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JAX-RS and Open Liberty: BYO Jackson

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Andy McCright on Nov 11, 2020
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Chances are that if you use JAX-RS 2.0 or 2.1 in Open Liberty, then you use JSON to format your data. If so, it’s equally likely that you use Jackson as your JSON provider. Open Liberty’s JAX-RS 2.0 implementation uses Jackson as its default JSON provider.

You might be wondering, That’s pretty cool, but how can I take advantage of Jackson in my application?

Good question! Open Liberty uses Jackson but intentionally doesn’t expose Jackson to user applications. If you want to use some of the cool features in Jackson, such as annotating fields to ignore or providing serialization processing instructions, just bring your own Jackson. In other words, package the Jackson JAX-RS provider JAR files in the WAR file of your application. You need the following JAR files:

The JacksonJsonProvider class is automatically registered if all of these JAR files are in the WEB-INF/lib directory of your WAR file. However, if you specify any classes in your Application subclass by using the getClasses() method or the getSingletons() method, as shown in the following example, then you need to register the JacksonJsonProvider class:

public class HelloWorldApplication extends Application {
    public Set<Class<?>> getClasses() {
        Set<Class<?>> classes = new HashSet<>();
        // ...
        return classes;

Automatic discovery and registration isn’t available in the JAX-RS Client APIs, so you need to explicitly register the JacksonJsonProvider class:

Client client = ClientBuilder.newClient().register(JacksonJsonProvider.class);

That’s it! Now Open Liberty’s JAX-RS implementation uses the Jackson provider from your application instead of the Jackson provider that’s built into Open Liberty. Your application can now use those cool Jackson features.

You don’t even need to do any classloading tricks, such as specifying your delegation as parentLast. The Open Liberty server doesn’t expose the Jackson API packages, so your application can load only the Jackson classes that you provide. The application also works regardless of the delegation policy, so you can use a parentLast delegation if you really want to.

If you’re interested in learning more about Jackson with Open Liberty, check out the sample.BYOJackson app at the WASdev GitHub repo. By the way, Jackson isn’t the only Java-to-JSON converter that you can choose. If you’re using JAX-RS 2.1, then you can also use JSON-B to get Java-to-JSON (and vice versa) conversion magic provided by Open Liberty. To enable JSON-B, see the JavaScript Object Notation Binding 1.0 feature documentation.