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Grpc Tutorial with ruby

·1393 words·7 mins
ruby grpc

So the other day I found an exciting project Anycable that allow using custom WebSocket server within your ruby application. I immediately got hooked up, and I started reading about it, and the first thing that I never heard of it was Grpc.

Grpc is an Open Source RPC framework developed by Google which uses protocol buffers. RPC (remote procedure call) the idea is that we can call a method on a server as we were calling a local object.

So the first thing I did was visit the official site for Grpc and went straight to the ruby section. What I found is a tutorial that is not up to date with the code from the repo at Github, and I found a little hard to follow, so I decided to merely extract the tutorial to my repo and explaining the overview of what I learned.

Please, I want to make clear that the majority of the code is identical to the one in the grpc repo but I organized and rename a couple of things, so is easier to understand.

The first piece in our puzzle is the definition of our Grpc service, for that we use a file with proto extension.

If you never use protocol buffers before do not worry it may sound scary, but it is a pretty simple idea. Inside our proto file, we define the different types that we use both for the client and the server, you can think of them as objects.

message Coordinate {
  int32 latitude = 1;
  int32 longitude = 2;

You can even use already defined types inside other types.

message Area {
  Coordinate lo = 1;
  Coordinate hi = 2;

There are are many more features in protocol buffers, but I am not going cover them here.

Now that we have our basic types defined we are going to create our service; you can think of it as our API on our server.

We need to define a service and declare the different methods that the clients can call.

service RouteGuide { # this will the name of our service

Inside our service, we define the different rpc calls.

There are 4 ways a client can communicate with the server:

The client sends a request, and the server sends a response, this is the simplest one.

rpc GetLocation(Coordinate) returns (Location) {}

The client sends a request, and the server sends a stream of messages back, then the client reads them.

rpc ListLocations(Area) returns (stream Location) {}

The client sends a stream of messages then the client waits for the server to read them all and send a response.

rpc RecordRoute(stream Coordinate) returns (RouteSummary) {}

Last option and more complicated one, bidirectional were both sides send a read-write stream, the two stream works independently so clients and servers can read and write in whatever order they like. The order of messages in each stream is preserved.

rpc RouteChat(stream RouteNote) returns (stream RouteNote) {}

That is all that we need to know. Here is the complete file

Now we are going to start working on the Ruby implementation of the server and the client.

We need these dependencies to read our proto file and transform into something our ruby code could understand

gem install "grpc"
gem install "grpc-tools"

Thanks to grpc-tools we can use a command to transform our proto file into a ruby file.

bundle exec grpc_tools_ruby_protoc

That creates files with all the objects that we need to work.

Creating the server #

Let’s explain what our server does; It has a Hash database of locations where it stores the latitude and longitude as keys, and the value is the name of that location.

  • So our server can receive a Coordinate (latitude and longitude) and get a Location back with the information.

  • It can receive an Area that is defined between two coordinates and return a list of location within that region.

  • It can receive a stream of coordinates an calculate the route summary between this coordinates.

To create the server we need first to create a Handler it has the same contract as we previously defined in our proto file, and we described above, so it has corresponding methods for all the rpc calls we have previously defined

Thanks to the generated files we have access to some classes that help to define our Handler. So we are going to start by creating a class that extends from RouteGuide::Service class generated from the proto file.

Let’s implement the GetLocation contract.

def get_location(coordinates, _call)
  name = DB.find(longitude: coordinates.longitude, latitude: coordinates.latitude) || '' coordinates, name: name)

The DB is the Hash database that we previously mentioned. So if we read the method it is quite clear what is doing, is receiving a coordinate as an argument, is looking inside the DB for the name of that coordinate and is returning a new Location. Remember that Location is something that we generated from the proto file.

Now, let’s try with the server stream example. The contract said that the server would receive a rectangle and it streams points back to the client. To achieve this, we need to return an Enumerator that yields our points to the client

def list_locations(area, _call)

The logic for yielding points is encapsulated inside the Locations you can see the full code here

Let’s see the example when the client sends a stream of points to the server. When the server receives a stream, it gets an Enumerator where it reads all the data.

def record_route(call)

On the call object from the arguments, we can use the method each_remote_yield that yield each message sent from the client.

call.each_remote_read do |point|
  # logic inside

You can find the full code here.

Here is all the code for the Handler class.

Starting the server #

That is the painless part once we have all the logic for the Handler, we just need to create a new instance of GRPC::RpcServer, and we have our server running waiting for clients to send data to it.

server =
server.add_http2_port("", :this_port_is_insecure)

Creating the client #

When dealing with client code, we need to create what is called a stub it has all the method that we have defined in our service route_guide such as get_location, list_locations, record_route, basically is the way we communicate with the server.

stub ="localhost:50051", :this_channel_is_insecure)

Let’s communicate with the server to get a feature based on a coordinate; we need to send a Coordinate to the server.

point =  409_146_138, longitude: -746_188_906)

With that, we can call get_location passing the coordinate and expect to have a response from the server.

response = stub.get_location(coordinate) # => 'Berkshire Valley Management Area Trail, Jefferson, NJ, USA'
response.coordinates # => <Routeguide::Coordinate: latitude: 409146138, longitude: -746188906>

Let’s look at an example where the server returns as a stream of data. The server returns an Enumerator, and we can loop over it reading the multiple responses, it feels like executing a method from a local object.

rectangle =
  lo: 400_000_000, longitude: -750_000_000),
  hi: 420_000_000, longitude: -730_000_000))

responses = stub.list_locations(area)
responses.each do |r|
  puts "- found '#{}' at #{r.coordinates.inspect}"

Lastly, let’s look an example when the client sends a stream of data to the server; it works similarly as the server implementation it should send an Enumerator which yield each message to the server.

class RandomRoute
  attr_reader :size

  def initialize(size)
    @size = size

  def each
    return enum_for(:each) unless block_given?
    size.times do
      feature = DB.rand
      point = create_point(feature[:location])
      yield point


  def create_point(location)[ { |k, v| [k.to_sym, v] }])

points_on_route = 10  # arbitrary
request =
response = stub.record_route(request.each)
puts "summary: #{response.inspect}"

Our class RandomRoute encapsulate the logic for creating an Enumerator using the Kernel method enum_for there is an excellent article that explain it more in depth.

With all of this, we just created a Grpc Server and a Client that communicate with each other.

I have created a repo with all the code so you can have a look.

If you have any thoughts or questions, please share, and I will be happy to answer in the comments.

Thank you for reading I know it has been a long journey, but I hope you have learned something new today.