Virtual Hosting and Tomcat

Table of Contents


For the sake of this how-to, assume you have a development host with two host names, ren and stimpy. Let's also assume one instance of Tomcat running, so $CATALINA_HOME refers to wherever it's installed, perhaps /usr/local/tomcat.

Also, this how-to uses Unix-style path separators and commands; if you're on Windows modify accordingly.


At the simplest, edit the Engine portion of your server.xml file to look like this:

<Engine name="Catalina" defaultHost="ren">
    <Host name="ren"    appBase="renapps"/>
    <Host name="stimpy" appBase="stimpyapps"/>

Note that the directory structures under the appBase for each host should not overlap each other.

Consult the configuration documentation for other attributes of the Engine and Host elements.

Webapps Directory

Create directories for each of the virtual hosts:

mkdir $CATALINA_HOME/renapps
mkdir $CATALINA_HOME/stimpyapps

Configuring Your Contexts


Contexts are normally located underneath the appBase directory. For example, to deploy the foobar context as a war file in the ren host, use $CATALINA_HOME/renapps/foobar.war. Note that the default or ROOT context for ren would be deployed as $CATALINA_HOME/renapps/ROOT.war (WAR) or $CATALINA_HOME/renapps/ROOT (directory).

NOTE: The docBase for a context should never be the same as the appBase for a host.

context.xml - approach #1

Within your Context, create a META-INF directory and then place your Context definition in it in a file named context.xml. i.e. $CATALINA_HOME/renapps/ROOT/META-INF/context.xml This makes deployment easier, particularly if you're distributing a WAR file.

context.xml - approach #2

Create a structure under $CATALINA_HOME/conf/Catalina corresponding to your virtual hosts, e.g.:

mkdir $CATALINA_HOME/conf/Catalina/ren
mkdir $CATALINA_HOME/conf/Catalina/stimpy

Note that the ending directory name "Catalina" represents the name attribute of the Engine element as shown above.

Now, for your default webapps, add:


If you want to use the Tomcat manager webapp for each host, you'll also need to add it here:

cd $CATALINA_HOME/conf/Catalina
cp localhost/manager.xml ren/
cp localhost/manager.xml stimpy/

Defaults per host

You can override the default values found in conf/context.xml and conf/web.xml by specifying the new values in files named context.xml.default and web.xml.default from the host specific xml directory.

Following our previous example, you could use $CATALINA_HOME/conf/Catalina/ren/web.xml.default to customize the defaults for all webapps that are deployed in the virtual host named ren.

Further Information

Consult the configuration documentation for other attributes of the Context element.