addEntry() method body } public Entry[] getEntries() throws RemoteException { // getEntries() method body } public Entry[] search(String query) throws RemoteException { // search() method body } public static void main (String args[]) { // main method body (see below) } }

The main() method allows the AddressBook to be run from the command line. After ensuring a workable SecurityManager is installed, the rmiregistry is started up. In the examples in Sun’s RMI Tutorial, the rmiregistry is started as a different process by running the “rmiregistry” program found in the jdk1.x.x/bin directory. Instead, we will automatically create the rmiregistry in main() method with a call to LocateRegistry.createRegistry() on port 4000. It should be noted that the RMI registry could be hosted on a completely different machine too. You would replace localhost in the name string with the hostname of the machine running the RMI registry.

public static void main (String args[]) { AddressBook addressBook = null; if (System.getSecurityManager() == null) { System.setSecurityManager(new RMISecurityManager()); } try { System.out.println(“Creating RMIRegistry…”); LocateRegistry.createRegistry(4000); String name = “//localhost:4000/addressBook”; System.out.println(“Creating Address Book…”); addressBook = new AddressBook(); Naming.rebind(name, addressBook); System.out.println(“Address Book created …”); } catch (Exception e) { e.printStackTrace(); } System.out.println(“Populating AddressBook…”); addressBook.addEntry(new ServerEntry(“Jeff”, “”)); addressBook.addEntry(new ServerEntry(“Leonardo”, “”)); addressBook.addEntry(new ServerEntry(“Jose Alexis”, “”)); addressBook.addEntry(new ServerEntry(“Walter”, “”)); addressBook.addEntry(new ServerEntry(“Chris”, “”)); }
After the rmiregistry is created, a new AddressBook is created, and then bound to the rmiregistry. The Naming.rebind() registers the AddressBook’s Directory service in the rmiregistry on port 4000 of the localhost, making it available to clients. Lastly, the addressbook is populated with serveral Entries.

{mospagebreak title=Compile the classes, and create the stub and skeleton classes}

Compiling the classes is pretty straightforward; just use javac to compile the classes. From the base directory, do:

$ javac directory/*.java $ javac server/*.java
on Windows operating systems it will look something like:

> javac directory*.java > javac server*.java
Next, create the stub and skeleton classes ( and using the rmic tool.

rmic -d . server.AddressBook
The -d flag tells rmic to where to place the generated stub and skeleton classes. In this case, the generated classes are placed relative to the local directory, in the server package. The skeleton file is a server-side object which handles forwarding remote method invocations to the actual server-side implementation. The stub file is deployed on the client side, serving as a proxy for remote clients to forward method calls to the server side implementation.

{mospagebreak title=Create the client program (the servlet)}

Enabling the servlet ( to talk to the remote Directory service is a fairly straightforward procedure. Just like any other RMI client, the servlet instantiates the remote object with a call to Naming.lookup(). After the remote object is instantiated, you can work with the object as if it were local.

The init() and doGet() methods are the particularly interesting methods in the Booklet servlet.

public class Booklet extends HttpServlet { private Directory dir; private String url; public void init(ServletConfig config) throws ServletException { super.init(config); if (System.getSecurityManager() == null ) { System.setSecurityManager(new RMISecurityManager()); String rmiRegistryHost = getInitParameter(“rmiRegistryHost”); if (rmiRegistryHost == null) { rmiRegistryHost = “localhost”; } try { String name = “//” + rmiRegistryHost + “:4000/addressBook”; this.dir = (Directory) Naming.lookup(name); } catch (Exception e) { e.printStackTrace(); } } } public void doGet (HttpServletRequest req, HttpServletResponse res) throws IOException, ServletException { res.setContentType(“text/html”); PrintWriter out = res.getWriter(); this.url = req.getRequestURI(); String cmd = req.getParameter(“cmd”); printHeader(out); printForm(out); try { if (cmd.equals(“search”)) { out.println(“<h4>Search Results:</h4>”); printResults(“query”)), out); } else if (cmd.equals(“add”)) { out.println(“<h4>New Entry:</h4>”); printEntry( dir.getEntry( dir.addEntry( new ClientEntry( req.getParameter(“name”), req.getParameter(“email”) ) )), out); } else if (cmd.equals(“get”)) { out.println(“<h4>Directory Entry:</h4>”); printEntry(dir.getEntry(req.getParameter(“key”)), out); } else if (cmd.equals(“everybody”)) { out.println(“<h4>Complete Directory Listing:</h4>”); printResults(dir.getEntries(), out); } } catch (RemoteException e) { out.print(“<h3>Error with the RMI Transport</h3>”); } catch (NullPointerException e) { out.println(“Search for an entry, create an entry, ” + “or get an entry using the forms on the left.”); e.printStackTrace(); } printFooter(out); } // rest of servlet methods…. }
Upon initialization, the servlet first checks the SecurityManager and sets it if needed. Next, the servlet checks for the initialization parameter named “rmiRegistryHost”, the name of the computer hosting the RMI registry to which the Directory service is bound. To specify the rmiRegistryHost, in your servlet zone’s properties file, insert this line:

If this arguement is not defined, the getInitParameter() method will return null and the rmiRegistryHost will be set to the localhost. Then the init() method obtains the Directory service with Naming.lookup(), and stores it in a private variable, keeping it around for reuse. If the remote service was obtained inside a service method, like doGet(), the servlet would have to obtain the remote object with every request, an expensive procedure where repeating it should be minimized. Instead, one instance of the remote directory service will be reused for the lifetime of the servlet.

The doGet() method, then services the incoming requests to the servlet. It examines the parameters passed to it from the HTML form and then calls the appropriate methods on the remote Directory service.

Nothing particularly special needs to be done in compiling the client classes; just use the basic java compiler, javac.

$ javac client/*.java

> javac client*.java

Make the JAR files

Now we’re going to bundle our classes into JAR files. While not an absolute requirement, this eases the deployment step as well as distribution. At the command prompt, type:

$ jar -cvf client.jar client/*.class directory/*.class server/AddressBook_Stub.class
on Windows operating systems the slashes change to backslashes:

> jar -cvf client.jar client*.class directory*.class serverAddressBook_Stub.class
The “c” tag tells the jar tool to create a new file. The “v” tag turns on verbose output, so you can see exactly what the jar tool is doing. The “f” tag tells the jar tool that you will specify the name of the jar file to be created, which is the argument following the “f” tag, client.jar. The next arguments specify which files should go into the jar file.

On the client side, the only the stub class is absolutely necessary for RMI communication to work.

Create the server jar file:

$ jar -cvf server.jar server/*.class directory/*.class

> jar -cvf server.jar server*.class directory*.class
On the server side, both stub and skeleton classes generated by rmic are necessary.

Deploy the classes in Jserv

So far, the steps in this article have followed the procedures described in Sun’s RMI tutorial or the Javadoc. The only really Jserv specific part is the deployment. Installation of the client servlet is fairly straight forward:

  • Copy the client.jar file on to your webserver.
  • Add the jar file to Jserv’s global classpath. This is done in the file. Add the line:

Of course, this is assuming you already have a servlet zone set up. If the RMI registry is going to be running on a different computer, then specify the rmiRegistryHost parameter for the servlet as described above. (If you need help with setting up Apache Jserv, check out Ari Halberstadt’s Using Apache Jserv 1.0,

Now restart your Apache Jserv server to ensure that the client.jar file is accessible and the configuration changes take effect. Typically, an “apachectl restart” will do it.

Run it!

Now that the client has been deployed, the all that’s left to do is to run the demo. First fire up the server (making sure that the server.jar file is in your classpath…):

java -classpath=$CLASSPATH:/path/to/server.jar server.AddressBook

java -classpath=%CLASSPATH%;pathtoserver.jar server.AddressBook
The server should start, printing status messages to the console.

$ java server.AddressBook Creating RMIRegistry… Creating Address Book… Address Book created … Populating AddressBook… Added entry: Jeff Added entry: Leonardo Added entry: Jose Alexis Added entry: Walter Added entry: Chris
The parameter tells the Java virtual machine to use the security rules specified in the java.policy file. The file tells the JVM to accept all socket connections on ports above 1024. This parameter is necessary otherwise other machines won’t be able to connect to the rmiregistry.

In a web browser, go to the url which maps to the client.Booklet servlet. For a typical setup, this might be http://yourhost/servlets/client.Booklet. If you want to abbreviate the URL & not refer to the servlet by it’s package, in your file, you could add:

This creates an alias for the client.Booklet servlet; it’s nick name is “booklet”. Now you can access the Booklet servlet with a URL something like, http://yourhost/servlets/booklet, instead.

The servlet will return a form to your browser which will allow you to interact (search, add entries, select an entry, get all entries) with the AddressBook through the HTML form.

As you interact with the AddressBook via the servlet, status messages on what the AddressBook is doing should appear in the console in which it was started.

… All entries retrieved… Added entry: John Retrieved entry: John Queried on:Leo
{mospagebreak title=Conclusion}

As you can see, RMI allowed us to host the Directory service on a machine separate from the web server. Not only does this allow us to load balance applications, but it also allows your Apache Jserv box to connect to data sources hosted on different machines with different OS’s. For example, in a two tier approach, a WinNT or Solaris server could host the the database or application server, and your Linux Apache-Jserv machine would then access the data sources via RMI.

The code on the client side is fairly straightforward. The servlet only knows about the Directory interface, and all the code dealing with the data storage & retrieval is hidden behind that interface. The RMI service implementation, server.AddressBook is a simple example, using a HashMap to store the data. A more robust Directory implementation data would store its data in a database or LDAP server. For the servlet (RMI client), it doesn’t matter where the data is coming from; it’s happy as long as the service implementing the directory.Directory interface is available from the RMI registry.


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