Introduction to eXo JCR

eXo JCR is an implementation of the Java Specification Request 170, also known as the Content Repository for Java technology API. This chapter introduces you to eXo JCR via 2 main topics:

  • eXo JCR architecture

    Introduction to 2 core factors of the eXo JCR architecture: eXo Repository Service and Workspace Data Model.

  • Compatibility levels

    Details of 2 compliance levels and a set of optional features.

Why Use JCR?

Do you know how your website data are stored? Images can be stored in a file system, and metadata are in some dedicated files, for example, in .xml files, and text documents and PDFs are stored in different folders with metadata in another repositories and in a proprietary structure. How do you manage updating these data and access rights? Where and how do you start if your leader asks you to manage different versions of each document? The larger your website is, the more Content Management Systems (CMSs) you need that allows tackling all these issues.

These CMS solutions are provided by different vendors and each vendor provides its own API for interfacing the proprietary content repository. The developers MUST deal with this and need to learn about the vendor-specific API. If you intend to switch to a different vendor in future, everything will be different, for example, you need a new implementation or a new interface.

JCR provides a unique Java interface that allows you to interact with both text and binary data, and to deal with any kind and amount of metadata of your documents. JCR supplies methods for storing, updating, deleting and retrieving your data without being dependent on the fact that the data is stored in a RDBMS, in a file system or as an XML document. The JCR interface is also defined as classes and methods for searching, versioning, access control, locking and observation.

Furthermore, the export and import functionality is specified so that a switch to a different vendor is always possible.

What does eXo JCR do?

eXo JCR fully complies with JSR 170; therefore with eXo JCR you can use a vendor-independent API. It means that you could switch to a different vendor whenever. By using the standard, you can reduce your lifecycle cost and long-term risk.


eXo Platform offers not only JCR but also the complete solution for both Enterprise Content Management and Web Content Management.

eXo JCR architecture

eXo Repository Service

eXo Repository Service is a JSR 170-based standard service and is a registered IoC (Inversion Of Control) component that can be deployed in some eXo Containers (see Repository service configuration for more details). The relationships between components are shown in the picture below:


eXo Container: Some subclasses of ExoContainer (usually StandaloneContainer or PortalContainer) that holds a reference to Repository Service. See Containers for more details.

  • Repository Service: Contain information about repositories. eXo JCR is able to manage many Repositories.

  • Repository: Implementation of javax.jcr.Repository. It holds references to one or more Workspace(s).

  • Workspace: Container of a single rooted tree of Items. (Note that here it is not exactly the same as javax.jcr.Workspace as it is not a Session object). See Workspace for the workspace configurations.

The JCR application usecase typically includes two initial steps:

  • Obtaining Repository object by getting Repository Service from the current eXo Container (eXo “native” way) or via JNDI lookup if eXo repository is bound to the naming context using (see Repository configuration for more details).

  • Creating javax.jcr.Session object that calls Repository.login(..).

Workspace Data Model

The following diagram explains which components of eXo JCR implementation are used in a data flow to perform operations specified in JCR API.


The Workspace Data Model can be split into 4 levels by the data isolation and value from the JCR model point of view.

  • eXo JCR core: Implements the JCR API interfaces, such as Item, Node, Property. It contains JCR “logical” view on stored data.

  • Session Level: Isolates the transient data viewable inside one JCR Session and interacts with API level using eXo JCR internal API.

  • Session Data Manager: Maintains the transient session data. With data access/ modification/ validation logic, it contains Modified Items Storage to hold the data changed between subsequent save() calling and Session Items Cache.

  • Transaction Data Manager: Maintains the session data between save() and transaction commit/ rollback if the current session is part of a transaction.

  • Workspace Level: Operates for the particular workspace shared data. It contains objects of each Workspace.

  • Workspace Storage Data Manager: Maintains the workspace data, including final validation, events firing, and caching.

  • Workspace Data Container: Implements the physical data storage. It allows different types of backend (such as RDB, FS files) to be used as a storage for JCR data. With the main Data Container, other storages for the persisted Property Values can be configured and used.

  • Indexer: Maintains the workspace data indexing for further queries.

  • Storage Level: Persistent storages for:

    • JCR Data.

    • Indexes (Apache Lucene).

    • Values (for example, for BLOBs) if being different from the main Data Container.

Compatibility levels

The Java Content Repository specification JSR-170 has been split into two compliance levels and a set of optional features.

  • Level 1 defines a read-only repository.

  • Level 2 defines methods for writing content and bidirectional interaction with the repository.


eXo JCR supports JSR-170 level 1 and level 2 and all optional features. The recent JSR-283 is not yet supported.

Level 1

Level 1 includes the read-only functionality for very simple repositories. It is useful to port an existing data repository and convert it to a more advanced form step by step. JCR uses a well-known Session abstraction to access the repository data (similar to the sessions you have in OS, web, and more).

The features of level 1:

  • Initiating a session calling the login method with the name of desired workspace and client credentials. It involves some security mechanisms (JAAS) to authenticate the client and in case the client is authorized to use the data from a particular workspace, he can retrieve the session with a workspace tied to it.

  • Using the obtained session, the client can retrieve data (items) by traversing the tree, directly accessing a particular item (requesting path or UUID) or traversing the query result. So an application developer can choose the “best” form depending on the content structure and desired operation.

  • Reading property values. All content of a repository is ultimately accessed through properties and stored in property values of predefined types (Boolean, Binary Data, Double, Long, String) and special types Name, Reference, and Path. It is possible to read property value without knowing its real name as a primary item.

  • Export to XML. Repository supports two XML/JCR data model mappings: system and document views. The system view provides complete XML serialization without loss of information and is somewhat difficult for a human to read. In contrast, the document view is well readable but does not completely reflect the state of repository, it is used for Xpath queries.

  • Query facility with Xpath syntax. Xpath, originally developed for XML, suits the JCR data model as well because the JCR data model is very close to XML’s one. It is applied to JCR as it would be applied to the document view of the serialized repository content, returning a table of property names and content matching the query.

  • Discovery of available node types. Every node should have only one primary node type that defines names, types and other characteristics of child nodes and properties. It also can have one or more mixin data types that defines additional characteristics. Level 1 provides methods for discovering available in repository node types and node types of a concrete node.

  • Transient namespace remapping. Item name can have prefix, delimited by a single ‘:’ (colon) character that indicates the namespace of this name. It is patterned after XML namespaces, prefix is mapped to URI to minimize names collisions. In Level 1, a prefix can be temporarily overridden by another prefix in the scope of a session.


Level 2

JCR level 2 includes reading/writing content functionality, importing other sources and managing content definition and structuring using extensible node types.

In addition to the features of the Level 1, it also supports the following major features:

  • Adding, moving, copying and removing items inside workspace and moving, copying and cloning items between workspaces. The client can also compare the persisted state of an item with its unsaved states and either save the new state or discard it.

  • Modifying and writing value of properties. Property types are checked and can be converted to the defined format.

  • Importing XML document into the repository as a tree of nodes and properties. If the XML document is an export of JCR system view, the content of repository can be completely restored. If this is not the case, the document is interpreted as a document view and the import procedure builds a tree of JCR nodes and properties that matches the tree structure of the XML document.

  • Assigning node types to nodes. The primary node type is assigned when adding a node. This can be done automatically based on the parent node type definition and mixin node types.

  • Persistent namespaces changes. Adding, changing and removing namespaces stored in the namespace registry, excluding built-in namespaces required by JCR.


Optional features

On the top of Level 1 or Level 2, a number of optional features are defined for a more advanced repository functionality. This includes functions such as Versioning, (JTA) Transactions, Query using SQL, Explicit Locking and Content Observation. eXo JCR supports all optional features.