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What Is gRPC? Meaning, Architecture, Advantages

What is gRPC - Meaning, Architecture, Advantages

Companies around the world owe their business development to public APIs. They serve as an interface between different applications. The APIs allow third-party developers to use the code and data from the software conveniently. Using them makes a wide range of web products easily accessible to millions of users. Hence, you need to choose the right technology to provide an API for your app. This article will find one of the latest approaches for designing APIs. It is known as gRPC. But what is gRPC? Why should you use it? Is it better than the REST? Let’s dive in to find the answers.

What is gRPC?

What Is gRPC?

gRPC is a robust open-source RPC (Remote Procedure Call) framework. It enables you to build scalable and fast APIs. It utilizes HTTP/2, protocol buffers, and other modern technology stacks. Hence, your API can deliver high performance, scalability, and security.

gRPC allows the client and server applications to develop connected systems and ensures transparent communications. As a result, big names in the tech industry, including Google, Netflix, and IBM, have adopted gRPC.

What Is gRPC: Why Use It?

There are several reasons for using the gRPC framework. Let’s find them out.

Broad language support

gRPC supports a wide range of languages and frameworks, including Java, Python, C#, PHP, Node.js, etc. The gRPC clients can invoke not only GET and PUT but also any function. As a result, it is more versatile than the typical APIs.

Smaller message size

In the gRPC message, the Protocol buffers are smaller and faster to parse than JSON. As a result, it facilitates faster transmission between the client and the server.

Faster communication

HTTP/2 is more efficient than older protocols like HTTP/1.1It enables gRPC to reduce network bandwidth usage and decrease latency. Also, the messages are smaller. Hence, they can be quickly transferred between servers and clients. It helps to reduce the load on the network. Therefore, gRPC can provide a smoother user experience.

Streaming Connection

gRPC supports streaming connection mod. It sends or receives data in chunks. Hence, it can deliver enhanced performance for sending or receiving large amounts of information.

Pluggable Support

Finally, gRPC is modular. It allows you to plug in several amazing features, like load balancing, tracing, health checking, and authentication. Hence, you can conveniently set up and manage high-performance systems.

What Is gRPC: Why Use It

What Is gRPC: What Are The Basic gRPC Concepts?

gRPC utilizes advanced technologies to deliver significantly better performance than JSON and XML. Also, it provides enhanced security. But what are the concepts behind this amazing technology? Let’s find them out.

Protocol Buffers

Protocol buffers are also known as Protobuf. It is Google’s serialization/deserialization protocol. Protocol buffers allow you to easily define services. Also, they enable auto-generation of client libraries. gRPC uses the protocol as its Interface Definition Language (IDL) and serialization toolset.

You can find the definition of gRPC services and messages between client and server proto files. The Protobuf compiler is also known as protoc. It generates client and server code that loads the .proto file into the memory at runtime. It utilizes the in-memory schema to serialize or deserialize the binary message. Once the code generation is done, the messages are exchanged between the client and the remote service.

Protobuf provides several key advantages over JSON and XML. For example, it requires fewer CPU resources for parsing. Hence, it facilitates faster message exchange even in devices with Streaming.

Streaming is a concept where many processes can take place in a single request. Thanks to the multiplexing capability of HTTP/2. It can send multiple responses or receive multiple requests over a single TCP connection.

Let’s find the main types of streaming:

Server-streaming RPCs – Here, the client sends a single request to the server. The server sends back a stream of data sequences.

Client-streaming RPCs – In client-streaming RPCs, the client sends a stream of data sequences to the server. The server processes the data. Then it returns a single response to the client.

Bidirectional-streaming RPCs – As the name suggests, bidirectional-streaming RPC involves two-way streaming. Here, both the client and server send a sequence of messages to each other. Both streams operate independently.

HTTP/2

HTTP/2 enables gRPC to overcome the limitations of HTTP/1.1. It provides several advanced features. Let’s take a look at them.

Binary Framing Layer – Binary framing layer divides the response into small messages. Then it frames them in binary format. As a result, message transmission becomes significantly more efficient.

Streaming – Bidirectional full-duplex streaming facilitates the simultaneous operation of the client request and the server response.

Flow Control – Flow control enables detailed control of memory for buffering in-flight messages. The mechanism is used in HTTP/2.

Header Compression – HTTP/2 utilizes the HPACK compression method to share the values that are different from the previous HTTP header packets.

Processing – HTTP/2 enables gRPC to support both synchronous and asynchronous processing

With all these features, HTTP/2 enables gRPC to use fewer resources. It provides several key advantages. For example, HTTP/2 reduces the response times between apps and services running in the cloud. Also, it enables mobile devices to have longer battery life.

Channels

Channels provide a way to connect to the gRPC server on a specified address and port. They are used in creating a client stub. It is an important concept of gRPC.

What Is gRPC: What Are The Basic gRPC Concepts

What Is gRPC: How Does It Work?

The gRPC infrastructure decodes incoming requests. Then it executes service methods. Finally, it encodes service responses. On the client side, the client has a local object, called stub. It implements the same methods as the service. On the server side, the server implements the methods declared by the service. Also, it runs a gRPC server to efficiently handle client calls.

What Is gRPC: How Does It Work

What Is gRPC: What Are The gRPC API Service Methods?

  1. Unary service: A unary service method takes one input and returns one output. Also, it can send back multiple outputs as data becomes available.
  2. Server streaming: A server streaming service method receives one input from the client. Then it sends a stream of outputs.
  3. Client streaming: Client streaming is the opposite of server streaming. Here, the client sends multiple messages to the server. The server sends back a single response.
  4. Bidirectional streaming: In the bidirectional stream, the client initiates the call by invoking the method. It can simultaneously send and receive data streams in both directions.

What Are The gRPC API Service Methods

What Is gRPC: What Are Its Strengths?

gRPC enhances the old RPC design method by offering key benefits in certain operations. Let’s find them out.

Interoperability

gRPC tools and libraries support a variety of programming languages, like Java, JavaScript, Python, C#, Go, Objective-C, etc. Also, it supports Protobuf binary wire format. Hence, it can efficiently generate code for all platforms. It enables you to develop high-performance, cross-platform applications.

Security

The gRPC utilizes HTTP/2 to deliver enhanced API security. Also, it encourages using SSL/TLS. It enables you to efficiently authenticate and encrypts the data exchanged between the client and server.

Usability and Productivity

gRPC is an all-in-one RPC solution. It works seamlessly across all popular languages and platforms. Also, gRPC provides amazing features. For instance, it automatically generates boilerplate code. Hence, it can help you save a huge amount of time.

Built-in Commodity Features

gRPC offers built-in support for commodity features. For example, it supports metadata exchange, encryption, authentication, interceptors, and load balancing.

Read: What Is an API Key?

What Is gRPC: What Are Its Strengths

What Is gRPC: What Are Its Weaknesses?

gRPC offers many benefits. However, there are several downsides. You need to be aware of these weaknesses before using it to develop apps:

Limited Browser Support

gRPC heavily utilizes HTTP/2. As a result, you cannot directly call a gRPC service from a web browser. No browser of today’s world provides the required control over web requests to support the gRPC client. Hence, you need to utilize a proxy layer and gRPC-web to perform conversions between HTTP/1.1 and HTTP/2.

Non-human Readable Format

Protobuf offers several benefits. However, it has some downsides. For example, it compresses gRPC messages into a non-human readable format. Therefore, developers need additional tools to analyze Protobuf payloads on the wire. Also, you will require the tools for writing manual requests and debugging the application.

No Edge Caching

HTTP supports mediators for edge caching. However, gRPC calls use the POST method. It can cause issues with API security.

Steeper Learning Curve

gRPC is not easy to learn. Many developers find it to be very challenging. It’s difficult to get familiar with concepts, like Protobuf. As a result, more people prefer to rely on REST. Because it is a lot easier to learn and comprehend.

Read: SOAP vs REST 

What Is gRPC: When To Use It?

You should use gRPC, rather than REST, in the following circumstances:

  1. You are handling streaming calls in real-time communication services
  2. You need to maintain efficient communication
  3. You have to work in multi-language environments
  4. You are working on internal APIs and you don’t want to force technology choices on clients
  5. New builds as part of transforming the existing RPC API might not be worth it

Many of these conditions apply to microservices. That’s why, big names in the tech industry, including Netflix, Lyft, and WePay, have shifted from microservices to gRPC.

Read: What is an API?

Should I Use gRPC Instead Of REST?

gRPC is a highly efficient technology. It has gained a considerable footprint in the API area. However, it is not a better solution for developing APIs. Also, it’s not a replacement for REST. Nonetheless, gRPC works as a great alternative in certain conditions, like large-scale microservices connections and real-time communication. Also, it is very useful for low-power systems and multi-language environments.

Also, gRPC makes the most out of HTTP/2. Thanks to multiplexed streaming and binary protocol framing. Also, it supports the Protobuf message structure. Hence, it can deliver enhanced performance. Besides, gRPC supports built-in code generation capability. It has a multilingual environment. On top of that, it offers a strong API architectural style.

However, gRPC has several limitations, including low browser support. In this case, REST offers flexibility. It is compatible with all modern browsers. Many companies around the world have adopted it. It’s a proven format. Nonetheless, gRPC delivers significantly better performance than REST. In conclusion, choosing the right API format depends on your use case demands. That’s why you need to be very careful about your selection.

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FAQ

What is gRPC and how does it work?

gRPC is a robust open-source RPC (Remote Procedure Call) framework. It enables you to develop scalable and high-performance APIs. It works by facilitating transparent communication between the client and server applications. Hence, you can conveniently build highly efficient connected systems.

Is gRPC faster than REST?

Yes. In most cases, gRPC is a lot faster than REST API. When receiving data, it delivers 7 times faster performance. When it comes to sending data, gRPC performs roughly 10 times faster than REST.

What is gRPC used for?

gRPC is used for building scalable and fast APIs. Developers utilize it to build connected systems.

What is gRPC vs HTTP?

HTTP API requests are sent as text. You can read it. However, gRPC messages are encoded with Protobuf by default. They have a binary format. Hence, they are not human-readable.

Is gRPC a TCP or UDP?

gRPC is a TCP. It utilizes HTTP/2, which multiplexes multiple calls on a single TCP connection.

What are backend services?

Backend services are cloud-based services. They allow you to use third-party suppliers. Hence, you can conveniently develop the back end of websites or web apps.

How does a GRPC client work?

The GRPC client has a local object, called stub. It implements the same methods as the service.

Does GRPC enable transparent client-server communication?

Yes, GRPC facilitates transparent communication between the client and the server.

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