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1. Overview

Apache Tomcat is one of the most popular web servers in the Java community. It ships as a servlet container capable of serving Web ARchives with the WAR extension.

It provides a management dashboard from which you can deploy a new web application, or undeploy an existing one without having to restart the container. This is especially useful in production environments.

In this article, we will do a quick overview of Tomcat and then cover various approaches to deploying a WAR file.

Further reading:

Introduction to Apache Tomcat

A short and practical guide to installing and configuring Apache Tomcat.

Read more

Deploy a Spring Boot WAR into a Tomcat Server

Learn how to configure a Spring Boot application to be deployed on a Tomcat server.

Read more

Changing Tomcat HTTP Port to 80

Learn how to configure an Apache Tomcat HTTP server to run on port 80.

Read more

2. Tomcat Structure

Before we begin, we should familiarize ourselves with some terminology and environment variables.

2.1. Environment Variables

If you have worked with Tomcat before, these will be very familiar to you:

$CATALINA_HOME

This variable points to the directory where our server is installed.

$CATALINA_BASE

This variable points to the directory of a particular instance of Tomcat, you may have multiple instances installed. If this variable is not set explicitly, then it will be assigned the same value as $CATALINA_HOME.

Web applications are deployed under the $CATALINA_HOME\webapps directory.

2.2. Terminology

Document root. Refers to the top-level directory of a web application, where all the application resources are located like JSP files, HTML pages, Java classes, and images.

Context path. Refers to the location which is relative to the server’s address and represents the name of the web application.

For example, if our web application is put under the $CATALINA_HOME\webapps\myapp directory, it will be accessed by the URL http://localhost/myapp, and its context path will be /myapp.

WAR. Is the extension of a file that packages a web application directory hierarchy in ZIP format and is short for Web Archive. Java web applications are usually packaged as WAR files for deployment. These files can be created on the command line or with an IDE like Eclipse.

After deploying our WAR file, Tomcat unpacks it and stores all project files in the webapps directory in a new directory named after the project.

3. Tomcat Setup

The Tomcat Apache web server is free software that can be downloaded from their website. It is required that there is a JDK available on the user’s machine and that the JAVA_HOME environment variable is set correctly.

3.1. Start Tomcat

We can start the Tomcat server by simply running the startup script located at $CATALINA_HOME\bin\startup. There is a .bat and a .sh in every installation.

Choose the appropriate option depending on whether you are using a Windows or Unix based operating system.

3.2. Configure Roles

During the deployment phase, we’ll have some options, one of which is to use Tomcat’s management dashboard. To access this dashboard, we must have an admin user configured with the appropriate roles.

To have access to the dashboard the admin user needs the manager-gui role. Later, we will need to deploy a WAR file using Maven, for this, we need the manager-script role too.

Let’s make these changes in $CATALINA_HOME\conf\tomcat-users:

<role rolename="manager-gui"/>
<role rolename="manager-script"/>
<user username="admin" password="password" roles="manager-gui, manager-script"/>

More details about the different Tomcat roles can be found by following this official link.

3.3. Set Directory Permissions

Finally, ensure that there is read/write permission on the Tomcat installation directory.

3.4. Test Installation

To test that Tomcat is setup properly run the startup script (startup.bat/startup.sh), if no errors are displayed on the console we can double-check by visiting http://localhost:8080.

If you see the Tomcat landing page, then we have installed the server correctly.

3.5. Resolve Port Conflict

By default, Tomcat is set to listen to connections on port 8080. If there is another application that is already bound to this port, the startup console will let us know.

To change the port, we can edit the server configuration file server.xml located at $CATALINA_HOME\conf\server.xml. By default, the connector configuration is as follows:

<Connector port="8080" protocol="HTTP/1.1" 
  connectionTimeout="20000" redirectPort="8443" />

For instance, if we want to change our port to 8081, then we will have to change the connector’s port attribute like so:

<Connector port="8081" protocol="HTTP/1.1" 
  connectionTimeout="20000" redirectPort="8443" />

Sometimes, the port we have chosen is not open by default, in this case, we will need to open this port with the appropriate commands in the Unix kernel or creating the appropriate firewall rules in Windows, how this is done is beyond the scope of this article.

4. Deploy From Maven

If we want to use Maven for deploying our web archives, we must configure Tomcat as a server in Maven’s settings.xml file.

There are two locations where the settings.xml file may be found:

  • The Maven install: ${maven.home}/conf/settings.xml
  • A user’s install: ${user.home}/.m2/settings.xml

Once you have found it add Tomcat as follows:

<server>
    <id>TomcatServer</id>
    <username>admin</username>
    <password>password</password>
</server>

We will now need to create a basic web application from Maven to test the deployment. Let’s navigate to where we would like to create the application.

Run this command on the console to create a new Java web application:

mvn archetype:generate -DgroupId=com.baeldung -DartifactId=tomcat-war-deployment 
  -DarchetypeArtifactId=maven-archetype-webapp -DinteractiveMode=false

This will create a complete web application in the directory tomcat-war-deployment which, if we deploy now and access via the browser, prints hello world!.

But before we do that we need to make one change to enable Maven deployment. So head over to the pom.xml and add this plugin:

<plugin>
    <groupId>org.apache.tomcat.maven</groupId>
    <artifactId>tomcat7-maven-plugin</artifactId>
    <version>2.2</version>
    <configuration>
        <url>http://localhost:8080/manager/text</url>
        <server>TomcatServer</server>
        <path>/myapp</path>
    </configuration>
</plugin>

Note that we are using the Tomcat 7 plugin because it works for both versions 7 and 8 without any special changes.

The configuration url is the url to which we are sending our deployment, Tomcat will know what to do with it. The server element is the name of the server instance that Maven recognizes. Finally, the path element defines the context path of our deployment.

This means that if our deployment succeeds, we will access the web application by hitting http://localhost:8080/myapp.

Now we can run the following commands from Maven.

To deploy the web app:

mvn tomcat7:deploy

To undeploy it:

mvn tomcat7:undeploy

To redeploy after making changes:

mvn tomcat7:redeploy

5. Deploy With Cargo Plugin

Cargo is a versatile library that allows us to manipulate the various type of application containers in a standard way.

5.1. Cargo Deployment Setup

In this section, we will look at how to use Cargo’s Maven plugin to deploy a WAR to Tomcat, in this case, we will deploy it to a version 7 instance.

To get a firm grip on the whole process, we will start from scratch by creating a new Java web application from the command line:

mvn archetype:generate -DgroupId=com.baeldung -DartifactId=cargo-deploy 
  -DarchetypeArtifactId=maven-archetype-webapp -DinteractiveMode=false

This will create a complete Java web application in the cargo-deploy directory. If we build, deploy and load this application as is, it will print Hello World! in the browser.

Unlike the Tomcat7 Maven plugin, the Cargo Maven plugin requires that this file is present.

Since our web application does not contain any servlets, our web.xml file will be very basic. So navigate to the WEB-INF folder of our newly created project and create a web.xml file with the following content:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<web-app xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance" 
  xmlns="http://java.sun.com/xml/ns/javaee" 
    xsi:schemaLocation="http://java.sun.com/xml/ns/javaee 
      http://java.sun.com/xml/ns/javaee/web-app_3_0.xsd" 
        id="WebApp_ID" version="3.0">

    <display-name>cargo-deploy</display-name>
    <welcome-file-list>
        <welcome-file>index.jsp</welcome-file>
    </welcome-file-list>
</web-app>

To enable Maven to recognize Cargo’s commands without typing the fully qualified name, we need to add the Cargo Maven plugin to a plugin group in Maven’s settings.xml.

As an immediate child of the root <settings></settings> element, add this:

<pluginGroups>
    <pluginGroup>org.codehaus.cargo</pluginGroup>
</pluginGroups>

5.2. Local Deploy

In this subsection, we will edit our pom.xml to suit our new deployment requirements.

Add the plugin as follows:

<build>
    <plugins>
        <plugin>
            <groupId>org.codehaus.cargo</groupId>
            <artifactId>cargo-maven2-plugin</artifactId>
            <version>1.5.0</version>
            <configuration>
                <container>
                    <containerId>tomcat7x</containerId>
                    <type>installed</type>
                    <home>Insert absolute path to tomcat 7 installation</home>
                </container>
                <configuration>
                    <type>existing</type>
                    <home>Insert absolute path to tomcat 7 installation</home>
                </configuration>
            </configuration>
       </plugin>
    </plugins>
</build>

The latest version, at the time of writing, is 1.5.0. However, the latest version can always be found here.

Notice that we explicitly define the packaging as a WAR, without this, our build will fail. In the plugins section, we then add the cargo maven2 plugin. Additionally, we add a configuration section where we tell Maven that we are using a Tomcat container and also an existing installation.

By setting the container type to installed, we tell Maven that we have an instance installed on the machine and we provide the absolute URL to this installation.

By setting the configuration type to existing, we tell Tomcat that we have an existing setup that we are using and no further configuration is required.

The alternative would be to tell cargo to download and setup the version specified by providing a URL. However, our focus is on WAR deployment.

It’s worth noting that whether we are using Maven 2.x or Maven 3.x, the cargo maven2 plugin works for both.

We can now install our application by executing:

mvn install

and deploying it by doing:

mvn cargo:deploy

If all goes well we should be able to run our web application by loading http://localhost:8080/cargo-deploy.

5.3. Remote Deploy

To do a remote deploy, we only need to change the configuration section of our pom.xml. Remote deploy means that we do not have a local installation of Tomcat but have access to the manager dashboard on a remote server.

So let’s change the pom.xml so that the configuration section looks like this:

<configuration>
    <container>
        <containerId>tomcat8x</containerId>
        <type>remote</type>
    </container>
    <configuration>
        <type>runtime</type>
        <properties>
            <cargo.remote.username>admin</cargo.remote.username>
            <cargo.remote.password>admin</cargo.remote.password>
            <cargo.tomcat.manager.url>http://localhost:8080/manager/text
              </cargo.tomcat.manager.url>
        </properties>
    </configuration>
</configuration>

This time, we change the container type from installed to remote and the configuration type from existing to runtime. Finally, we add authentication and remote URL properties to the configuration.

Ensure that the roles and users are already present in $CATALINA_HOME/conf/tomcat-users.xml just as before.

If you are editing the same project for remote deployment, first un-deploy the existing WAR:

mvn cargo:undeploy

clean the project:

mvn clean

install it:

mvn install

finally, deploy it:

mvn cargo:deploy

That’s it.

6. Deploy From Eclipse

Eclipse allows us to embed servers to add web project deployment in the normal workflow without navigating away from the IDE.

6.1. Embed Tomcat In Eclipse

We can embed an installation into eclipse by selecting the window menu item from taskbar and then preferences from the drop down.

We will find a tree grid of preference items on the left panel of the window that appears. We can then navigate to eclipse -> servers or just type servers in the search bar.

We then select the installation directory, if not already open for us, and choose the Tomcat version we downloaded.

On the right-hand-side of the panel, a configuration page will appear where we select the Enable option to activate this server version and browse to the installation folder.

We apply changes, and the next time we open the servers view from Eclipse’s windows -> show view submenu, the newly configured server will be present and we can start, stop and deploy applications to it.

6.2. Deploy Web Application In Embedded Tomcat

To deploy a web application to Tomcat, it must exist in our workspace.

Open the servers view from window -> show view and look for servers. When open, we can just right click on the server we configured and select add deployment from the context menu that appears.

 

From the New Deployment dialog box that appears, open the project drop down and select the web project.

There is a Deploy Type section beneath the Project combo box when we select Exploded Archive(development mode), our changes in the application will be synced live without having to redeploy, this is the best option during development as it is very efficient.

 

Selecting Packaged Archive(production mode) will require us to redeploy every time we make changes and see them in the browser. This is best only for production, but still, Eclipse makes it equally easy.

6.3. Deploy Web Application In External Location

We usually choose to deploy a WAR through Eclipse to make debugging easier. There may come a time when we want it deployed to a location other than those used by Eclipse’s embedded servers. The most common instance is where our production server is online, and we want to update the web application.

We can bypass this procedure by deploying in production mode and noting the Deploy Location in the New Deployment dialog box and picking the WAR from there.

During deployment, instead of selecting an embedded server, we can select the <Externally Launched> option from the servers view alongside the list of embedded servers. We navigate to the webapps directory of an external Tomcat installation.

7. Deploy From IntelliJ IDEA

To deploy a web application to Tomcat, it must exist and have already been downloaded and installed.

7.1. Local Configuration

Open the Run menu and click the Edit Configurations options.

 

In the panel on the left search for Tomcat Server, if it is not there click the + sign in the menu, search for Tomcat and select Local. In the name field put Tomcat 7/8 (depending on your version).

 

Click the Configure… button and in Tomcat Home field navigate to the home location of your installation and select it.

 

Optionally, set the Startup page to be http://localhost:8080/ and HTTP port: 8080, change the port as appropriate.

Go to the Deployment tab and click on the + symbol, select artifact you want to add to the server and click OK

 

 

7.2. Remote Configuration

Follow the same instructions as for local Tomcat configurations, but in the server tab, you must enter the remote location of the installation.

8. Deploy By Copying Archive

We have seen how to export a WAR from Eclipse. One of the things we can do is to deploy it by simply dropping it into the $CATALINA_HOME\webapps directory of any Tomcat instance. If the instance is running, the deployment will start instantly as Tomcat unpacks the archive and configures its context path.

If the instance is not running, then the server will deploy the project the next time it is started.

9. Deploy From Tomcat Manager

Assuming we already have our WAR file to hand and would like to deploy it using the management dashboard. You can access the manager dashboard by visiting: http://localhost:8080/manager.

The dashboard has five different sections: Manager, Applications, Deploy, Diagnostics, and Server Information. If you go to the Deploy section, you will find two subsections.

9.1. Deploy Directory or WAR File Located on Server

If the WAR file is located on the server where the Tomcat instance is running, then we can fill the required Context Path field preceded by a forward slash “/”.

Let’s say we would like our web application to be accessed from the browser with the URL http://localhost:8080/myapp, then our context path field will have /myapp.

We skip the XML Configuration file URL field and head over to the WAR or Directory URL field. Here we enter the absolute URL to the Web ARchive file as it appears on our server. Let’s say our file’s location is C:/apps/myapp.war, then we enter this location. Don’t forget the WAR extension.

After that, we can click deploy button. The page will reload, and we should see the message:

OK - Deployed application at context path /myapp

at the top of the page.

Additionally, our application should also appear in the Applications section of the page.

9.2. WAR File to Deploy

Just click the choose file button, navigate to the location of the WAR file and select it, then click the deploy button.

In both situations, if all goes well, the Tomcat console will inform us that the deployment has been successful with a message like the following:

INFO: Deployment of web application archive \path\to\deployed_war has finished in 4,833 ms

10. Conclusion

In this writeup, we focused on deploying a WAR into a Tomcat server.

I just announced the new Spring Boot 2 material, coming in REST With Spring:

>> CHECK OUT THE LESSONS