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Java Servlet Programming by Jason Hunter

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Chapter 3. The Servlet Life Cycle

The servlet life cycle is one of the most exciting features of servlets. This life cycle is a powerful hybrid of the life cycles used in CGI programming and lower-level NSAPI and ISAPI programming, as discussed in Chapter 1.

The Servlet Alternative

The servlet life cycle allows servlet engines to address both the performance and resource problems of CGI and the security concerns of low-level server API programming. A servlet engine may execute all its servlets in a single Java virtual machine (JVM). Because they are in the same JVM, servlets can efficiently share data with each other, yet they are prevented by the Java language from accessing one another’s private data. Servlets may also be allowed to persist between requests as object instances, taking up far less memory than full-fledged processes.

Before we proceed too far, you should know that the servlet life cycle is highly flexible. Servers have significant leeway in how they choose to support servlets. The only hard and fast rule is that a servlet engine must conform to the following life cycle contract:

  1. Create and initialize the servlet.

  2. Handle zero or more service calls from clients.

  3. Destroy the servlet and then garbage collect it.

It’s perfectly legal for a servlet to be loaded, created, and instantiated in its own JVM, only to be destroyed and garbage collected without handling any client requests or after handling just one request. Any servlet engine that makes this a habit, however, probably ...

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