Multi-tenancy is a fundamental architecture which can be used to share IT resources cost-efficiently and securely in cloud environments, in which a single instance of software runs on a server and serves multiple tenants.

It’s been years since we first heard about it; it came out again riding the wave of cloud computing, so we can assume that multi-tenancy is a consolidated architecture and the benefits in terms of maintainability and costs are well known.

APIs are the backbone of a distributed cloud architecture, so building a multi-tenant API is the natural aftermath in this scenario.

In this article I will show you how to build a simple multi-tenant RESTful API using Java in a quick and easy way, dramatically reducing the configuration code amount required by the most frequently adopted solutions.

A multi-tenancy implementation may be cumbersome

The first impression, looking for multi-tenancy implementation strategies, is that there’s no specific standard and no well defined best practices.

One of the most common solution is relying on Hibernate to implement multi-tenancy behaviour at DataSource level. Hibernate requires two interfaces to be implemented: CurrentTenantIdentifierResolver to resolve what the application considers the current tenant identifier and MultiTenantConnectionProvider to obtain Connections in a tenant specific manner. This could be tricky and not so trivial, possibly leading to boilerplate code rising.

And finally, last but not least, this solution is only suitable for a JPA implementation, since Hibernate is directly used as tenant resolver and connection router.

Furthermore, the Spring Framework is often used in conjunction with Hibernate to build a multi-tenant API or application. One of the most useful aspects of the core Spring architecture is the availability of scopes: in a multi-tenant scenario, sooner or later you’ll surely miss a tenant scope, which is not available out-of-the-box. Creating a custom scope in Spring is not trivial, it requires a deep knowledge of the Spring architecture and a lot of code to implement and register the new scope.

You can check the Spring+Hibernate version of the example shown in the second part of this article here:

The easy way

Now let’s streamline the process, in order to highly simplify the multi-tenancy setup and to cut down the required configuration effort, getting rid of all the boilerplate code.

We will use the Holon platform to achieve this goal, relying on the platform’s native multi-tenant support.
I’ll show you a working example of a simple RESTful API, using the following Holon platform’s components and configuration facilities:

  1.  The TenantResolver interface to provide the current tenant identifier
  2. A tenant Spring scope provided out-of-the-box, automatically configurated and registered when using Spring Boot
  3.  The Holon Platform JDBC datastore module to use JDBC for multi-tenant data access
  4.  The Holon Platform JAX-RS module to easily create a RESTful API using Java

The complete example is available on GitHub:

Our RESTful API implements the CRUD operations to manage a simple Product, providing methods to create, update, delete and query the product data.

The multi-tenancy architecture of this example is organized per schema: each tenant is bound to a separate database schema and will access data through a different Java DataSource.

Each time an API request is performed we need to know the caller tenant identifier, to correctly route the persistence operations to the right database schema.

The three most common ways to provide the tenant identifier are:

  1. Providing the tenant identifier as a URL part, for example using a query parameter
  2. Using a custom HTTP request header
  3. Using JWTs to provide the tenant identifier as a JSON token claim

We will use the second option, through a custom HTTP header called ‘X-TENANT-ID’.

An example to use JWT to provide the tenant identifier is available in the jwt branch of the GitHub example repository.

Besides the Holon platform components listed above, for our example we will use:

  1. Spring Boot for application auto-configuration and to create a runnable jar with an embedded servlet container
  2. The H2 in-memory database for data persistence
  3. JSON as data exchange format

The Holon Datastore API will be used to access data in a technology-indipendent way (using JDBC in this example is only a matter of configuration) and the Holon Property model to define the product data model. Check to Holon reference documentation for detailed information.

The result will be a fully working example made of just three Java classes: now let’s build our example step by step.

Step 1: Project configuration

First of all, we will use Maven for project configuration and dependency management.

We’ll use the Holon Platform BOM (Bill of Materials) to easily obtain the dependencies we need.



			<!-- Holon Platform BOM -->

The Holon JDBC Datastore Spring Boot starter is used to automatically configure the data access layer:

<!-- Holon JDBC Datastore with HikariCP starter -->

Likewise we declare the Holon JAX-RS Spring Boot starter dependency to use and auto-configure Jersey as JAX-RS implementation.

<!-- Holon JAX-RS using Jersey -->

At last, the H2 database dependency:

<!-- H2 database -->

To configure our Spring application we will use an application.yml configuration file.

We simulate that two tenants are available, the first bound to a schema named tenant1 and the second associated to a schema named tenant2. So we need two DataSource instances, one for each schema.

Auto-configure more than one DataSource with the default Spring Boot DataSource auto-configuration is not possible without writing additional code. For this reason, we’ll rely on the Holon platform DataSource auto-configuration facilities to define the two tenant DataSources, through a holon.datasource configuration property structure like this:

      		url: "jdbc:h2:mem:tenant1"
      		username: "sa"
      		url: "jdbc:h2:mem:tenant2"
      		username: "sa" 

By default, for each auto-configured DataSource, a Holon JDBC Datastore is created too. Each DataSource/Datastore pair will be available as a Spring bean and qualified with the name specified through the holon.datasource.* properties. For example, the DataSource bound to the first tenant can be injected in a Spring component using the @Qualifier(“tenant1”) annotation.

To be up and running at startup we will use a couple of .sql file to create a sample table named ‘product’ and one row for each tenant.

Step 2: Writing the code

As I said before we need just 3 Java classes.

1. Application definition and configuration

First of all, we create the Application class, which acts as the Spring Boot application entry-point and as the main Spring configuration class:

public class Application {

	public TenantResolver tenantResolver(HttpServletRequest request) {
		return () -> Optional.ofNullable(request.getHeader("X-TENANT-ID"));

	public Datastore datastore(BeanFactory beanFactory, TenantResolver tenantResolver) {
		// get current tenant id
		String tenantId = tenantResolver.getTenantId()
				.orElseThrow(() -> new IllegalStateException("No tenant id available"));
		// get Datastore using tenantId qualifier
		return BeanFactoryAnnotationUtils.qualifiedBeanOfType(beanFactory, Datastore.class, tenantId);

	public static void main(String[] args) {, args);

We have configured two Spring beans:

  • A TenantResolver implemetation to provide the current tenant identifier and to enable the Holon platform tenant scope. In this example, we want to use a custom HTTP header named “X-TENANT-ID” to obtain the tenant identifier from the caller. We need the current HttpServletRequest to obtain the header value, so we declare the TenantResolver as request-scoped and rely on Spring to obtain a reference to the current request.
  • A tenant-scoped Datastore is correctly retrieved by Spring through the tenant identifier which acts as bean qualifier.
    The two Datastore instances have already been configured by the Holon Platform Spring Boot autoconfiguration facilities, using the two DataSources declared through the holon.datasource.* configuration properties. The current tenant-related Datastore is retrieved using the bean qualifier which matches with the current tenant id, provided by the TenantResolver interface.

2. The data model

The Product interface represents our data model:

 * Product model
public interface Product {

	static final PathProperty<Long> ID = PathProperty.create("id", Long.class);

	static final PathProperty<String> SKU = PathProperty.create("sku", String.class);

	static final PathProperty<String> DESCRIPTION = PathProperty.create("description", String.class);

	static final PathProperty<String> CATEGORY = PathProperty.create("category", String.class);

	static final PathProperty<Double> UNIT_PRICE = PathProperty.create("price", Double.class)
			// not negative value validator

	// Product property set
	static final PropertySet<?> PRODUCT = PropertySet.of(ID, SKU, DESCRIPTION, CATEGORY, UNIT_PRICE);

	// "products" table DataTarget
	static final DataTarget<String> TARGET = DataTarget.named("products");


The Holon platform Property model is used to define the product data model. Deepening this topic is out of the scope of this article, check the official Holon documentation for further details.

3. The API endpoint

The ProductEndpoint class represents the JAX-RS resource that will provide the API CRUD, using JSON as data exchange format. The class is annotated with @Component to make it available as a Spring component and we rely on the Holon platform Jersey auto-configuration facilities to automatically register the endpoint in the JAX-RS application:

public class ProductEndpoint {

	private Datastore datastore;

	 * Get a list of products PropertyBox in JSON.
	public List<PropertyBox> getProducts() {
		return datastore.query().target(TARGET).list(PRODUCT);

	 * Get a product PropertyBox in JSON.
	public Response getProduct(@PathParam("id") Long id) {
		return datastore.query().target(TARGET).filter(ID.eq(id)).findOne(PRODUCT).map(p -> Response.ok(p).build())

	 * Create a product. The @PropertySetRef must be used to declare the request
	 * PropertyBox property set.
	public Response addProduct(@PropertySetRef(Product.class) PropertyBox product) {
		// set id
		long nextId = datastore.query().target(TARGET).findOne(ID.max()).orElse(0L) + 1;
		product.setValue(ID, nextId);
		// save, product);
		return Response.created(URI.create("/api/products/" + nextId)).build();

	 * Update a product. The @PropertySetRef must be used to declare the request
	 * PropertyBox property set.
	public Response updateProduct(@PropertySetRef(Product.class) PropertyBox product) {
		return datastore.query().target(TARGET).filter(ID.eq(product.getValue(ID))).findOne(PRODUCT).map(p -> {, product);
			return Response.noContent().build();

	 * Delete a product by id.
	public Response deleteProduct(@PathParam("id") Long id) {
		return Response.noContent().build();


Note that we injected the Datastore instance to perform data access operations: thanks to tenant scope with which the Datastore bean is declared, we’ll obtain the right Datastore instance according to the current tenant identifier.

Run the application

The spring-boot-maven-plugin will create a runnable jar to have our application up and running using our JRE. We can run application using this maven command:

mvn spring-boot:run

Application is running under Tomcat, listening to port 8080. We can test our endpoint using Postman application and making GET or POST request to the path we’ve defined before. Let’s test the /products operation using both tenants. Setting the X-TENANT-ID header to tenant1 will produce the following result:

Using tenant2 as the X-TENANT-ID header value, the result is:


We’ve seen how to setup a multi-tenant API quickly, highly reducing the configuration effort and boilerplate code that is often required for this kind of task.
The multi-tenant architecture that we’ve used in our simple API implementation can of course be leveraged for other, more complex, services or applications.
The source code of the application can be found at

Information security is one of the most importart concerns facing an increasily connected world. And since APIs are the glue of the digital landscape, API security is more important than ever.

In this scenario, user identity and access management are core concepts to deal with. In API architectures, in particular with the emerging microservices approach, the real challenge is to enable a strong security and identity management support while keeping efficiency and reliability.

In a microservices environment, the services are scoped and deployed in multiple containers in a distributed setup, and the service interactions are frequent and remote, mostly over HTTP. In this distributed and stateless world, even the user identity has to be managed in a distributed and stateless way.

What we need here is a solution that allows reliable user identity management and authorization checking without additional overhead, and using the JSON Web Tokens (JWT for short) can be the answer.

Quoting from the introduction, a JWT can be defined as follows:

JSON Web Token (JWT) is an open standard (RFC 7519) that defines a compact and self-contained way for securely transmitting information between parties as a JSON object. This information can be verified and trusted because it is digitally signed. JWTs can be signed using a secret (with the HMAC algorithm) or a public/private key pair using RSA.

In a world where service-to-service communication security is a real concern, using a JSON Web Token offers many advantages:

  • Performance and easy distribution: The JWT representation is compact, and thanks to its small size, the trasmission of a JWT token is fast and can be effectively performed using the HTTP protocol, for example using a URL, POST parameter, or inside a HTTP header.
  • Efficiency: A JWT token is self-contained, carrying in its payload all the identity information (including authorizations), avoiding the need to perform additional calls (for example a database query) to obtain user information.
  • Simplicity and standardization: JWT is an open standard and uses JSON to represent the identity information, a widely used and supported data format.
  • Granular security: With JWT you can provide fine grained resource access control.
  • Debuggability: JSON Web Tokens can be easily inspected, differently for example from an opaque API key.
  • Expiration control: A JWT supports an expiration time, easy to set and control.
  • OAuth2 compliance: OAuth2 uses an opaque token that relies on a central storage. You can return a JSON Web Token instead, with the allowed scopes and expiration.

Ok, now let’s get our hands dirty

I’ll take the simple API application example of my previous article, Spring Boot, Jersey, and Swagger: Always Happy Together, as a starting point to show you how to use the Holon Platform to secure API operations using JWT. The Holon Platform JWT support relies on the jjwt library to encode, decode and verify the JWT tokens.

The source code of the updated example API application can be found on GitHub, in the jwt branch of the spring-boot-jaxrs-swagger-api-example repository:

In a typical scenario, the JSON Web Tokens emission, interchange and consumption process involves at least three actors: the issuer, the protected resource and the client.

1. The JWT issuer

The issuer is in charge to issue a JSON Web Token as a response to a valid authentication request. This step can include the user account credentials validation.

The produced JSON Web Token can contain detailed user information, including for example user profile information and authorizations, in addition to system and validation related data, such as the issuer name and the expiration time. These information are called claims in the JWT terminology, and they constitute the JWT payload. In addition to the set of reserved claims, you can provide a number of custom claims to represent the user identity and account information.

The issuer role can be easily intepreted by a OAuth2 UAA (User Account and Authentication) server, which returns a JWT instead of an opaque and randomly generated token.

In this example, we’ll simulate the JSON Web Token generation by a UAA server, using the Holon Platform authentication and authorization APIs from a JUnit test class. The Holon Platform authentication architecture relies on the Authentication interface to represent the authenticated principal (which can represent an user but also another entity). The Authentication structure supports permissions to represent the authorization grants and generic parameters to specify the account details.

To build a JSON Web Token from an Authentication, the JwtTokenBuilder class can be used. This builder will translate the Authentication permissions and parameters into JWT claims.

The JWT token builder needs to know which kind of token to build (signed or not), which algorithm has to be used to sign the token and any additional reserved claim (such as the token unique id, the issuer name and the expiration time) to add to the token itself before encoding it. This information can be collected and provided to the builder using the JwtConfiguration interface and the Holon Platform Spring Boot support can be used to build a JwtConfiguration using the application configuration properties.

To enable the Holon Platform JWT support, we just have to add the holon-auth-jwt artifact dependency to the dependecies section of our project’s pom:

<!-- Holon JWT support -->

Now we can use a set of Spring Boot configuration properties, with the holon.jwt prefix, to auto-configure a JwtConfiguration instance which will be made available as a Spring component. The list of all the configuration properties is available here.

In this example, we want to setup the issuer name to be used, the expiration time and the signature algorithm to use. For the sake of simplicity, in this example we’ll use a symmetric signing algorithm (HMAC with SHA-256), so we only need a single secret key, which has to be shared between the parties.

So you want to modify the application.yml configuration file adding the following configuration properties:

    signature-algorithm: HS256
    sharedkey-base64: eWGZLlCrUjtBZwxgzcLPnA
    expire-hours: 1
    issuer: example-issuer

The expire-hours property is used to specify an expiration time of one hour, but other configuration properties are available to use a different unit of time (for example expire-minutes, expire-seconds, expire-ms).

From now on, we can simply obtain the JwtConfiguration which represents these configuration properties as an injected dependency.

So, let’s see an example about a JSON Web Token generation from an Authentication object (you can find more examples in the ApiTest unit test class of the source repository):

private JwtConfiguration jwtConfiguration;

public void jwtBuilder() {
  Authentication authc = Authentication.builder("testUser") // principal name
    // permissions
    // user details
    .parameter("firstName", "Test")
    .parameter("lastName", "User")
    .parameter("email", "")
    // build the Authentication 

  // Build the JSON Web Token using the provided configuration and Authentication
  String jwtToken = JwtTokenBuilder.buildJwtToken(jwtConfiguration, authc, 
    UUID.randomUUID().toString() // Token id claim (jti)

The JWT produced in the example above will look like this:


This token can be easily transmitted using the HTTP protocol, using for example an Authorization header.

See this example for a simple JWT authorization server which issues JSON Web Tokens as the response of a POST invocation providing username and password using the HTTP Basic scheme authorization header.

2. The protected resource

Now it’s time to protected our API operations using JWT.

We’ll leverage again on the Holon Platform authentication architecture, using the Realm security abstraction and the Holon Platform Spring Boot support to allow API resources access only to authenticated clients.

We’ll use HTTP Authorization header with the Bearer scheme to obtain the JWT provided by the client. The JSON Web Token will be validated according to the JWT configuration properties (checking the sign, the issuer name and the expiration time), then the JWT claims can be used to obtain the required user identity information.

We want to implement a simple authorization control too, so the permission claims will be used to obtain the user roles and check if it was granted to access an API operation.

First of all, we have to setup the Holon Platform security Realm, specifying:

  • An AuthenticationTokenResolver to translate the JWT into an authentication token which can be interpreted by the Realm’s authenticators.
  • The Authenticator which the Realm has to use in order to perform the account authentication.
  • An Authorizer, responsible for authorization control. The default Authorizer relies on the Authentication permissions to check the user authorization against the required permissions/roles.

The Realm is configured as a Spring component in the Application class and will be automatically located and used by the Holon Platform authorization and authentication architecture:

public Realm realm(JwtConfiguration jwtConfiguration) {
  return Realm.builder()
    // HTTP Bearer authorization schema resolver
    // JWT authenticator using the provided JwtConfiguration
    // default authorizer

The JwtConfiguration bean is automatically created using the application confguration properties as seen before.

Finally, we enable the API endpoint protection simply by using the Holon Platform @Authenticate annotation on the JAX-RS resource class:

@Authenticate // require authentication
@ApiDefinition(docsPath = "/api/docs", title = "Example API", version = "v1", prettyPrint = true)
@Api("Test API")
public class ApiEndpoint {

  // content omitted


The Holon Platform JAX-RS module automatically setup Jersey enabling the following behaviour:

  • A resource method annotated with @Authenticate is only accessible by a valid, JWT authenticated, client request. If the @Authenticate annotation is declared at class level, all the JAX-RS class methods inherits the authentication setup. If the authentication is not present or not valid, a 401 - Unauthorized status error response is returned.
  • The JAX-RS SecurityContext of an authenticated request returns the Authentication instance associated to the request from the getUserPrincipal() method. The Holon Platform translates back the JWT claims into the Authentication permissions and parameters, so they can be simply accessed from the JAX-RS method.
  • The standard* annotations (@PermitAll, @DenyAll, @RolesAllowed) are enabled to perform role-based resource access control, using the  Authentication permissions provided by the JWT. If authorization control is not successfull, a 403 - Forbidden  status error response is returned.
  • For more advanced authorization controls, the Realm component can be injected in the JAX-RS endpoint to leverage on the Realm API operations using the current Authentication.

For example, to declare that no role is required to access the original /ping operation, the @PermitAll annotation can be used:

@PermitAll // no specific role required
@ApiOperation("Ping request")
@ApiResponses({ @ApiResponse(code = 200, message = "OK: pong", response = String.class) })
public Response ping() {
  return Response.ok("pong").build();

The ROLE2 authorization is required to access the following API operation, and the JAX-RS SecurityContext is used (injected through the standard JAX-RS @Context annotation) to obtain the authenticated principal name:

@RolesAllowed("ROLE2") // ROLE2 is required
@ApiOperation("Get user name")
@ApiResponses({ @ApiResponse(code = 200, message = "OK", response = String.class) })
public Response userOperation(@Context SecurityContext securityContext) {
  // get the user principal name from the JAX-RS SecurityContext
  String principalName = securityContext.getUserPrincipal().getName();
  return Response.ok(principalName).build();

Finally, we add an API operation which uses the Authentication obtained from the JAX-RS SecurityContext to read the custom JWT claims ("firstName", "lastName", "email") and the Holon Platform Realm for additional authorization control. The example response is the JSON representation of a UserDetails example class:

private Realm realm;

@RolesAllowed("ROLE2") // ROLE2 is required
@ApiOperation("Get user details")
@ApiResponses({ @ApiResponse(code = 200, message = "OK", response = String.class) })
public UserDetails userDetails(@Context SecurityContext securityContext) {

  // the Holon platform Authentication is available as the JAX-RS SecurityContext user principal
  Authentication auth = (Authentication) securityContext.getUserPrincipal();

  // use Realm to perform additional authorization checks
  boolean hasRole1 = realm.isPermitted(auth, "ROLE1");

  UserDetails userDetails = new UserDetails();

  // read the JWT claims, translated into Authentication parameters
  auth.getParameter("firstName", String.class).ifPresent(p -> userDetails.setFirstName(p));
  auth.getParameter("lastName", String.class).ifPresent(p -> userDetails.setLastName(p));
  auth.getParameter("email", String.class).ifPresent(p -> userDetails.setEmail(p));

  return userDetails;

3. The client

The last actor is the client, which obtains the JSON Web Token from the issuer and uses it to perform the API calls, providing it as HTTP Authorization header Bearer token.

In a service-to-service communication scenario, the JWT obtained from the original API request can be passed around to perform additional inter-service calls. No additional overhead, such as querying the database, is needed to obtain the identity information, which is encapsulated in the JWT payload.

See the ApiTest class to learn how to use the Holon Platform RestClient to perform RESTful API invocations providing the JWT as Authorization header Bearer token.

API Documentation

In the previous post, we’ve seen how to use the Holon Platform Swagger support to create and provide a standard API documentation. Now we want to complete the API documentation, adding the authorization information.

Let’s suppose to use OAuth2 to obtain the JWT bearer token. In this example, the OAuth2 authorization server is available at the URL.

Our authorization example roles (ROLE1 and ROLE2) will be represented as OAuth2 scopes.

Using the standard Swagger annotations, we’ll add API authorization definitions in the JAX-RS endpoint class this way:

1. Declare the API security schemes (OAuth2 in this example) using the @SwaggerDefinition annotation, including the available authorization scopes, then declare the authorization scheme (that we called jwt-auth) in the @Api annotation:

@SwaggerDefinition(securityDefinition = @SecurityDefinition(oAuth2Definitions = 
  @OAuth2Definition(key = "jwt-auth", description = "JWT Bearer token", flow = Flow.IMPLICIT,  
                    authorizationUrl = "", 
                    scopes = {
		      @Scope(name = "ROLE1", description = "Test role 1"),
		      @Scope(name = "ROLE2", description = "Test role 2") })))
@Api(value = "Test API", authorizations = @Authorization("jwt-auth"))
// other annotations omitted
public class ApiEndpoint {
  // content omitted

2. Declare the authorization scopes (the roles), required to access a specific API operation, in the @ApiOperation annotation. For example:

@ApiOperation(value = "Get protected resource", 
  authorizations = @Authorization(value = "jwt-auth", scopes = @AuthorizationScope(scope = "ROLE1")))
  @ApiResponses({ @ApiResponse(code = 200, message = "OK", response = String.class) })
// other annotations omitted
public Response protectedOperation() {
  return Response.ok("protected").build();

Thanks to the Holon platform Swagger auto-configuration, the API documentation can be obtained in JSON format from the URL:


Using the Swagger Editor to display the API documentation, it will appear like this:

The API authorization scheme can be inspected clicking on the lock icons, for example:


We’ve seen how JWT can be a lightweight and versatile alternative to other traditional authentication systems, mostly in the stateless API and microservices world, and how the Holon Platform can make its implementation simple and reliable.

The source code of this example API application can be found on GitHub, in the jwt branch of the spring-boot-jaxrs-swagger-api-example repository:

See the previous post to learn how to create the API example application using Spring Boot, Jersey and the Holon Platform JAX-RS module.

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