Writing Contract-First Web Services

This tutorial shows you how to write contract-first Web services, that is, developing web services that start with the XML Schema/WSDL contract first followed by the Java code second. Spring-WS focuses on this development style, and this tutorial will help you get started.

The most important thing when doing contract-first Web service development is to try and think in terms of XML. This means that Java-language concepts are of lesser importance. It is the XML that is sent across the wire, and you should focus on that. The fact that Java is used to implement the Web service is an implementation detail. An important detail, but a detail nonetheless.

In this tutorial, we will define a Web service that is created by a Human Resources department. Clients can send holiday request forms to this service to book a holiday.

In this section, we will focus on the actual XML messages that are sent to and from the Web service. We will start out by determining what these messages look like.
In the scenario, we have to deal with holiday requests, so it makes sense to determine what a holiday looks like in XML:

<Holiday xmlns="http://mycompany.com/hr/schemas">

A holiday consists of a start date and an end date.

There is also the notion of an employee in the scenario. Here is what it looks like in XML:

<Employee xmlns="http://mycompany.com/hr/schemas">

Both the holiday and employee element can be put in a <HolidayRequest/>:

<HolidayRequest xmlns="http://mycompany.com/hr/schemas">

The order of the two elements does not matter: <Employee/> could have been the first element just as well. What is important is that all of the data is there. In fact, the data is the only thing that is important: we are taking a data-driven approach.

Data Contract
Now that we have seen some examples of the XML data that we will use, it makes sense to formalize this into a schema. This data contract defines the message format we accept. There are four different ways of defining such a contract for XML:

  • DTDs
  • XML Schema (XSD)
  • Schematron

DTDs have limited namespace support, so they are not suitable for Web services. Relax NG and Schematron certainly are easier than XML Schema. Unfortunately, they are not so widely supported across platforms. We will use XML Schema.

By far the easiest way to create an XSD is to infer it from sample documents. Any good XML editor or Java IDE offers this functionality. Basically, these tools use some sample XML documents, and generate a schema from it that validates them all. The end result certainly needs to be polished up, but it’s a great starting point.

<xs:schema xmlns:xs="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema"
    <xs:element name="HolidayRequest">
                <xs:element name="Holiday" type="hr:HolidayType"/>                       (1)
                <xs:element name="Employee" type="hr:EmployeeType"/>
    <xs:complexType name="HolidayType">
            <xs:element name="StartDate" type="xs:date"/>
            <xs:element name="EndDate" type="xs:date"/>                                  (2)
        </xs:sequence>                                                                   (2)
    <xs:complexType name="EmployeeType">
            <xs:element name="Number" type="xs:integer"/>
            <xs:element name="FirstName" type="xs:string"/>
            <xs:element name="LastName" type="xs:string"/>                               (3)
        </xs:sequence>                                                                   (3)

1. all tells the XML parser that the order of <Holiday/> and <Employee/> is not significant.
2. We use the xsd:date data type, which consist of a year, month, and day, for <StartDate/> and <EndDate/>.
3. xsd:string is used for the first and last name.

We store this file as hr.xsd.

Service contract
A service contract is generally expressed as a WSDL file. Note that in Spring-WS, writing the WSDL by hand is not required. Based on the XSD and some conventions, Spring-WS can create the WSDL for you.

We start our WSDL with the standard preamble, and by importing our existing XSD. To separate the schema from the definition, we will use a separate namespace for the WSDL definitions: http://mycompany.com/hr/definitions.

<wsdl:definitions xmlns:wsdl="http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/wsdl/"
        <xsd:schema xmlns:xsd="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema">
            <xsd:import namespace="http://mycompany.com/hr/schemas" schemaLocation="hr.xsd"/>

Next, we add our messages based on the written schema types. We only have one message: one with the <HolidayRequest/> we put in the schema:

<wsdl:message name="HolidayRequest">
        <wsdl:part element="schema:HolidayRequest" name="HolidayRequest"/>

We add the message to a port type as an operation:

<wsdl:portType name="HumanResource">
        <wsdl:operation name="Holiday">
            <wsdl:input message="tns:HolidayRequest" name="HolidayRequest"/>

That finished the abstract part of the WSDL (the interface, as it were), and leaves the concrete part. The concrete part consists of a binding, which tells the client how to invoke the operations you’ve just defined; and a service, which tells it where to invoke it.

Adding a concrete part is pretty standard: just refer to the abstract part you defined previously, make sure you use document/literal for the soap:binding elements (rpc/encoded is deprecated), pick a soapAction for the operation (in this case http://mycompany.com/RequestHoliday, but any URI will do), and determine the location URL where you want request to come in (in this case http://mycompany.com/humanresources):

<wsdl:definitions xmlns:wsdl="http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/wsdl/"
        <xsd:schema xmlns:xsd="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema">
            <xsd:import namespace="http://mycompany.com/hr/schemas"                      (1)
    <wsdl:message name="HolidayRequest">                                                 (2)
        <wsdl:part element="schema:HolidayRequest" name="HolidayRequest"/>               (3)
    <wsdl:portType name="HumanResource">                                                 (4)
        <wsdl:operation name="Holiday">
            <wsdl:input message="tns:HolidayRequest" name="HolidayRequest"/>             (2)
    <wsdl:binding name="HumanResourceBinding" type="tns:HumanResource">                  (4)(5)
        <soap:binding style="document"                                                   (6)
            transport="http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/soap/http"/>                           (7)
        <wsdl:operation name="Holiday">
            <soap:operation soapAction="http://mycompany.com/RequestHoliday"/>           (8)
            <wsdl:input name="HolidayRequest">
                <soap:body use="literal"/>                                               (6)
    <wsdl:service name="HumanResourceService">
        <wsdl:port binding="tns:HumanResourceBinding" name="HumanResourcePort">          (5)
            <soap:address location="http://localhost:8080/holidayService/"/>             (9)

1. We import the schema “Data Contract”.
2. We define the HolidayRequest message, which gets used in the portType.
3. The HolidayRequest type is defined in the schema.
4. We define the HumanResource port type, which gets used in the binding.
5. We define the HumanResourceBinding binding, which gets used in the port.
6. We use a document/literal style.
7. The literal http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/soap/http signifies a HTTP transport.
8. The soapAction attribute signifies the SOAPAction HTTP header that will be sent with every request.
9. The http://localhost:8080/holidayService/ address is the URL where the Web service can be invoked.

This is the final WSDL. We will describe how to implement the resulting schema and WSDL in the next section.

Implementing the Endpoint
In Spring-WS, you will implement Endpoints to handle incoming XML messages. An endpoint is typically created by annotating a class with the @Endpoint annotation. In this endpoint class, you will create one or more methods that handle incoming request. The method signatures can be quite flexible: you can include just about any sort of parameter type related to the incoming XML message.

package com.mycompany.hr.ws;

import java.text.SimpleDateFormat;
import java.util.Date;

import org.springframework.beans.factory.annotation.Autowired;
import org.springframework.ws.server.endpoint.annotation.Endpoint;
import org.springframework.ws.server.endpoint.annotation.PayloadRoot;
import org.springframework.ws.server.endpoint.annotation.RequestPayload;

import com.mycompany.hr.service.HumanResourceService;
import org.jdom.Element;
import org.jdom.JDOMException;
import org.jdom.Namespace;
import org.jdom.xpath.XPath;

@Endpoint                                                                                (1)
public class HolidayEndpoint {

  private static final String NAMESPACE_URI = "http://mycompany.com/hr/schemas";

  private XPath startDateExpression;

  private XPath endDateExpression;

  private XPath nameExpression;

  private HumanResourceService humanResourceService;

  public HolidayEndpoint(HumanResourceService humanResourceService)                      (2)
      throws JDOMException {
    this.humanResourceService = humanResourceService;

    Namespace namespace = Namespace.getNamespace("hr", NAMESPACE_URI);

    startDateExpression = XPath.newInstance("//hr:StartDate");

    endDateExpression = XPath.newInstance("//hr:EndDate");

    nameExpression = XPath.newInstance("concat(//hr:FirstName,' ',//hr:LastName)");

  @PayloadRoot(namespace = NAMESPACE_URI, localPart = "HolidayRequest")                  (3)
  public void handleHolidayRequest(@RequestPayload Element holidayRequest)               (4)
      throws Exception {
    SimpleDateFormat dateFormat = new SimpleDateFormat("yyyy-MM-dd");
    Date startDate = dateFormat.parse(startDateExpression.valueOf(holidayRequest));
    Date endDate = dateFormat.parse(endDateExpression.valueOf(holidayRequest));
    String name = nameExpression.valueOf(holidayRequest);

    humanResourceService.bookHoliday(startDate, endDate, name);


1. The HolidayEndpoint is annotated with @Endpoint. This marks the class as a special sort of @Component, suitable for handling XML messages in Spring-WS, and also making it eligible for suitable for component scanning.

2. The HolidayEndpoint requires the HumanResourceService business service to operate, so we inject the dependency via the constructor and annotate it with @Autowired. Next, we set up XPath expressions using the JDOM API. There are three expressions: //hr:StartDate for extracting the <l;StartDate> text value, //hr:EndDate for extracting the end date and concat(//hr:FirstName,’ ‘,//hr:LastName) for extracting and concatenating the names of the employee.

3. The @PayloadRoot annotation tells Spring-WS that the handleHolidayRequest method is suitable for handling XML messages. The sort of message that this method can handle is indicated by the annotation values, in this case, it can handle XML elements that have the HolidayRequest local part and the http://mycompany.com/hr/schemas namespace. More information about mapping messages to endpoints is provided in the next section.

4. The handleHolidayRequest(..) method is the main handling method method, which gets passed with the <HolidayRequest/> element from the incoming XML message. The @RequestPayload annotation indicates that the holidayRequest parameter should be mapped to the payload of the request message. We use the XPath expressions to extract the string values from the XML messages, and convert these values to Date objects using a SimpleDateFormat. With these values, we invoke a method on the business service. Typically, this will result in a database transaction being started, and some records being altered in the database. Finally, we define a void return type, which indicates to Spring-WS that we do not want to send a response message. If we wanted a response message, we could have returned a JDOM Element that represents the payload of the response message.

Here is how we would configure these classes in our spring-ws-servlet.xml Spring XML configuration file, by using component scanning. We also instruct Spring-WS to use annotation-driven endpoints, with the <sws:annotation-driven> element.

<beans xmlns="http://www.springframework.org/schema/beans"
  xsi:schemaLocation="http://www.springframework.org/schema/beans http://www.springframework.org/schema/beans/spring-beans-3.0.xsd
  http://www.springframework.org/schema/web-services http://www.springframework.org/schema/web-services/web-services-2.0.xsd
  http://www.springframework.org/schema/context http://www.springframework.org/schema/context/spring-context-3.0.xsd">

  <context:component-scan base-package="com.mycompany.hr"/>



Routing the Message to the Endpoint
As part of writing the endpoint, we also used the @PayloadRoot annotation to indicate which sort of messages can be handled by the handleHolidayRequest method. In Spring-WS, this process is the responsibility of an EndpointMapping. Here we route messages based on their content, by using a PayloadRootAnnotationMethodEndpointMapping. The annotation used above:

@PayloadRoot(namespace = "http://mycompany.com/hr/schemas", localPart = "HolidayRequest")

basically means that whenever an XML message is received with the namespace http://mycompany.com/hr/schemas and the HolidayRequest local name, it will be routed to the handleHolidayRequest method. By using the element in our configuration, we enable the detection of the @PayloadRoot annotations. It is possible (and quite common) to have multiple, related handling methods in an endpoint, each of them handling different XML messages.

Providing the Service and Stub implementation
Now that we have the Endpoint, we need HumanResourceService and its implementation for use by HolidayEndpoint.

package com.mycompany.hr.service;

import java.util.Date;

public interface HumanResourceService {
    void bookHoliday(Date startDate, Date endDate, String name);

For tutorial purposes, we will use a simple stub implementation of the HumanResourceService.

package com.mycompany.hr.service;

import java.util.Date;

import org.springframework.stereotype.Service;

@Service                                                                                 (1)
public class StubHumanResourceService implements HumanResourceService {
    public void bookHoliday(Date startDate, Date endDate, String name) {
        System.out.println("Booking holiday for [" + startDate + "-" + endDate + "] for [" + name + "] ");

 The StubHumanResourceService is annotated with @Service. This marks the class as a business facade, which makes this a candidate for injection by @Autowired in HolidayEndpoint.

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