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Developing Java Web Services with AXIS

  • December 6, 2004
  • By Usman Saleem
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Publishing Web Services Using Axis

Now that you have customized your Web application to use Axis as a SOAP engine, it's time to publish the Web services. Axis provides two ways to deploy the Web services. Both of these methods are also covered in detail in the Axis User's guide. The discussion on the first technique is similar to the one discussed in the official documentation. The discussion of the second technique, however, differs primarily in the usage of the wsdd file. I prefer to use the server-config.wsdd file to make the suggested advanced changes.

Instant Deployment: Renaming .java to .jws

The simplest and most straightforward way to deploy Web services is to rename the .java file to .jws and place it in the root of your Web application. JWS stands for Java Web Service. Say you have a .java file named Calculator.java; you then can rename it to Calculator.jws, place it in the root of your Web application, deploy your Web application, and finally you can access the WSDL contents of the Web service as http://yourhost:yourport/yourwebapp/Calculator.jws?wsdl.

It's simple indeed, yes, but only for the simplest application. One of the major caveats of using this technique is that you are forced to use mainly primitive data types and some very common Java classes such as java.util.Date (an exact mapping list is available on the Axis Web site) as method arguments and method return types. In other words, you cannot use your custom made classes (also sometimes referred to as Value Objects or VOs) as method parameters or return types.

Advanced Deployment: Configuring the server-config.wsdd File

The advanced deployment allows us to use our own classes as parameter values and return type of methods. Value Objects or VOs are typically used to represent the collection of data that needs to be passed on via methods.

Here's an example to explain the advanced deployment. Create a class, say as EmployeeManager.java. It contains two methods: getAllEmployees that returns array of Employee class and setEmployee that has Employee class array as an input parameter. The Employee class is a typical Java bean containing, for instance, getters/setters for name (String), salary (double), and designation (String).

The EmployeeManager class will act as a Web service that exposes two Web methods. Here are the sample definitions of the above two classes:

package mypackage;
 * Web service front end for employees. Provides web methods.
 * @author saleemu
public class EmployeeManager {
     * Get all employees
     * @return array of Employee array
    public Employee[] getAllEmployees() {
        Employee[] employees = null;
        //load Employee array from some DAO
        return employees;
     * Save employees
     * @param employees array of Employee objects
    public void setEmployee(Employee[] employees) {
        //call some DAO to save employee array

package mypackage;
 * Employee Value Object
 * @author saleemu
public class Employee {
    private String name;
    private double salary;
    private String designation;

     * @return Returns the name.
    public String getName() {
        return name;
     * @param name The name to set.
    public void setName(String name) {
        this.name = name;
     * @return Returns the salary.
    public double getSalary() {
        return salary;
     * @param salary The salary to set.
    public void setSalary(double salary) {
        this.salary = salary;
     * @return Returns the designation.
    public String getDesignation() {
        return designation;
     * @param designation The designation to set.
    public void setDesignation(String designation) {
        this.designation = designation;

Once you have your Web services front end class, required beans, and so on, compile them and either place the generated .class file in the WEB-INF/classes folder of your Web application or archive them to jar and place them in the WEB-INF/lib folder of your Web application.

Now, it's time to modify the server-config.wsdd file and add a service element that will define your Web service. Here is the typical definition of a service element for the above mentioned class; I have bolded the important information that will differ from one Web service to another:

<service name="EmployeeWebService" provider="java:RPC">
  <parameter name="allowedMethods" value="*"/>
  <parameter name="className" value="mypackage.EmployeeManager"/>

  <beanMapping languageSpecificType="java:mypackage.Employee"
               qname="ns1:Employee" xmlns:ns1="urn:mypackage"/>


The sub-element parameter defines the class that will act as a Web service and how many methods are allowed to act as Web methods.

The beanMapping sub-element points to your custom bean. This element allows Axis to handle (most appropriately serialize and de-serialize) the Java classes that are not handled by default by Axis (mostly primitive) and they follow the Java bean style setter and getter methods. You have to define as many bean mappings as the beans used by the Web method and the beans used within those beans.

What about the classes that do not follow Java bean style specifications and you want to use them with Axis? Axis allows you to write custom a Serializer and Deserializer to handle such classes. How to write a custom Serializer/Deserializer is a complete topic in itself. The Axis official documentation does not provide much detail on how to write them and there is very little help available on the Internet. I had to dive into the Axis source code to come up with my own custom Serializer and Deserializer for java.sql.Blob. Maybe I'll write another article completely on that topic.

Now that you have customized the server-config.wsdd file, you can access your new Web service's WSDL by using URL, for example, as http://yourhost:yourport/yourwebapp/services/EmployeeWebService?wsdl.

Accessing Your Web Services

Learning exactly how to access a Web service from a Java client or .NET client is beyond the scope of this article; it deserves an article of its own. Nevertheless, WSDL2Java is the excellent tool to generate proxy classes to access any Web service, similarly by the way that adding a Web reference in a Visual Studio.NET project generates all necessary classes to access any Web service.


Axis has simplified the development of Java Web services. Its customization allows you to make your Web applications expose Web services and Web methods without much of the hassle.

Happy Java Web service programming.

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