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Part-1: Building a basic microservice with gRPC using Golang

toransahu profile image Toran Sahu Updated on ・9 min read

Introduction

Being easy to use, REST API is the current most popular framework among developers for web application development. REST has been used to expose the services to the outer world, and also for internal communication among internal microservices. However, ease and flexibility come with some pitfalls. REST requires very strict Human Agreement, and relies on Documentation. Also, it has been found not so very performant in the case of internal communication and real-time applications. In 2015, gRPC kicked in. gRPC initially developed at Google is now disrupting the industry. gRPC is a modern open-source high-performance RPC framework, which comes with a simple language-agnostic Interface Definition Language (IDL) system, leveraging Protocol Buffers.

Objective

The purpose of this blog is to get you started with gRPC in Go with a simple working example. The blog covers basic information like What, Why, When/Where, and How about the gRPC. We'll majorly focus on the How section, to implement the client and server, to write unittests to test the client and server code separately, and will run the code to establish a client-server communication.

What is gRPC?

gRPC - Remote Procedure Call

  • gRPC is a high performance, open-source universal RPC Framework
  • It enables the server and client applications to communicate transparently and build connected systems
  • gRPC is developed and open-sourced by Google (but no, the g doesn’t stand for Google)

Why use gRPC?

  • Better Design
    • With gRPC, we can define our service once in a .proto file and implement clients and servers in any of gRPC’s supported languages
    • Ability to auto-generate and publish SDKs as opposed to publishing the APIs for services
  • High Performance
    • Advantages of working with protocol buffers, including efficient serialization, a simple IDL, and easy interface updating
    • Advantages of improved features of HTTP/2
    • Multiplexing: This forces service-client to utilize a single TCP connection to simultaneously handle multiple requests
    • Binary Framing and Compression
  • Multi-way communication
    • Simple/Unary RPC
    • Server-side streaming RPC
    • Client-side streaming RPC
    • Bidirectional streaming RPC

Where to use gRPC?

The “where” is pretty easy: we can leverage gRPC almost anywhere we have two computers communicating over a network:

  • Microservices
  • Client-Server Applications
  • Integrations and APIs
  • Browser-based Web Applications

How to use gRPC?

Our example is a simple “Stack Machine” as a service that lets clients perform operations like, PUSH, ADD, SUB, MUL, DIV, FIBB, AP, GP.

In Part-1 we’ll focus on Simple RPC implementation, in Part-2 we’ll focus on Server-side & Client-side streaming RPC, and in Part-3 we’ll implement Bidirectional streaming RPC.

Let's get started with installing the pre-requisites of the development.

Prerequisites

Go

  • Version 1.6 or higher.
  • For installation instructions, see Go’s Getting Started guide.

gRPC

Use the following command to install gRPC.

~/disk/E/workspace/grpc-eg-go
$ go get -u google.golang.org/grpc
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Protocol Buffers v3

~/disk/E/workspace/grpc-eg-go
$ go get -u github.com/golang/protobuf/proto
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  • Update the environment variable PATH to include the path to the protoc binary file.
  • Install the protoc plugin for Go
~/disk/E/workspace/grpc-eg-go
$ go get -u github.com/golang/protobuf/protoc-gen-go
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Setting Project Structure

~/disk/E/workspace/grpc-eg-go
$ go mod init github.com/toransahu/grpc-eg-go
$ mkdir machine
$ mkdir server
$ mkdir client

$ tree
.
├── client/
├── go.mod
├── machine/
└── server/
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Defining the service

Our first step is to define the gRPC service and the method request and response types using protocol buffers.

To define a service, we specify a named service in our machine/machine.proto file:

service Machine {
   ...
}
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Then we define a Simple RPC method inside our service definition, specifying their request and response types.

  • A simple RPC where the client sends a request to the server using the stub and waits for a response to come back
// Execute accepts a set of Instructions from the client and returns a Result.
rpc Execute(InstructionSet) returns (Result) {}
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  • machine/machine.proto file also contains protocol buffer message type definitions for all the request and response types used in our service methods.
// Result represents the output of execution of the instruction(s).
message Result {
  float output = 1;
}
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Our machine/machine.proto file should look like this considering Part-1 of this blog series.

Generating client and server code

We need to generate the gRPC client and server interfaces from the machine/machine.proto service definition.

~/disk/E/workspace/grpc-eg-go
$ SRC_DIR=./
$ DST_DIR=$SRC_DIR
$ protoc \
  -I=$SRC_DIR \
  --go_out=plugins=grpc:$DST_DIR \
  $SRC_DIR/machine/machine.proto
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Running this command generates the machine.pb.go file in the machine directory under the repository:

~/disk/E/workspace/grpc-eg-go
$ tree machine/
.
├── machine/
│   ├── machine.pb.go
│   └── machine.proto
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Server

Let's create the server.

There are two parts to making our Machine service do its job:

  • Create server/machine.go: Implementing the service interface generated from our service definition; writing the business logic of our service.
  • Running the Machine gRPC server: Run the server to listen for requests from clients and dispatch them to the right service implementation.

Have a look how our MachineServer interface should look like: grpc-eg-go/server/machine.go

type MachineServer struct{}

// Execute runs the set of instructions given.
func (s *MachineServer) Execute(ctx context.Context, instructions *machine.InstructionSet) (*machine.Result, error) {
    return nil, status.Error(codes.Unimplemented, "Execute() not implemented yet")
}
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Implementing Simple RPC

MachineServer implements only Execute() service method as of now - as per Part-1 of this blog series.
Execute(), just gets a InstructionSet from the client and returns the value in a Result by executing every Instruction in the InstructionSet into our Stack Machine.

Before implementing Execute(), let's implement a basic Stack. It should look like this.

type Stack []float32

func (s *Stack) IsEmpty() bool {
    return len(*s) == 0
}

func (s *Stack) Push(input float32) {
    *s = append(*s, input)
}

func (s *Stack) Pop() (float32, bool) {
    if s.IsEmpty() {
        return -1.0, false
    }
    item := (*s)[len(*s)-1]
    *s = (*s)[:len(*s)-1]
    return item, true
}
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Now, let’s implement the Execute(). It should look like this.

type OperatorType string

const (
    PUSH OperatorType   = "PUSH"
    POP               = "POP"
    ADD               = "ADD"
    SUB               = "SUB"
    MUL               = "MUL"
    DIV               = "DIV"
)

type MachineServer struct{}

// Execute runs the set of instructions given.
func (s *MachineServer) Execute(ctx context.Context, instructions *machine.InstructionSet) (*machine.Result, error) {
    if len(instructions.GetInstructions()) == 0 {
        return nil, status.Error(codes.InvalidArgument, "No valid instructions received")
    }

    var stack stack.Stack

    for _, instruction := range instructions.GetInstructions() {
        operand := instruction.GetOperand()
        operator := instruction.GetOperator()
        op_type := OperatorType(operator)

        fmt.Printf("Operand: %v, Operator: %v", operand, operator)

        switch op_type {
        case PUSH:
            stack.Push(float32(operand))
        case POP:
            stack.Pop()
        case ADD, SUB, MUL, DIV:
            item2, popped := stack.Pop()
            item1, popped := stack.Pop()

            if !popped {
                return &machine.Result{}, status.Error(codes.Aborted, "Invalide sets of instructions. Execution aborted")
            }

            if op_type == ADD {
                stack.Push(item1 + item2)
            } else if op_type == SUB {
                stack.Push(item1 - item2)
            } else if op_type == MUL {
                stack.Push(item1 * item2)
            } else if op_type == DIV {
                stack.Push(item1 / item2)
            }

        default:
            return nil, status.Errorf(codes.Unimplemented, "Operation '%s' not implemented yet", operator)
        }

    }

    item, popped := stack.Pop()
    if !popped {
        return &machine.Result{}, status.Error(codes.Aborted, "Invalide sets of instructions. Execution aborted")
    }
    return &machine.Result{Output: item}, nil
}
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We have implemented the Execute() to handle basic instructions like PUSH, POP, ADD, SUB, MUL, and DIV with proper error handling. On completion of the execution of the instructions set, it pops the result from Stack and returns as a Result object to the client.

Code to run the gRPC server

To run the gRPC server we need to:

  • Create a new instance of the gRPC struct and make it listen to one of the TCP ports at our localhost address. As a convention default port selected for gRPC is 9111.
  • To serve our StackMachine service over the gRPC server, we need to register the service with the newly created gRPC server.

For the development purpose, the basic insecure code to run the gRPC server should look like this.

var (
    port = flag.Int("port", 9111, "Port on which gRPC server should listen TCP conn.")
)

func main() {
    flag.Parse()
    lis, err := net.Listen("tcp", fmt.Sprintf(":%d", *port))
    if err != nil {
        log.Fatalf("failed to listen: %v", err)
    }
    grpcServer := grpc.NewServer()
    machine.RegisterMachineServer(grpcServer, &server.MachineServer{})
    grpcServer.Serve(lis)
    log.Printf("Initializing gRPC server on port %d", *port)
}
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We must consider strong TLS based security for our production environment. I’ll try planning to include an example of TLS implementation in this blog series.

Client

As we already know that the same machine/machine.proto file, which is our IDL (Interface Definition Language) is capable of generating interfaces for clients as well. One has to just implement those interfaces to communicate with the gRPC server.

With having a .proto either service provider can implement an SDK, or the consumer of the service itself can implement a client in the desired programming language.

Let's implement our version of a basic client code, which will call the Execute() method of the service. The client should look like this.

var (
    serverAddr = flag.String("server_addr", "localhost:9111", "The server address in the format of host:port")
)

func runExecute(client machine.MachineClient, instructions *machine.InstructionSet) {
    log.Printf("Executing %v", instructions)
    ctx, cancel := context.WithTimeout(context.Background(), 10*time.Second)
    defer cancel()
    result, err := client.Execute(ctx, instructions)
    if err != nil {
        log.Fatalf("%v.Execute(_) = _, %v: ", client, err)
    }
    log.Println(result)
}

func main() {
    flag.Parse()
    var opts []grpc.DialOption
    opts = append(opts, grpc.WithInsecure())
    opts = append(opts, grpc.WithBlock())
    conn, err := grpc.Dial(*serverAddr, opts...)
    if err != nil {
        log.Fatalf("fail to dial: %v", err)
    }
    defer conn.Close()
    client := machine.NewMachineClient(conn)

    // try Execute()
    instructions := []*machine.Instruction{}
    instructions = append(instructions, &machine.Instruction{Operand: 5, Operator: "PUSH"})
    instructions = append(instructions, &machine.Instruction{Operand: 6, Operator: "PUSH"})
    instructions = append(instructions, &machine.Instruction{Operator: "MUL"})
    runExecute(client, &machine.InstructionSet{Instructions: instructions})
}
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Test

Server

Let's write a unit test to validate our business logic of Execute() method.

  • Create a test file server/machine_test.go
  • Write the unit test, it should look like this.

Run the test file.

~/disk/E/workspace/grpc-eg-go
$ go test server/machine.go server/machine_test.go -v
=== RUN   TestExecute
--- PASS: TestExecute (0.00s)
PASS
ok      command-line-arguments    0.004s
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Client

To test client-side code without the overhead of connecting to a real server, we'll use Mock. Mocking enables users to write light-weight unit tests to check functionalities on the client-side without invoking RPC calls to a server.

To write a unit test to validate client side business logic of calling the Execute() method:

  • Install golang/mock package
  • Generate mock for MachineClient
  • Create a test file mock/machine_mock_test.go
  • Write the unit test

As we are leveraging the golang/mock package, to install the package we need to run the following command:

~/disk/E/workspace/grpc-eg-go
$ go get github.com/golang/mock/mockgen@latest
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To generate a mock of the MachineClient run the following command, the file should look like this.

~/disk/E/workspace/grpc-eg-go
$ mkdir mock_machine && cd mock_machine
$ mockgen github.com/toransahu/grpc-eg-go/machine MachineClient > machine_mock.go
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Write the unit test, it should look like this.

Run the test file.

~/disk/E/workspace/grpc-eg-go
$ go test mock_machine/machine_mock.go  mock_machine/machine_mock_test.go -v
=== RUN   TestExecute
output:30
--- PASS: TestExecute (0.00s)
PASS
ok      command-line-arguments    0.004s
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Run

Now we are assured through unit tests that the business logic of the server & client codes is working as expected, let’s try running the server and communicating to it via our client code.

Server

To turn on the server we need to run the previously created cmd/run_machine_server.go file.

~/disk/E/workspace/grpc-eg-go
$ go run cmd/run_machine_server.go
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Client

Now, let’s run the client code client/machine.go.

~/disk/E/workspace/grpc-eg-go
$ go run client/machine.go
Executing instructions:<operator:"PUSH" operand:5 > instructions:<operator:"PUSH" operand:6 > instructions:<operator:"MUL" >
output:30
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Hurray!!! It worked.


At the end of this blog, we’ve learned:

  • Importance of gRPC - What, Why, Where
  • How to install all the prerequisites
  • How to define an interface using protobuf
  • How to write gRPC server & client logic for Simple RPC
  • How to write and run the unit test for server & client logic
  • How to run the gRPC server and a client can communicate to it

The source code of this example is available at toransahu/grpc-eg-go.
You can also git checkout to this commit SHA to walk through the source code specific to this Part-1 of the blog series.

See you in the next part of this blog series.

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