Skip to main content

Lightweight RPC using Redis

Project description

by Nathan Farrington


Redis is a powerful in-memory data structure server that is useful for building fast distributed systems. Redis implements message queue functionality with its use of list data structures and the LPOP, BLPOP, and RPUSH commands. RedisRPC implements a lightweight RPC mechanism using Redis message queues to temporarily hold RPC request and response messages. These messages are encoded as JSON strings for portability.

Many other RPC mechanisms are either programming language specific (e.g. Java RMI) or require boiler-plate code for explicit typing (e.g. Thrift). RedisRPC was designed to be extremely easy to use by eliminating boiler-plate code while also being programming language neutral. High performance was not an initial goal of RedisRPC and other RPC libraries are likely to have better performance. Instead, RedisRPC has better programmer performance; it lets you get something working immediately.

Calculator Example

Each language implementation uses the same client and server example based off of a mutable calculator object. The clients and servers from different languages are interoperable.

  1. The client issues an RPC Request by using the Redis RPUSH command to push an RPC Request message into a Redis list called calc.

  2. The server retrieves the RPC Request message by using the Redis BLPOP command.

  3. The server dispatches the RPC Request to a local object, which in this case is a Calculator object.

  4. The server accepts the return value (or exception) from the Calculator object.

  5. The server issues an RPC Response by using the Redis RPUSH command to push an RPC Response message into a Redis list called calc:rpc:<RAND_STRING>, which was chosen by the client.

  6. The client retrieves the RPC Response message by using the Redis BLPOP command.

Note that the server or client can be made non-blocking by using the Redis LPOP command instead of BLPOP. I currently do not need this feature and have not added support for this, but patches are welcome.

That’s all there is to it!

PHP Usage

Note that the PHP library does not currently support named function arguments.


$redis_server = new Predis\Client();
$input_queue = 'calc';
$calculator = new RedisRPC\Client($redis_server, $input_queue);
assert($calculator->val() == 4);


$redis_server = new Predis\Client();
$input_queue = 'calc';
$local_object = new Calculator();
$server = new RedisRPC\Server($redis_server, $input_queue, $local_object);

Python Usage

redis_server = redis.Redis()
input_queue = 'calc'
calculator = redisrpc.Client(redis_server, input_queue)
assert calculator.val() == 4

redis_server = redis.Redis()
input_queue = 'calc'
local_object = calc.Calculator()
server = redisrpc.Server(redis_server, input_queue, local_object)

Internal Message Formats

All RPC messages are JSON objects. User code will never see these objects because they are handled by the RedisRPC library.

RPC Request

An RPC Request contains two members: a function_call object and a response_queue string.

A function_call object has one required member: a name string for the function name. It also has two optional members: (a) an args list for positional function arguments, and (b) a kwargs object for named function arguments.

The response_queue string is the name of the Redis list where the corresponding RPC Response message should be pushed by the server. This queue is chosen programmatically by the client to be collision free in the Redis namespace. Also, this queue is used only for a single RPC Response message and is not reused for future RPC Response messages.

{ "function_call" : {
      "args" : [ 1, 2, 3 ],
      "kwargs" : { "a" : 4, "b" : 5, "c" : 6 },
      "name" : "foo"
  "response_queue" : "calc:rpc:X7Y2US"

RPC Response (Successful)

If an RPC is successful, then the RPC Response object will contain a single member, a return_value of some JSON type.

{ "return_value" : 4.0 }

RPC Response (Exception)

If an RPC encounters an exceptional condition, then the RPC Response object will contain a single member, an exception string. Note that the value of the exception string might not have any meaning to the client since the client and server might be written in different languages or the client might have no knowledge of the server’s wrapped object. Therefore the best course of action is probably to display the exception value to the user.

{ "exception" : "AttributeError(\\"\'Calculator\' object has no attribute \'foo\'\\",)" }

Source Code

Source code is available at


This software is available under the GPLv3 or later.

Project details

Supported by

AWS AWS Cloud computing and Security Sponsor Datadog Datadog Monitoring Fastly Fastly CDN Google Google Download Analytics Microsoft Microsoft PSF Sponsor Pingdom Pingdom Monitoring Sentry Sentry Error logging StatusPage StatusPage Status page