Sun GlassFish Enterprise Server v3 Administration Guide


Authentication is the way in which an entity (a user, an application, or a component) determines that another entity is who it claims to be. An entity uses security credentials to authenticate itself. The credentials might be a user name and password, a digital certificate, or something else. Usually, servers or applications require clients to authenticate themselves. Additionally, clients might require servers to authenticate themselves. When authentication is bidirectional, it is called mutual authentication.

When an entity tries to access a protected resource, Enterprise Server uses the authentication mechanism configured for that resource to determine whether to grant access. For example, a user can enter a user name and password in a web browser, and if the application verifies those credentials, the user is authenticated. The user is associated with this authenticated security identity for the remainder of the session.

Authentication Types

Within its deployment descriptors, an application specifies the type of authentication that it uses. Enterprise Server supports the following types of authentication:


Uses the server's built-in login dialog box. The communication protocol is HTTP (SSL optional). There is no user-credentialed encryption unless using SSL.


The application provides its own custom login and error pages. The communication protocol is HTTP (SSL optional). There is no user-credentialed encryption unless using SSL.


The server authenticates the client using a public key certificate. The communication protocol is HTTPS (HTTP over SSL). User-credentialed encryption is SSL.


The server authenticates a user based on a user name and a password. The authentication is performed by transmitting the password in an encrypted form which is much more secure than the simple Base64 encoding used by BASIC authentication. The communication protocol is HTTPS.


Passwords are your first line of defense against unauthorized access to the components and data of Enterprise Server. For Information about how to use passwords for Enterprise Server, see Administering Passwords.

Master Password and Keystores

The master password is an overall shared password and is the most sensitive piece of data in the system. It is never used for authentication and is never transmitted over the network. You can choose to enter the master password manually when required, or obscure it in a file.

The master password is the password for the secure keystore. When a new application server domain is created, a new self-signed certificate is generated and stored in the relevant keystore, which is locked using the master password (default password changeit). If the master password is not the default (that is, you have changed it), you are prompted for the master password. After the correct master password is entered, the domain starts.

Administration Password

The administration password, also known as the admin password, is used to invoke the Administration Console and the asadmin utility. This password is usually set during installation, but it can be changed. For instructions, see To Change the Administration Password.

Encoded Passwords

Files that contain encoded passwords need to be protected using file system permissions. These files include the following:

For instructions, see To Set a Password From a File.

Password Aliases

To avoid storing passwords in the domain configuration file in clear text, you can create an alias for a password. This process is also known as encrypting a password. For more information, see Administering Password Aliases.

Single Sign-on

With single sign-on, a user who logs in to one application becomes implicitly logged in to other applications that require the same authentication information. Single sign-on is based on groups. All web applications whose deployment descriptor defines the same group and uses the same authentication method (BASIC, FORM, or CLIENT-CERT) share single sign-on.

On Enterprise Server, single sign-on is enabled by default for virtual servers, allowing multiple applications in one virtual server to share the user authentication state.