2 Understanding Oracle WebLogic Server Domains

This chapter describes Oracle WebLogic Server domains and their contents, which include an Administration Server and usually one or more Managed Servers.

This chapter includes the following sections:

What Is a Domain?

An Oracle WebLogic Server administration domain is a logically related group of Oracle WebLogic Server resources. Domains include a special Oracle WebLogic Server instance called the Administration Server, which is the central point from which you configure and manage all resources in the domain. Usually, you configure a domain to include additional Oracle WebLogic Server instances called Managed Servers. You deploy Web applications, EJBs, Web services, and other resources onto the Managed Servers and use the Administration Server for configuration and management purposes only.

Organizing Domains

You can use a single Oracle WebLogic Server installation to create and run multiple domains, or you can use multiple installations to run a single domain. See Figure 2-1.

Figure 2-1 Oracle WebLogic Server Installations and Domains

Description of Figure 2-1 follows
Description of "Figure 2-1 Oracle WebLogic Server Installations and Domains"

How you organize your Oracle WebLogic Server installations into domains depends on your business needs. You can define multiple domains based on different system administrators' responsibilities, application boundaries, or geographical locations of the machines on which servers run. Conversely, you might decide to use a single domain to centralize all Oracle WebLogic Server administration activities.

Depending on your particular business needs and system administration practices, you might decide to organize your domains based on criteria such as:

  • Logical divisions of applications. For example, you might have one domain devoted to end-user functions such as shopping carts and another domain devoted to back-end accounting applications.

  • Physical location. You might establish separate domains for different locations or branches of your business. Each physical location requires its own Oracle WebLogic Server installation.

  • Size. You might find that domains organized in small units can be managed more efficiently, perhaps by different system administrators. Contrarily, you might find that maintaining a single domain or a small number of domains makes it easier to maintain a consistent configuration.

For development or test environments, you can create a simple domain that consists of a single server instance. This single instance acts as an Administration Server and hosts the applications that you are developing. The wl_server domain that you can install with Oracle WebLogic Server is an example of this type of domain.

Contents of a Domain

Figure 2-2 shows a production environment that contains an Administration Server, three stand-alone Managed Servers, and a cluster of three Managed Servers.

Figure 2-2 Content of a Domain

Description of Figure 2-2 follows
Description of "Figure 2-2 Content of a Domain"

Although the scope and purpose of a domain can vary significantly, most Oracle WebLogic Server domains contain the components described in this section.

Administration Server

The Administration Server operates as the central control entity for the configuration of the entire domain. It maintains the domain's configuration documents and distributes changes in the configuration documents to Managed Servers. You can also use the Administration Server as a central location from which to monitor all resources in a domain.

To interact with the Administration Server, you can use the Administration Console, WLST, or create your own JMX client. See "System Administration" in Understanding Oracle WebLogic Server for information about modifying the domain's configuration.

Each Oracle WebLogic Server domain must have one server instance that acts as the Administration Server.

For more information about the Administration Server and its role in the Oracle WebLogic Server JMX management system, see "System Administration" in Understanding Oracle WebLogic Server.

What Happens if the Administration Server Fails?

The failure of an Administration Server does not affect the operation of Managed Servers in the domain but it does prevent you from changing the domain's configuration. If an Administration Server fails because of a hardware or software failure on its host machine, other server instances on the same machine may be similarly affected. However, the failure of an Administration Server itself does not interrupt the operation of Managed Servers in the domain.

If an Administration Server for a domain becomes unavailable while the server instances it manages—clustered or otherwise—are up and running, those Managed Servers continue to run. Periodically, the Managed Servers attempt to reconnect to the Administration Server. If the domain contains clustered server instances, the load balancing and failover capabilities supported by the domain configuration remain available, even if the Administration Server fails.

You can start a Managed Server even if the Administration Server is not running. In this case, the Managed Server uses a local copy of the domain's configuration files for its starting configuration and then periodically attempts to connect with the Administration Server. When it does connect, it synchronizes its configuration state with that of the Administration Server.

For information on starting a Managed Server without a running Administration Server, see "Managed Server Independence Mode" in Managing Server Startup and Shutdown for Oracle WebLogic Server. For information on re-starting an Administration Server, see "Avoiding and Recovering From Server Failure" in Managing Server Startup and Shutdown for Oracle WebLogic Server.

Managed Servers and Managed Server Clusters

Managed Servers host business applications, application components, Web services, and their associated resources. To optimize performance, Managed Servers maintain a read-only copy of the domain's configuration document. When a Managed Server starts up, it connects to the domain's Administration Server to synchronize its configuration document with the document that the Administration Server maintains.

For production environments that require increased application performance, throughput, or high availability, you can configure two or more Managed Servers to operate as a cluster. A cluster is a collection of multiple Oracle WebLogic Server instances running simultaneously and working together to provide increased scalability and reliability. In a cluster, most resources and services are deployed identically to each Managed Server (as opposed to a single Managed Server), enabling failover and load balancing. A single domain can contain multiple Oracle WebLogic Server clusters, as well as multiple Managed Servers that are not configured as clusters. The key difference between clustered and non-clustered Managed Servers is support for failover and load balancing. These features are available only in a cluster of Managed Servers. For more information about the benefits and capabilities of an Oracle WebLogic Server cluster, see "Understanding WebLogic Server Clustering" in Using Clusters for Oracle WebLogic Server.

Resources and Services

In addition to the Administration Server and Managed Servers, a domain also contains the resources and services that Managed Servers and deployed applications require.

Managed Servers can use the following resources:

  • Machine definitions that identify a particular, physical piece of hardware. A machine definition is used to associate a computer with the Managed Servers it hosts. This information is used by Node Manager in restarting a failed Managed Server, and by a clustered Managed Server in selecting the best location for storing replicated session data. For more information about Node Manager, see "Node Manager Overview" in the Node Manager Administrator’s Guide for Oracle WebLogic Server.

  • Network channels that define default ports, protocols, and protocol settings that a Managed Server uses to communicate with clients. After creating a network channel, you can assign it to any number of Managed Servers and clusters in the domain. For more information, see "Configuring Network Resources" in Configuring Server Environments for Oracle WebLogic Server.

  • Virtual hosting, which defines a set of host names to which Oracle WebLogic Server instances (servers) or clusters respond. When you use virtual hosting, you use DNS to specify one or more host names that map to the IP address of a server or cluster. You also specify which Web applications are served by each virtual host.

Applications can use the following resources and services:

  • Security providers, which are modular components that handle specific aspects of security, such as authentication and authorization.

  • Resource adapters, which are system libraries specific to Enterprise Information Systems (EIS) and provide connectivity to an EIS.

  • Diagnostics and monitoring services.

  • JDBC data sources, which enable applications to connect to databases.

  • Mail sessions.

  • XML entity caches and registry of XML parsers and transformer factories.

  • Messaging services such as JMS servers and store-and-forward services.

  • Persistent store, which is a physical repository for storing data, such as persistent JMS messages. It can be either a JDBC-accessible database or a disk-based file.

  • Startup classes, which are Java programs that you create to provide custom, system-wide services for your applications.

  • Work Managers, which determine how an application prioritizes the execution of its work based on rules you define and by monitoring actual run-time performance. You can create Work Mangers for entire Oracle WebLogic Server domains or for specific application components.

  • Work Contexts, which enable applications to pass properties to a remote context without including the properties in a remote call.

Domain Restrictions

In designing your domain configuration, note the following restrictions:

  • Each domain requires its own Administration Server for performing management activities. When you use the Administration Console to perform management and monitoring tasks, you can switch back and forth between domains, but in doing so, you are connecting to different Administration Servers.

  • All Managed Servers in a cluster must reside in the same domain; you cannot split a cluster over multiple domains.

  • All Managed Servers in a domain must run the same version of the Oracle WebLogic Server software. The Administration Server may run either the same version as the Managed Servers in the domain, or a later patch set.

If you have created multiple domains, each domain must reference its own database schema. You cannot share a configured resource or subsystem between domains. For example, if you create a JDBC data source in one domain, you cannot use it with a Managed Server or cluster in another domain. Instead, you must create a similar data source in the second domain. Furthermore, two or more system resources cannot have the same name.