by February 4, 2007 0 comments

Today the Web is dominated by the request/response architecture, wherein, a
client sends an HTTP protocol request for some action and the server, after
carrying out that action, responds with the HTTP response to the client. In this
series, we’ll use the Interceptor Filter and Decorator design patterns to
intercept the incoming user requests and outgoing responses. The Intercepting
Filter pattern can be classified as a presentation tier pattern because it deals
with requests from the presentation tier. In this part, we’ll leverage from
the Interceptor Filter pattern and then club it with the Decorator (Wrapper)
pattern in the second part.

The MVC pattern
Model View Controller or MVC is a popular Java EE design pattern used to
separate core business model functionality from the presentation and control
logic that uses this functionality. The business logic is carried out inside the
helper component (also called POJO beans). After getting the desired logic
implemented, the controller sets the result as a request/ session attribute, and
forwards the request to a view JSP page. Finally, the JSP view is responsible
for rendering the response back to the client. Consider the MVC model, as shown
in the figure below, that an existing application in production is using. 

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The MVC pattern offers numerous advantages. These include multiple views that
use the same model components, easier support for new types of clients, enhanced
modularity and separation of concerts. Now consider this scenario-you want to
log every request made by a client. For logging the client request, a controller
is an excellent approach. That way, you are not writing the redundant logging
code in each component, rather you can factor out the common code in the
controller servlet. Consider another scenario where you have to provide a zipped
output after it’s flushed from a JSP page, for improving the response time.
Here you have a problem in post-processing the response. Once the response is
flushed, your controller has no way of intercepting the response. Also, writing
the logic for zipping the output in every JSP page would not also kill
code-reuse but would also be difficult to maintain. Writing a plug-in or
plug-out type of component with the help of Interceptor Filter pattern that you
can fit anytime in your existing applications is easy and flexible.

Intercepting Filter to rescue
The Intercepting Filter, as the name suggests, intercepts the requests and helps
separate all the tasks that need to be done on the server into reusable
components. The actions/filters can be assigned to specific requests, chained in
any order, and added or removed within the application configuration. After the
filters complete, they pass the request to the intended recipient, which could
be any other Web component like a Servlet, JSP or even another chained filter.
After the request processing chain is finished, a response is sent to the client
(see the following diagram).

Servlet Filter
Servlet Filters, introduced with servlet specification version 2.3, help in
implementing the Interceptor Filter pattern. A servlet filter is a small class
that allows you to manipulate the request and/or response. A filter object is
instantiated and managed by the servlet container, and has a lifecycle similar
to a servlet. Common uses for filters include logging HTTP requests, validating
request parameters and authorizing or denying access to resources.

Implementing a log filter
Implementing filters in Java EE is a three-step process. You begin by creating a
filter implementation class, declaratively add filter to the deployment
descriptor file, and finally, deploy the filter. Servlet filters must implement
the javax.servlet.

Filter interface, and override some container callback methods, as shown in
the following code segment.

package com.pcquest.tracker;
import javax.servlet.*;
import javax.servlet.http.*;
public class LogFilter implements Filter {
private FilterConfig filterConfig;

public void init(FilterConfig config) throws
ServletException {
public void doFilter(ServletRequest req, ServletResponse res, FilterChain fc)
throws IOException, ServletException{
String uri = "";
if (req instanceof HttpServletRequest) {
uri = ((HttpServletRequest)req).getRequestURI();
String remoteHost=req.getRemoteHost();

// log incoming user
filterConfig.getServletContext().log("Remote Host "+ remoteHost+
" trying to access "+ uri);

//invoke next component in the request
procesing chain
public void destroy() {
// cleanup code

The filter begins its life when the init()method is called. When the
container loads the filter for the first time, the init() method is called. This
method is called just once by the Web container to indicate to a filter that it
is being placed into service. The class obtains a reference to a FilterConfig
object inside the init() method.

Next, the doFilter() method of the filter is called by the container, passing
in references to the ServletRequest, ServletResponse, and FilterChain
objects. In our example, inside the doFilter() method, we are logging the remote
host’s IP and the requested URI. Finally, the destroy() method is called by
the Web container to indicate to a filter that it is being taken out of service.

This is the logged output
produced from logging the incoming client request

Configuring filters
Java EE filters are configured declaratively in the deployment descriptor-
web.xml file. The following code segment defines the LogFilter via the
<filter> tag and then maps it to a URL pattern through the
<filter-mapping> element.

<filter-name>Log Filter</filter-name>
<filter-name>Log Filter</filter-name>

The one, /* maps all resources in the Web application to the defined filters.
This is a typical mapping declaration for a controller component. This way, a
filter can also be mapped to a JSP page. Deploying filters is easy. The filter
implementation class is packaged in the WAR (Web ARchive) along with the static
content and servlets that make up the Web application. The output produced from
logging the incoming client request is shown in the figure on the previous page.

Servlet filters are modular, reusable and portable web components that are
flexibly declared via XML tags in the deployment descriptor file. In this part
we looked at a way of preprocessing on the request before it enters the Web
tier. In the second part, we’ll use the Decorator design pattern to implement
a customized response wrapper, which can be used for post-processing in a

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