2009/05/20 - Apache Shale has been retired.

For more information, please explore the Attic.

Shale Remoting

Remoting Introduction

Shale lets you map server-side resources, such as JavaScript or managed bean methods, to URLs. Shale turns URLs into resources with processors, which apply a mapping to a URL and take appropriate action. Out of the box, Shale provides the following processors:

  • Class Resource : access static resources from your classpath
  • Web Resource : access static resources from your web app's document root
  • Method Binding : execute a managed bean's methods on the server
  • Chain : maps a URL to a Jakarta Commons Chain (chains are used internally by Shale)
Complete information on the functionality provided by Shale Remoting may be found in the Javadoc package summary for this module. In particular, you will want to review the mechanisms for conditionally enabling access to resource identifiers for each processor, and what the default persmissions are.

Remotely Accessing Static Resources

Shale can map URLs to "classpath" resources (those found in /WEB-INF/classes, or in a JAR file found in /WEB-INF/lib. This makes it very easy, for example, for a JSF component library to embed JavaScript and CSS stylesheet resources required by its components, within the same JAR file, without requiring the application developer to explicitly configure anything, or place component resources at any particular point in the web application's document hierarchy. In addition, Shale can map directly to webapp resources (equivalent to the static resource serving capability of most servlet containers), if desired.

Remotely Calling Managed Bean Methods

Shale maps URLs to managed bean methods in your appliation with the Method Binding processor. For example, Shale maps the URL remote/userBean/validateUsername.jsf to a call to userBean.validateUsername() as shown in the following figure (assuming the suffix .jsf is mapped to the JSF servlet). This simple mechanism, among other things, lets you easily implement Ajax (Asynchronous JavaScript and XMLHttpRequest) functionality.

An Ajax Example

Here's a form that implements realtime validation:

When the user leaves the username textfield, Shale calls the backing bean's validateUsername method. This application only has one registered user, and his name is Joe, so if the user types anything other than Joe in the username field, we display an error message, like this:

To implement the Ajax call, we first hook up a client-side event handler to our username textfield:


              <h:inputText onfocus="hideMessage();"

                <div id="message" style="display: none;"></div>


Notice the empty DIV. That's the DIV that we'll fill with an error message as appropriate. When the user enters the username field, we clear out the message DIV, like this:

          function hideMessage() {
             $("message").style.display = "none"; // the $ is Prototype's shorthand for window.document.getElementById()

Here's the JavaScript validateUsername function:

          function validateUsername(username) {
             new Ajax.Request(
                   method: "post",
                   parameters: "username=" + username,
                   onComplete: showMessage

The preceding code fragment uses the Prototype JavaScript Library to make the Ajax call. You can use whatever framework you like, or you can code the Ajax call yourself. The point here is the URL, which Shale maps to userBean.validateUsername(). Remember, when you invoke the URL dynamic/userBean/validateUsername.jsf Shale thinks invoke userBean.validateUsername(). Here's what that Java code looks like:

          public void validateUsername() {
              FacesContext context = FacesContext.getCurrentInstance();
              String username = (String)context

              if( ! "Joe".equals(username))
                  writeResponse(context, "Sorry, that's an unathorized username");
          private void writeResponse(FacesContext context,
              ResponseWriter writer =
                  (new ResponseFactory()).getResponseWriter(context, "text/plain");
              try {
                  writer.writeText(text, null);
              catch (IOException e) {

We get the username field's value from the corresponding request parameter and validate that value. After Shale invokes the validateUsername method, it short-circuits the JSF lifecycle so that JSF does not render a response.

Note: The ResponseFactory class is part of the Shale remoting package. See the javadocs for more information.

After the call to userBean.validateUsername() returns, Prototype calls our onComplete JavaScript function, which we specified as showMessage. Here's what that JavaScript function looks like:

          function showMessage(xhr) {
             var msg = $("message");  
             msg.style.display = "inline";
             msg.style.color = "red";
             msg.innerHTML = xhr.responseText; // set the innerHTML of the message DIV