What is gRPC? Full explanation with examples

Imagine that you have a large restaurant with many chefs and service staff. Instead of every employee shouting to request or send information, they can use an effective internal communication system. This system is gRPC in the software world.

Now if you understand the previous example, imagine that you are building a voice chat application such as Discord or Zoom. These applications need to exchange data quickly and efficiently between users and servers to ensure a good user experience. This is where gRPC comes into play.

Definition of gRPC

Abbreviation for “gRPC Remote Procedure Calls,” it refers to the same framework that enables communication between services. gRPC is a bit like the language that services talk to each other.

It is a software communication system used to build and implement Internet services (such as APIs) that communicate with each other over the network. It was developed by Google, and is based on a protocol called Remote Procedure Call (RPC).

We have now entered a second spiral. What does Remote Procedure Calls mean?

This is the basic concept underlying gRPC. It refers to the ability to call a function or procedure located on another device (Remote) over the network as if it were located locally on your device. In other words, you can perform an action on a remote machine without needing to know the actual execution details.

The definitions in Arabic are as follows:

  • gRPC stands for: Remote Procedure Calls.
  • RPC stands for: Remote Procedure Call.

what if:

  • The chef wanted to inform the waiter that the order was ready: It can send a quick message via gRPC to the waiter's machine to tell him the order number.
  • The waiter wanted to know what ingredients were in a particular dish: It can send a request via gRPC to the kitchen management system which responds with a list of ingredients.
  • The restaurant manager wanted to know how many orders were placed today: It can send a request to the reporting system which collects data from all subsystems and provides a summary report.
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This way, all systems in the restaurant can communicate smoothly and efficiently, ensuring better customer service. Likewise, in the software world, gRPC allows different services to communicate and exchange information quickly and efficiently, building more powerful and integrated applications.

What are the uses of gRPC?

gRPC uses remote procedure calls in a wide range of applications and services, especially when performance and efficiency are critical. Here are some common uses:

1. Using gRPC in Microservices Distributed Systems:

gRPC allows different services to communicate very efficiently, making it ideal for distributed systems consisting of many microservices working together.

Imagine that you want to build a large online store. Instead of building one huge app that does everything (product management, shopping cart, checkout, shipping, etc.), you can break down the store into several independent microservices:

  • Products Service: Responsible for storing and displaying product information.
  • Shopping cart service: Responsible for managing customers' shopping cart.
  • Payment service: Responsible for processing payments.
  • Shipping service: Responsible for calculating shipping costs and organizing deliveries.

Each of these services is a “microservice,” which operates independently and has its own database. Each service can be developed in a different programming language, and can be deployed and updated separately without affecting other services.

When a customer adds a product to the cart, the cart service uses gRPC to communicate with the product service to obtain information about the product (price, inventory, etc.). When a customer goes to the checkout page, the payment service uses gRPC to communicate with the shopping cart service to obtain a list of products to purchase, and then communicates with the payment service to process the payment.

If we benefit from gRPC in Distributed systems Via:

  • Each service can be developed and updated independently, making it easier to add new features and fix bugs.
  • Each service can be scaled independently to meet growing demand.
  • Microservices are easier to understand and maintain compared to large and complex applications.

This is an example of how gRPC can be used in distributed systems (microservices) to facilitate communication between different services.

2. Using gRPC in low-latency communications:

Because of its use of the HTTP/2 protocol and efficient data format, gRPC is an excellent choice for applications that require very fast responses, such as online games or financial applications.

Imagine that you are playing an online video game with your friends, where the game requires quick reflexes. Any delay in sending or receiving information can affect your gaming experience and make you lose.

In this case, gRPC is used to ensure that your commands (such as movement or shooting) are sent to the server and game updates (such as the movement of other players) are received as quickly as possible.

How does gRPC work in this example?

  1. Send commands: When you press a button on your keyboard or controller, a command is sent via gRPC to the game server.
  2. Order processing: The server processes the command and updates the game state accordingly.
  3. Send updates: The server sends game updates (such as new locations for other players) to your device via gRPC.
  4. Game update: The game is updated on your device based on the information received, allowing you to see what changes have occurred in the game.

The delay time (latency) between sending commands and receiving updates is reduced to a minimum, ensuring a smooth and responsive gaming experience.

3. Using gRPC in Real-time Communication:

gRPC supports bidirectional data flow, making it suitable for applications that require continuous real-time updates, such as chat or video conferencing.

Imagine that you are making a video call with your friend who lives in another country. During a conversation, you can see and hear your friend in real time, and they can also see and hear you. This is possible thanks to real-time communications.

In this example, gRPC is used to transfer audio and video data between your device and your friend's device quickly and efficiently. As follows:

  1. Your device captures audio and video from your camera and microphone.
  2. Data is compressed to reduce its size and make it easier to transfer over the Internet.
  3. The compressed data is sent to your friend's device via gRPC.
  4. Your friend's device decompresses the data and restores the original audio and video.
  5. Audio and video are displayed on your friend's screen and speakers.

Thanks to the use of gRPC, the delay between sending and receiving data is reduced to a minimum, allowing you to have a natural and smooth conversation with your friend as if you were in the same room.

4. Using gRPC in Resource Constrained IoT Devices:

Due to its data efficiency, gRPC can be used in IoT devices that typically have limited resources.

Imagine that you have a small sensor in your garden that measures temperature and humidity. This device is battery powered and has limited computing resources. However, it needs to send the data it collects to a central server for analysis and storage.

This is where gRPC comes into play. For its data efficiency, the device can use gRPC to send data to the server in a compact form, reducing power consumption and extending battery life.

Therefore, we conclude that the use of gRPC in limited devices is as follows:

  1. The sensor collects temperature and humidity data.
  2. Data is compressed using Protocol Buffers to reduce its size.
  3. The compressed data is sent to the central server via gRPC.
  4. The server decompresses the data and restores it to its original form.
  5. The server analyzes the data and stores it for future use.

The sensor can efficiently send data to the server without consuming a lot of power, making it ideal for use in resource-constrained devices such as IoT devices.

5. Using gRPC in Multilingual Polyglot Environments:

gRPC supports many programming languages, making it easier to build systems that use different languages ​​for different services.

Imagine that you work in a large company that owns a complex software system consisting of several services. A web development team may prefer JavaScript, a data analysis team may prefer Python, and an infrastructure team may be more familiar with Go.

In this Polyglot Environment, each team can use its preferred programming language to develop its own services. gRPC is used to enable these services to communicate seamlessly with each other, regardless of the programming language used in each.

  • Frontend service: Written in JavaScript, it displays an interactive user interface to users.
  • Data processing service (Backend): Written in Python, it analyzes data received from users and delivers personalized results.
  • Account management service (Authentication): Written in Go, it makes sure users are properly logged in and manages their account data.

When the user interacts with the front-end, the front-end service sends a request to the data processing service via gRPC. The data processing service processes the request and sends the results back to the front-end service via gRPC. Likewise, the front-end service communicates with the account management service via gRPC to validate users and manage their accounts.

So we benefit from gRPC in multiple languages ​​as follows:

  • Each team can use the tools and languages ​​they prefer and feel most comfortable working with.
  • The most appropriate language can be chosen for each service based on its requirements and language capabilities.
  • Teams can work independently and develop their own services without worrying about language compatibility.

Different teams in a multilingual environment can collaborate seamlessly and build powerful and efficient software systems.

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Briefly

gRPC is used anywhere where performance, efficiency, and speed of response are critical, especially in distributed systems and applications that require real-time communications.

Now if you would like to learn more about gPRC, you can visit the official documentation and education website Here.

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