The Java EE 5 Tutorial

Mapping Security Roles to Application Server Groups

The Application Server assigns users to principals or groups, rather than to security roles. When you are developing a Java EE application, you don’t need to know what categories of users have been defined for the realm in which the application will be run. In the Java EE platform, the security architecture provides a mechanism for mapping the roles defined in the application to the users or groups defined in the runtime realm.

To map a role name permitted by the application or module to principals (users) and groups defined on the server, use the security-role-mapping element in the runtime deployment descriptor (sun-application.xml, sun-web.xml, or sun-ejb-jar.xml) file. The entry needs to declare a mapping between a security role used in the application and one or more groups or principals defined for the applicable realm of the Application Server. An example for the sun-application.xml file is shown below:


The role name can be mapped to either a specific principal (user), a group, or both. The principal or group names referenced must be valid principals or groups in the current default realm of the Application Server. The role-name in this example must exactly match the role-name in the security-role element of the corresponding web.xml file or the role name defined in the @DeclareRoles or @RolesAllowed annotations.

    Sometimes the role names used in the application are the same as the group names defined on the Application Server. Under these circumstances, you can enable a default principal-to-role mapping on the Application Server using the Admin Console. To enable the default principal-to-role-mapping, follow these steps:

  1. Start the Application Server, then the Admin Console.

  2. Expand the Configuration node.

  3. Select the Security node.

  4. On the Security page, check the Enabled box beside Default Principal to Role Mapping.

For an enterprise application, you can specify the security role mapping at the application layer, in sun-application.xml, or at the module layer, in sun-ejb-jar.xml. When specified at the application layer, the role mapping applies to all contained modules and overrides same-named role mappings at the module layer. The assembler is responsible for reconciling the module-specific role mappings to yield one effective mapping for the application.

Both example applications demonstrate security role mapping. For more information, see Example: Securing an Enterprise Bean and Example: Using the isCallerInRole and getCallerPrincipal Methods.