Remotely Accessing Liferay Services

Liferay includes a utility called the Service Builder which is used to generate all of the low level code for accessing resources from the portal database. This utility is further explained in the Liferay Developer Guide and in Liferay in Action, but it is mentioned here because of its feature which generates interfaces not only for Java code, but also for web services and JavaScript. This means that the method calls for storing and retrieving portal objects are all the same, and are generated in the same step.

Figure 2.20: Liferay SOAs first layer of security is its properties files.

Figure 2.20: Liferay SOA's first layer of security is its properties files.

Because the actual method calls for retrieving data are the same regardless of how one gets access to those methods (i.e., locally or through web services), Liferay provides a consistent interface for accessing portal data that few other products can match. The actual interfaces for the various services are covered in the Liferay Developer Guide and in Liferay in Action. Before these services can be used, administrators need to enable users to access these services remotely.

In the default file, there is a section called Main Servlet. This section defines the security settings for all of the remote services provided by Liferay. Copy this section and paste it into your custom file. Then you can edit the default values to configure the security settings for the Axis Servlet, the Liferay Tunnel Servlet, the Spring Remoting Servlet, the JSON Tunnel Servlet, and the WebDAV servlet.

By default, a user connecting from the same machine Liferay is running on can access remote services so long as that user has the permission to use those services in Liferay’s permissions system. Of course, you are not really “remote” unless you are accessing services from a different machine. Liferay has two layers of security when it comes to accessing its services remotely. Without explicit rights to both layers, a remote exception will be thrown and access to those services will not be granted.

The first layer of security that a user needs to get through in order to call a method from the service layer is servlet security. The Main Servlet section of the file is used to enable or disable access to Liferay’s remote services. In this section of the properties file, there are properties for each of Liferay’s remote services.

You can set each service individually with the security settings that you require. For example, you may have a batch job which runs on another machine in your network. This job looks in a particular shared folder on your network and uploads documents to your site’s Documents and Media portlet on a regular basis, using Liferay’s web services. To enable this batch job to get through the first layer of security, you would modify the file and put the IP address of the machine on which the batch job is running in the list for that particular service. For example, if the batch job uses the Axis web services to upload the documents, you would enter the IP address of the machine on which the batch job is running to the axis.servlet.hosts.allowed property. A typical entry might look like this:

axis.servlet.hosts.allowed=,, SERVER_IP

If the machine on which the batch job is running has the IP address, this configuration will allow that machine to connect to Liferay’s web services and pass in user credentials to be used to upload the documents.

Figure 2.21: Liferay SOAs second layer of security is its permissions system.

Figure 2.21: Liferay SOA's second layer of security is its permissions system.

The second layer of security is Liferay’s security model that it uses for every object in the portal. The user account that accesses the services remotely must have the proper permissions to operate on the objects it attempts to access. Otherwise, a remote exception will be thrown. Portal administrators need to use Liferay’s permissions system to grant access to these resources to the administrative user account that attempts to operate on them remotely. For example, say that a Documents and Media folder called Documents has been set up in a site. A role has been created called Document Uploaders which has the rights to add documents to this folder. Your batch job will be accessing Liferay’s web services in order to upload documents into this folder. In order for this to work, you have to call the web service using a user account to which the Document Uploaders role has been assigned (or that has individual rights to add documents to the folder). Otherwise, you will be prevented from using the web service.

To call the web service using credentials, you would use the following URL syntax:

http://" + userIdAsString + ":" + password +
"@<\>:<port\>/tunnel-web/secure/axis/" + serviceName

The user ID is the user’s ID from Liferay’s database. This can be obtained by logging in as the user and navigating to the My Account portlet in the Control Panel. The user ID appears on the Details page of the My Account portlet in the Control Panel.

For example, to get Organization data using a user that has the ID of 2 with a password of test, you would use the following URL:


It is important to note here how Password Policies (covered in this guide’s chapter on User Management can be used in combination with this feature. If you are enforcing password policies on your users (requiring passwords to take a certain form, requiring users to change their passwords on a periodic basis, etc.), any administrative user account which accesses Liferay’s web services in a batch job will have its password expire too.

To prevent this from happening, you can add a new password policy which does not enforce the password expiration and add your administrative user ID to it. Then your batch job can run as many times as you need it to and the administrative user account’s password will never expire.

In summary, accessing Liferay remotely requires the successful passing of two security checks:

  1. The IP address must be pre-configured in the server’s file.
  2. The user ID being used must have permission to access the resources it attempts to access.

Accessing Liferay’s JSON Web Services

To see which Liferay service methods are registered and available for use via JSON web services, open your browser to the following address:


The page lists the portal’s registered and exposed service methods. Get each method’s details by clicking the method name. You can view the full signature of each method, all its arguments, the exceptions that can be thrown, and its Javadoc! Using a simple form from within your browser, you can even invoke the service method for testing purposes.

To list registered services on a plugin (e.g. a custom portlet), don’t forget to use its context path in your URL:


This lists the JSON Web Service API for the plugin.

Accessing Liferay’s WSDL

After configuring the security settings properly, your first step in obtaining access to Liferay’s remote SOAP web services is to access the WSDL. If you are on a browser on the same machine Liferay is running on, you can do this by accessing the following URL:

http://localhost:<port number\>/tunnel-web/axis

If, for example, you are running on Tomcat on port 8080, you would specify this URL:


If you are accessing a web service that was created as part of a portlet plugin, the URL is similar, but uses the context of your application rather than the tunnel-web servlet. You can get a list of your Service Builder-generated WSDL documents by using the URL pattern below:


If you are on a different machine from the Liferay server, you will need to pass in your user credentials on the URL to access the WSDL:

http://<user ID\>:<password\>@<server name\>:<port number\>/tunnel-web/axis

In any case, once you successfully browse to this URL, you will see the list of web services. You can access the WSDL for each service by clicking on the WSDL link next to the name of the service. There are many services; one for each of the services available from the Liferay API.

Once you click on one of the WSDL links, the Web Service Definition Language document will be displayed. This document can be used to generate client code in any language that supports it. You can either save the document to your local machine and then generate the client code that way, or use your tool to trigger Liferay to generate the document dynamically by using one of the URLs above. For further information about developing applications that take advantage of Liferay’s remote services, please see the Liferay Developer Guide or Liferay in Action.

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