In the Java EE platform, web components provide the dynamic extension capabilities for a web server. Web components can be Java servlets, web pages implemented with JavaServer Faces technology, web service endpoints, or JSP pages. Figure 3-1 illustrates the interaction between a web client and a web application that uses a servlet. The client sends an HTTP request to the web server. A web server that implements Java Servlet and JavaServer Pages technology converts the request into an HTTPServletRequest object. This object is delivered to a web component, which can interact with JavaBeans components or a database to generate dynamic content. The web component can then generate an HTTPServletResponse or can pass the request to another web component. A web component eventually generates a HTTPServletResponse object. The web server converts this object to an HTTP response and returns it to the client.
Servlets are Java programming language classes that dynamically process requests and construct responses. Java technologies, such as JavaServer Faces and Facelets, are used for building interactive web applications. (Frameworks can also be used for this purpose.) Although servlets and Java Server Faces and Facelets pages can be used to accomplish similar things, each has its own strengths. Servlets are best suited for service-oriented applications (web service endpoints can be implemented as servlets) and the control functions of a presentation-oriented application, such as dispatching requests and handling nontextual data. Java Server Faces and Facelets pages are more appropriate for generating text-based markup, such as XHTML, and are generally used for presentation–oriented applications.
Web components are supported by the services of a runtime platform called a web container. A web container provides such services as request dispatching, security, concurrency, and lifecycle management. A web container also gives web components access to such APIs as naming, transactions, and email.
Certain aspects of web application behavior can be configured when the application is installed, or deployed, to the web container. The configuration information can be specified using Java EE annotations or can be maintained in a text file in XML format called a web application deployment descriptor (DD). A web application DD must conform to the schema described in the Java Servlet specification.
This chapter gives a brief overview of the activities involved in developing web applications. First, it summarizes the web application lifecycle and explains how to package and deploy very simple web applications on the GlassFish Server. The chapter moves on to configuring web applications and discusses how to specify the most commonly used configuration parameters.