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The best description of gRPC can be seen at wikipedia.

gRPC is an open source remote procedure call (RPC) system initially developed at Google. It uses HTTP/2 for transport, Protocol Buffers as the interface description language, and provides features such as authentication, bidirectional streaming and flow control, blocking or nonblocking bindings, and cancellation and timeouts. It generates cross-platform client and server bindings for many languages.

— wikipedia
wikipedia

Vert.x gRPC is a module that will align the programming style of Google gRPC with Vert.x style. As a user of this module you will be more familiar with the code style using Vert.x Streams and Futures while benefiting from all the benefits of gRPC.

For more information related to gRPC please consult the official documentation site http://www.grpc.io/.

gRPC types

With gRPC you benefit from HTTP/2 which means that you will have asynchronous streaming support which means that your Remote Procedure Calls can have the following characteristics:

  • Client streams request objects while Server replies with a single response object

  • Client streams request objects while Server replies with a stream of response objects

  • Client sends a single request object while Server replies with a single response object

  • Client sends a single request object while Server replies with a stream of response objects

While to the untrained eye this might not look to different from other HTTP based RPC approaches you should be aware that with HTTP/2 your requests do not need to complete before the responses start to arrive. This means that your communication channel is full duplex. Being full duplex allows you to reduce the response latency and make more response application.

A simple Hello World

In order to start with your first hello world example, one needs to define the protocol. gRPC requires you to define this protocol using the protobuffer format.

syntax = "proto3";

option java_multiple_files = true;
option java_package = "examples";
option java_outer_classname = "HelloWorldProto";
package helloworld;

// The greeting service definition.
service Greeter {
  // Sends a greeting
  rpc SayHello (HelloRequest) returns (HelloReply) {}
}

// The request message containing the user's name.
message HelloRequest {
  string name = 1;
}

// The response message containing the greetings
message HelloReply {
  string message = 1;
}

This is a very simple example showing the single request, single response mode.

Compile the RPC definition

Using the definition above we need to compile it.

You can compile the proto file using the protoc compiler if you like or you can integrate it in your build.

If you’re using Apache Maven you need to add the plugin:

 <plugin>
  <groupId>org.xolstice.maven.plugins</groupId>
  <artifactId>protobuf-maven-plugin</artifactId>
  <version>0.5.0</version>
  <configuration>
    <protocArtifact>com.google.protobuf:protoc:3.2.0:exe:${os.detected.classifier}</protocArtifact>
    <pluginId>grpc-java</pluginId>
    <pluginArtifact>io.vertx:protoc-gen-grpc-java:1.1.2:${os.detected.classifier}</pluginArtifact>
  </configuration>
  <executions>
    <execution>
      <id>compile</id>
      <configuration>
        <outputDirectory>${project.basedir}/src/main/java</outputDirectory>
        <clearOutputDirectory>false</clearOutputDirectory>
      </configuration>
      <goals>
        <goal>compile</goal>
        <goal>compile-custom</goal>
      </goals>
    </execution>
    <execution>
      <id>test-compile</id>
      <goals>
        <goal>test-compile</goal>
        <goal>test-compile-custom</goal>
      </goals>
    </execution>
  </executions>
</plugin>

The ${os.detected.classifier} property is used to make the build OS independant, on OSX it is replaced by osx-x86_64 and so on. To use it you need to add the os-maven-plugin[https://github.com/trustin/os-maven-plugin] in the build section of your pom.xml:

<build>
  ...
  <extensions>
    <extension>
      <groupId>kr.motd.maven</groupId>
      <artifactId>os-maven-plugin</artifactId>
      <version>1.4.1.Final</version>
    </extension>
  </extensions>
  ...
</build>

This plugin will compile your proto files under src/main/proto and make them available to your project.

If you’re using Gradle you need to add the plugin:

...
apply plugin: 'com.google.protobuf'
...
buildscript {
  ...
  dependencies {
    // ASSUMES GRADLE 2.12 OR HIGHER. Use plugin version 0.7.5 with earlier gradle versions
    classpath 'com.google.protobuf:protobuf-gradle-plugin:0.8.0'
  }
}
...
protobuf {
  protoc {
    artifact = 'com.google.protobuf:protoc:3.2.0'
  }
  plugins {
  grpc {
    artifact = "io.vertx:protoc-gen-grpc-java:1.1.2"
  }
}
  generateProtoTasks {
    all()*.plugins {
      grpc
    }
  }
}

This plugin will compile your proto files under build/generated/source/proto/main and make them available to your project.

gRPC Server

Now you should have your RPC base code setup it is time to implement your server. As you should recall from above we described that our server should implement a sayHello method that receives a HelloRequest objects and returns a HelloReply object. So you can implement it as:

GreeterGrpc.GreeterVertxImplBase service = new GreeterGrpc.GreeterVertxImplBase() {
  @Override
  public void sayHello(HelloRequest request, Future<HelloReply> future) {
    future.complete(HelloReply.newBuilder().setMessage(request.getName()).build());
  }
};

Once you’re happy with it you can then make your service available on a server. Vert.x makes the creation of a server quite simple all you need to add is:

VertxServer rpcServer = VertxServerBuilder
  .forAddress(vertx, "my.host", 8080)
  .addService(service)
  .build();

// Start is asynchronous
rpcServer.start();

SSL configuration

The previous example was simple but your RPC is not secure. In order to make it secure we should enable SSL/TLS:

VertxServerBuilder builder = VertxServerBuilder.forPort(vertx, 8080)
    .useSsl(options -> options
        .setSsl(true)
        .setUseAlpn(true)
        .setKeyStoreOptions(new JksOptions()
            .setPath("server-keystore.jks")
            .setPassword("secret")));

Congratulations you just completed your first gRPC server.

Important
since gRPC uses HTTP/2 transport, SSL/TLS setup requires the Application-Layer Protocol Negotiation in your server

gRPC Client

A server without a client is of no use, so lets create a client. In order to do this some steps overlap with the server. First we need to have the RPC definition, which should already done otherwise there would be no server and the same definition should have been compiled.

Note that the compiler will always generate both the base server and a client stub so if you already compiled once you do not need to re-compile it again.

Every client stub will always require a communication channel to a server so first we need to create a gRPC channel:

ManagedChannel channel = VertxChannelBuilder
  .forAddress(vertx, "localhost", 8080)
  .usePlaintext(true)
  .build();

// Get a stub to use for interacting with the remote service
GreeterGrpc.GreeterVertxStub stub = GreeterGrpc.newVertxStub(channel);

Once the stub is created we can communicate with our server, this time it is easier since the stub already provides the correct method definition and parameter types:

HelloRequest request = HelloRequest.newBuilder().setName("Julien").build();

// Call the remote service
stub.sayHello(request, ar -> {
  if (ar.succeeded()) {
    System.out.println("Got the server response: " + ar.result().getMessage());
  } else {
    System.out.println("Coult not reach server " + ar.cause().getMessage());
  }
});

SSL configuration

If you enabled SSL previously your client will also require SSL, in order to do this we need to configure the channel:

ManagedChannel channel = VertxChannelBuilder.
    forAddress(vertx, "localhost", 8080)
    .useSsl(options -> options
        .setSsl(true)
        .setUseAlpn(true)
        .setTrustStoreOptions(new JksOptions()
            .setPath("client-truststore.jks")
            .setPassword("secret")))
    .build();
Important
since gRPC uses HTTP/2 transport, SSL/TLS setup requires the Application-Layer Protocol Negotiation in your client

Advanced configuration

Until now all gRPC examples where using sensible defaults but there is more, if you need to have full control over the server configuration you should refer to the documentation: VertxServerBuilder, or if you need to control your client channel VertxChannelBuilder. Vert.x gRPC extends the grpc-java project (Netty transport) and therefore reading its documentation is recommended.