November 29, 2005

Running Tomcat on port 80

The typical java web application is fronted by a web server (usually Apache) for a number of reasons. Apache handles static content well, and also is easier to configure to listen on privileged ports (under 1024). I've written before about different options for connecting Tomcat and Apache, but there are times when all you need is a servlet engine, and installing Apache is overkill. If you don't want users to see a nonstandard port in their url (, then you have a couple of options.

You can run tomcat as root. This is probably not a good idea, since anyone who can write a jsp can now execute arbitrary commands as root. I don't know how Tomcat's security is, but in general, the fewer applications running with super user privileges, the better.

If you share my dislike of Tomcat running as root, here's an excellent rundown of the options for running Tomcat on port 80. I went the route of jsvc. This seemed to work just fine, though every time we shut down tomcat, we would get an entry in the error log file: jsvc.exec error: Service exit with a return value of 143.

That didn't start to disturb me until I realized that the destroy method of our servlets weren't being called. This method cleaned up after the servlet and it was important that it get executed. A bit of googling turned up a discussion of this very problem. The version of jsvc that ships with Tomcat 5.0.27 doesn't shut down Tomcat very nicely.

I downloaded and compiled subversion, because that's the version control system that the daemon jakarta project (of which jsvc is a part) used. I then checked out the version of the source tagged daemon-1_0_1 (svn co and rebuilt jsvc. This new version allows tomcat to call the destroy methods of servlets, and everything seems to be happy.

Posted by moore at November 29, 2005 10:06 AM
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