HttpSession

Jakob Jenkov
Last update: 2014-05-25

The HttpSession object represents a user session. A user session contains information about the user across multiple HTTP requests.

When a user enters your site for the first time, the user is given a unique ID to identify his session by. This ID is typically stored in a cookie or in a request parameter.

Here is how you access the session object:

protected void doPost(HttpServletRequest request,
    HttpServletResponse response)
        throws ServletException, IOException {

    HttpSession session = request.getSession();
}

You can store values in the session object, and retrieve them later. First, let's see how you can store values in the session object:

session.setAttribute("userName", "theUserName");

This code sets an attribute named "userName", with the value "theUserName".

To read the value again, you do this:

String userName = (String) session.getAttribute("userName");

Values stored in the session object are stored in the memory of the servlet container.

Sessions and Clusters

If you have an architecture with 2 web servers in a cluster, keep in mind that values stored in the session object of one server, may not be available in the session object on the other server. So, if a user's requests are divided evenly between the two servers, sometimes session values may be missing.

The solution to this problem would be one of:

  1. Do not use session attributes.
  2. Use a session database, into which session attributes are written, and from which it is read.
  3. Use sticky session, where a user is always sent to the same server, throughout the whole session.

Jakob Jenkov

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