Friday, December 30, 2011

How to extract HTTP header fields in a REST API

To be able to extract HTTP headers fields from incoming requests accessing a REST API is particularly useful when trying to log the transactions that are coming through the REST based service.

In this example, I use Java based JBoss RESTEasy together with @Context java annotation to extract the header information.

One of the REST API operation is /version that returns the current version of the API in a JSON format.The interface operation is defined as follow:


     * Get the current version of the REST API.
     public Response getVersion(@Context HttpHeaders headers);

The @Context annotation allows you to map request HTTP headers to the method invocation.

One way to safely extract all available header parameters is to loop through the headers.The method getRequestHeaders from returns the values of HTTP request headers. The returned map is case-insensitive and is read-only.

   if (headers != null) {
       for (String header : headers.getRequestHeaders().keySet()) {

When querying the REST API via a browser:

you obtain a minimum set of headers fields:

   Header:cache-control Value:[max-age=0]
   Header:connection Value:[keep-alive]
   Header:accept-language Value:[en-us,en;q=0.5]
   Header:host Value:[]
   Header:accept Value:[text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8]
   Header:user-agent Value:[Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:8.0)    
   Gecko/20100101 Firefox/8.0]
   Header:accept-encoding Value:[gzip, deflate]
   Header:session-id Value:[d636369c]
   Header:accept-charset Value:[ISO-8859-1,utf-8;q=0.7,*;q=0.7]

To be able to extract a specific header field (e.g. Host), you can use the getRequestHeader function:

 public Response getVersion(@Context HttpHeaders headers) {
     if (headers != null) {
        List<String> hostHeader = headers.getRequestHeader("host");
        if (hostHeader != null) {
           for (String host : hostHeader) {
     // Get the version
     final Version current_version = new Version();
     final ObjectMapper mapper = new ObjectMapper();
     final JsonNode rootNode = mapper.createObjectNode();
     ((ObjectNode) rootNode).putPOJO(Version.XML_ROOT_ELEMENT, current_version);
     final ResponseBuilder builder = Response.ok(rootNode);

If you are using a test harness tools like cURL, you can also easily add additional HTTP header fields
(e.g. the email address of the user making the request or the referer) and test the logging functionality of your REST API:
curl -H "From:"
curl -H "Referer:"

The headers can also be obtained through the HttpServletRequest object.
This can be done using the @Context HttpServletRequest annotation and can provide additional information about the incoming request:

public Response getVersion(@Context HttpServletRequest request) {

Since HttpServletRequest extends ServletRequest you also getting useful methods providing information on the Internet Protocol (IP) address, host and port of the client or last proxy that initiated the request.

public Response getVersion(@Context HttpServletRequest request) {