The Java EE 5 Tutorial

Using SOAP Faults

In this section, you will see how to use the API for creating and accessing a SOAP fault element in an XML message.

Overview of SOAP Faults

If you send a message that was not successful for some reason, you may get back a response containing a SOAP fault element, which gives you status information, error information, or both. There can be only one SOAP fault element in a message, and it must be an entry in the SOAP body. Furthermore, if there is a SOAP fault element in the SOAP body, there can be no other elements in the SOAP body. This means that when you add a SOAP fault element, you have effectively completed the construction of the SOAP body.

A SOAPFault object, the representation of a SOAP fault element in the SAAJ API, is similar to an Exception object in that it conveys information about a problem. However, a SOAPFault object is quite different in that it is an element in a message’s SOAPBody object rather than part of the try/catch mechanism used for Exception objects. Also, as part of the SOAPBody object, which provides a simple means for sending mandatory information intended for the ultimate recipient, a SOAPFault object only reports status or error information. It does not halt the execution of an application, as an Exception object can.

If you are a client using the SAAJ API and are sending point-to-point messages, the recipient of your message may add a SOAPFault object to the response to alert you to a problem. For example, if you sent an order with an incomplete address for where to send the order, the service receiving the order might put a SOAPFault object in the return message telling you that part of the address was missing.

Another example of who might send a SOAP fault is an intermediate recipient, or actor. As stated in the section Adding Attributes, an actor that cannot process a header that has a mustUnderstand attribute with a value of true must return a SOAP fault to the sender.

A SOAPFault object contains the following elements:

Creating and Populating a SOAPFault Object

You have seen how to add content to a SOAPBody object; this section walks you through adding a SOAPFault object to a SOAPBody object and then adding its constituent parts.

As with adding content, the first step is to access the SOAPBody object.

SOAPBody body = message.getSOAPBody();

With the SOAPBody object body in hand, you can use it to create a SOAPFault object. The following line of code creates a SOAPFault object and adds it to body.

SOAPFault fault = body.addFault();

The SOAPFault interface provides convenience methods that create an element, add the new element to the SOAPFault object, and add a text node, all in one operation. For example, in the following lines of SOAP 1.1 code, the method setFaultCode creates a faultcode element, adds it to fault, and adds a Text node with the value "SOAP-ENV:Server" by specifying a default prefix and the namespace URI for a SOAP envelope.

QName faultName = new QName(SOAPConstants.URI_NS_SOAP_ENVELOPE, "Server");
fault.setFaultString("Server not responding");

The SOAP 1.2 code would look like this:

QName faultName = new QName(SOAPConstants.URI_NS_SOAP_1_2_ENVELOPE, "Receiver");
fault.addFaultReasonText("Server not responding", Locale.US);

To add one or more subcodes to the fault code, call the method fault.appendFaultSubcode, which takes a QName argument.

The SOAPFault object fault, created in the preceding lines of code, indicates that the cause of the problem is an unavailable server and that the actor at is having the problem. If the message were being routed only to its ultimate destination, there would have been no need to set a fault actor. Also note that fault does not have a Detail object because it does not relate to the SOAPBody object. (If you use SOAP 1.2, you can use the setFaultRole method instead of setFaultActor.)

The following SOAP 1.1 code fragment creates a SOAPFault object that includes a Detail object. Note that a SOAPFault object can have only one Detail object, which is simply a container for DetailEntry objects, but the Detail object can have multiple DetailEntry objects. The Detail object in the following lines of code has two DetailEntry objects added to it.

SOAPFault fault = body.addFault();

QName faultName = new QName(SOAPConstants.URI_NS_SOAP_ENVELOPE, "Client");
fault.setFaultString("Message does not have necessary info");

Detail detail = fault.addDetail();

QName entryName = new QName("", "order", "PO");
DetailEntry entry = detail.addDetailEntry(entryName);
entry.addTextNode("Quantity element does not have a value");

QName entryName2 = new QName("", "order", "PO");
DetailEntry entry2 = detail.addDetailEntry(entryName2);
entry2.addTextNode("Incomplete address: no zip code");

See SOAP Fault Example for an example that uses code like that shown in this section.

The SOAP 1.1 and 1.2 specifications define slightly different values for a fault code. Table 19–1 lists and describes these values.

Table 19–1 SOAP Fault Code Values

SOAP 1.1 

SOAP 1.2 




The namespace or local name for a SOAPEnvelope object was invalid.



An immediate child element of a SOAPHeader object had its mustUnderstand attribute set to true, and the processing party did not understand the element or did not obey it.



The SOAPMessage object was not formed correctly or did not contain the information needed to succeed.



The SOAPMessage object could not be processed because of a processing error, not because of a problem with the message itself.



A SOAP header block or SOAP body child element information item targeted at the faulting SOAP node is scoped with a data encoding that the faulting node does not support. 

Retrieving Fault Information

Just as the SOAPFault interface provides convenience methods for adding information, it also provides convenience methods for retrieving that information. The following code fragment shows what you might write to retrieve fault information from a message you received. In the code fragment, newMessage is the SOAPMessage object that has been sent to you. Because a SOAPFault object must be part of the SOAPBody object, the first step is to access the SOAPBody object. Then the code tests to see whether the SOAPBody object contains a SOAPFault object. If it does, the code retrieves the SOAPFault object and uses it to retrieve its contents. The convenience methods getFaultCode, getFaultString, and getFaultActor make retrieving the values very easy.

SOAPBody body = newMessage.getSOAPBody();
if ( body.hasFault() ) {
    SOAPFault newFault = body.getFault();
    QName code = newFault.getFaultCodeAsQName();
    String string = newFault.getFaultString();
    String actor = newFault.getFaultActor();

To retrieve subcodes from a SOAP 1.2 fault, call the method newFault.getFaultSubcodes.

Next the code prints the values it has just retrieved. Not all messages are required to have a fault actor, so the code tests to see whether there is one. Testing whether the variable actor is null works because the method getFaultActor returns null if a fault actor has not been set.

    System.out.println("SOAP fault contains: ");
    System.out.println("  Fault code = " + code.toString());
    System.out.println("  Local name = " + code.getLocalPart());
    System.out.println("  Namespace prefix = " +
        code.getPrefix() + ", bound to " + code.getNamespaceURI());
    System.out.println("  Fault string = " + string);

    if ( actor != null ) {
        System.out.println("  Fault actor = " + actor);

The final task is to retrieve the Detail object and get its DetailEntry objects. The code uses the SOAPFault object newFault to retrieve the Detail object newDetail, and then it uses newDetail to call the method getDetailEntries. This method returns the java.util.Iterator object entries, which contains all the DetailEntry objects in newDetail. Not all SOAPFault objects are required to have a Detail object, so the code tests to see whether newDetail is null. If it is not, the code prints the values of the DetailEntry objects as long as there are any.

Detail newDetail = newFault.getDetail();
if (newDetail != null) {
    Iterator entries = newDetail.getDetailEntries();
    while ( entries.hasNext() ) {
        DetailEntry newEntry = (DetailEntry);
        String value = newEntry.getValue();
        System.out.println("  Detail entry = " + value);

In summary, you have seen how to add a SOAPFault object and its contents to a message as well as how to retrieve the contents. A SOAPFault object, which is optional, is added to the SOAPBody object to convey status or error information. It must always have a fault code and a String explanation of the fault. A SOAPFault object must indicate the actor that is the source of the fault only when there are multiple actors; otherwise, it is optional. Similarly, the SOAPFault object must contain a Detail object with one or more DetailEntry objects only when the contents of the SOAPBody object could not be processed successfully.

See SOAP Fault Example for an example that uses code like that shown in this section.