ApacheDS as a Tomcat Realm has been edited by Stefan Zoerner (May 25, 2009).

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ApacheDS Tomcat Realm

What is it, and who needs it?

Within Apache Tomcat, a realm is (cite) a "database" of usernames and passwords that identify valid users of a web application (or set of web applications), plus an enumeration of the list of roles associated with each valid user. Learn more about them in the Realm Configuration HOW-TO from the Tomcat website.

In order to use Apache Directory Server (ApacheDS) as a realm, the straight forward approach is to use the JNDIRealm shipped with Tomcat. It can handle arbitrary LDAP servers, among them ApacheDS.

Because ApacheDS is 100% pure Java and embeddable, there is another option: Implement the Realm interface from Apache Tomcat and run within Tomcat. There are (at least) two interesting things about this approach:

  • Tomcat can use ApacheDS without the wire protocol, because the realm has a handle to the "in process" API of ApacheDS
  • ApacheDS runs within Tomcat and starts and stops automatically along with the web application server

While the first point promises some performance advantages, which are irrelevant in most situations (because LDAP servers like ApacheDS are optimized for read operations anyway), the second reason makes this approach a good option for development environments.

Current state

The current implementation of the realm has started as a proof of concept, but already works quite well. You can find the sources here:


It is not an official artifact of Apache Directory yet. Although if some people are interested, it soon can be. In the meantime, there are no official releases etc.

How to build it

How to enable and configure it

Activation in Tomcat server.xml is simply

<Realm className="org.apache.directory.tomcatrealm.EmbeddedApacheDsRealm" />

within the context the realm is intended to act.

How to use it

It builds a jar file which contains the Realm class. In order to use it, one has to copy it to the Tomcat server lib directory, along with the required ApacheDS and dependency jars.

Activation in Tomcat server.xml is simply

<Realm className="org.apache.directory.tomcatrealm.EmbeddedApacheDsRealm" />

You can use Studio to edit your users and groups after Tomcat startup; the embedded ApacheDS opens an LDAP port at 10389.

I will continue testing and will provide some documentation on the wiki later on. Some features like configuration (LDAP port, filter expressions for searches, ...) are still missing, but I think it looks quite promising.

Feel free to check it out and provide feedback. Further discussions about whether we provide this as official artifact will be on the dev-list, which you hopefully scan as well.

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