Open SourceDeveloping JAX-RPC-Based Web Services Using Axis and SOAP

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Web services are software applications that are based on a collection of industry standards and can be shared by and used as components of distributed Web-based applications. They can be identified by an URI and their public interfaces can be described and discovered using XML.

With the rising needs of interoperability and application integration, Web services serve as an optimal business solution because they are based on standard Internet protocols. Web services allow applications to process requests to remote and differential systems by speaking a common, non-proprietary language and using common transport protocols (such as HTTP and SMTP).

In this article, the focus will be on solving the previously mentioned problems by building inexpensive Web services using Axis, an open source SOAP implementation provided by Apache. For justification, the Web services build will be jax-rpc based, and in coming articles, I will deal with other methodologies, too.

The Java API for XML-based remote procedure calls (JAX-RPC) simplifies the process of building Web services that incorporate XML-based RPC. It defines mappings between Java types and XML types that attempt to hide the details of XML and provide a familiar method-call paradigm. This article elaborates how developers can use JAX-RPC to implement and call SOAP-based Web services described by the Web Services Description Language (WSDL) using Apache’s open source tools—Apache Tomcat for deployment and Apache Axis for SOAP implementation.

JAX-RPC–Based Web Services

JAX-RPC fully embraces the heterogeneous nature of Web services. It allows a JAX-RPC client to talk to another Web service deployed on a different platform and coded in a different language. JAX-RPC provides the specification for invocation modes, client generation, parameter modes, and type-mappings for Java to WSDL and WSDL to Java and client side APIs for invoking the Web service.

Invocation Modes and Clients

JAX-RPC supports three kinds of Web services invocation modes:

  • Synchronous request-response: A client invokes a remote method on a Web service and the thread blocks while it is processed by the Web service and receives a return value or an exception.

  • One-way RPC mode: A client invokes a remote method on a Web service in one-way mode and the thread does not block and continues execution. The client does not get any return value.

  • Non-blocking RPC mode: A client invokes a remote method on a Web service and continues processing in the same thread. Later, the client processes the remote method by performing a blocking receive or polling for return values.

In this article with above modes, we will see how the Java clients can be written or generated using synchronous request-response mode on a Tomcat-Axis combination.

Parameter Modes

The Web service invocation based on jax-rpc uses pass-by-copy semantics for parameter passing. It does not support the pass-by-reference way of parameter passing.

The following types of parameters are supported by jax-rpc:

  • IN type: An IN parameter is passed as a copy. The value of the IN parameter is copied before a Web service invocation. The return value is created as a copy and returned to the Web service client.

  • OUT type: An OUT parameter is passed as a copy without any input value to the Web service method. The Web service method fills out the OUT parameter and then returns it back to the client.

  • IN OUT type: An INOUT parameter is passed as a copy with an input value to the Web service method. The Web service method uses the input value, process it, fills in the INOUT parameter with a new value and returns it back to the client.

The parameter passing mode for out and inout parameters uses Holder classes. The use of Holder classes enables the mapping to preserve the intended WSDL signature and parameter passing semantics. The JAX-RPC specification includes “Holder classes” for the mapping of simple XML types to the Java data types. The holder classes for primitive ones (for ex, int, float, and so forth) are available with jax-rpc implementation under the javax.xml.rpc.holders package. For the complex XML data types, the name of the Holder class is constructed by appending Holder to the name of the corresponding Java class. These generated Holder classes are packaged as part of the generated sub package named holders in the wsdl to Java mapping.

Each Holder class provides the following methods and fields:

  • A public field named ‘value’. The type of value is the mapped Java type.

  • A default constructor that initializes the value field to a default value.

  • A constructor that sets the value field to the passed parameter.

Web Service Invocation

The Apache Tomcat-Axis combination provides a JAX-RPC 1.0 compliant runtime engine, which has both client-side and service-side libraries and deployment tools. Figure 1 elaborates the normal Web service invocation architecture for the synchronous request-response mode. The Application1 with WS client wrapper uses the JAX-RPC runtime to perform a remote procedure call to invoke a public method of Application 2 with the WS server wrapper. The client uses runtime libraries to serialize Java objects to a SOAP message and sends it to the Web service end point, using HTTP transport. As the Web service side that is deployed on Apache Tomcat receives this request, the service-side JAX-RPC runtime deserializes the SOAP message in to Java types and invokes the method on the Web service and in turn makes a call to Application 2. The Web service, after processing the request, sends response back to the client in a similar fashion.

Figure 1. Web Services Invocation Architecture

As of now, we understood the simple Web service invocation based on JAX-RPC. The next part of this article briefly develops a sample Web service, a dynamic client for it on Apache Tomcat with Axis.

Sample Web Service: Order Processing Web Service

I have chosen an ‘order processing’ example for its proximity to real business use case. This Web service will be capable of processing and updating a given order. For this, it will have two methods: processOrder and updateOrder. processOrder will be taking an orderID string as an IN parameter and an Order object as an OUT parameter. It will return a status string as a return parameter. updateOrder will be taking the Order object as an INOUT parameter and it will update orderDate and return the Order object back to the client. As both of these methods are using a complex datatype, Order, that is also an OUT/INOUT parameter, a holder class has to be developed. The Order class and its holder class are given below in Listings 1 and 2 (For clarity, the whole code is in the sample package):

Listing 1: Class Order.

package sample;
public class Order {
  // ID for order
  private String orderID = null;

  // date of order
  private String orderDate= null;

  // getter methodspublic String getOrderID() {
            return orderID;
 public String getOrderID() {
        return orderID;
  // setter methods
  public void setOrderID(String orderID) {
              this.orderID = orderID;
  } public void setOrderDate(String orderDate) {
                this. orderDate = orderDate;

Listing 2: Holder class for Class Order.

// Note that holder class is in the holders package and its name
// is derived by adding Holder as a suffix to 'Order', as per
// the JAX-RPC specification.
package sample.holders;

public class OrderHolder {
  // Order's object
  public Order  value = null;

  // default constructor
  public void OrderHolder () { }

  // constructor, which takes value as a parameter
  public void OrderHolder (Order value) {

Now, let’s develop our Web service for the described functionality. The code is given in Listing 3.

Listing 3: Order Processing Web service.

package sample;
public class OrderProcessingService {
  // Method 1: processes a order given ID as input and
  // return status and Order object as an OUT parameter
  public String processOrder(String orderID,
                             OrderHolder orderHolder ) {
                             String status = "pending";
    // perform business logic here
    // for simplicity just filling the Order object
    Order order = new Order();
    order.setOrderDate("03 March 2003");

    // set the Holder value to the order.
    orderHolder.value = order;
    //set the status
    status = "complete" ;
    return status;
  // Method 2: updates a order given Order as an INOUT
  // parameter and returns status.
  public String updateOrder(OrderHolder orderHolder) {
                            String status = "pending";
    // perform update here
    Order order = orderHolder.value;
    order.setOrderDate("03 April 2003");

    // Note that orderID is not changed.
    // It will be same as the passed one.

    // set the Holder value to the order.
    orderHolder.value = order;
    //set the status
     status = "complete" ;
    return status;

Now that we have finished with Web service development, the next step is to compile and deploy it on a Tomcat-Axis platform. After compilation, we need to deploy the preceding Web service on Tomcat-Axis, using a deployment descriptor. The sample ‘deploy.wsdd’ is shown in Listing 4 (for more details, please refer to the Tomcat-Axis Manual).

Listing 4: deploy.wsdd for deployment.


<service name=" OrderProcessingService" provider="java:RPC">
  <parameter name="className"
             value="sample.OrderProcessingService "/>
  <parameter name="allowedMethods" value="*"/>
    <operation name="processOrder">
      <parameter name="arg1" mode="IN"/>
      <parameter name="arg2" mode="OUT"/>
    <operation name="updateOrder">
      <parameter name="arg1" mode="INOUT"/>

The above deployment descriptor actually tells the server about the Web service, such as methods it exposes, parameters it is expecting, and the return types. To deploy the OrderProcessingService, we need to invoke the Axis admin service, passing this “deploy.wsdd”. The admin service, which is also running on the same server, will process the descriptor and deploy the Web service, so that it is ready to be invoked by clients.

Execute the following command from where you have kept the deploy.wsdd:

java -cp %AXISCLASSPATH% org.apache.axis.client.AdminClient
-lhttp://localhost:8080/axis/services/AdminService deploy.wsdd

Where AXISCLASSPATH is used to set the environment for Axis (for details, see the axis installation guide).

The OrderProcessing service will be available at the following URL:

In our case, it may look like:

Running the Client

To run the client, use this command:

<Prompt>java -cp %AXISCLASSPATH% sample.client.DynamicClient

The result will be:

Got the outparams (as mentioned in client we developed)


This article tried to demystify Web services and tell how easy and economic it is to develop jax-rpc based Web services using an open source tool—Axis from Apache. This article elaborated on “How to Develop” JAX-RPC based Web services in a way that gives the developer a freedom of writing a client and Web service that hides all the complexities of serializing objects in an on-the-wire XML format and, for developers, it will simply appear to be just a Java method invocation. As a next step to this article, I will deal with other methodologies and technologies involved in Web services.

About the Author

Mr. Rajesh Sumra has been working as a Senior Software Engineer for Hewlett-Packard. He has around three years of industry experience. He has extensively worked on Web service technologies such as WSDL, SOAP, and UDDI. Currently, he is involved in designing and developing a Web services-based framework for a mobile infrastructure for HP Labs, Japan. He holds a Masters degree in Information Technology from the Indian Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore. He can be reached at


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