Write a gRPC service with Ballerina

This guide walks you through writing a simple Ballerina gRPC service and invoking the service through a Ballerina gRPC client application.

Set up the prerequisites

To complete this tutorial, you need:

  1. Ballerina 2202.0.0 (Swan Lake) or greater
  2. A text editor

Tip: Preferably, Visual Studio Code with the Ballerina extension installed.

  1. A command terminal

Understand the implementation

In an RPC program, you first define the service interface using an Interface Definition Language (IDL) to create the service definition (i.e., helloworld.proto). gRPC commonly uses Protocol Buffers as the IDL.

As illustrated in the diagram below, next, you compile the service definition file (i.e., helloworld.proto), and generate the source code for both the service and client applications. In Ballerina, you can generate the source code using the built-in Protocol Buffers to Ballerina tool.

gRPC Getting Started

Create the service definition

To create a simple service definition in Protocol Buffers, follow these steps:

  1. Create a new directory named grpc_sample in a preferred location (this is your main directory).

  2. Open the grpc_sample directory in your text editor.

    Tip: If you have VS Code installed, in the terminal, navigate to the grpc_sample directory, and execute the code . command.

  3. Inside the grpc_sample directory, create a new service definition file (i.e., helloworld.proto).

  4. Copy the service definition below to the helloworld.proto file.

Info: This sample service definition is taken from the Quick start guide on the gRPC official site.

Now, let’s implement the gRPC service and client in the Ballerina language.

Implement the gRPC service

Ballerina uses packages to group code. You need to create a Ballerina package, generate the service code in the package, and write the business logic.

Create the service package

In the terminal, navigate to the grpc_sample directory, and execute the command below to create the Ballerina package for the gRPC service implementation.

Note: For more information on Ballerina packages, see Organize Ballerina code.

$ bal new greeter_service

You view the output below.

Created new package 'greeter_service' at greeter_service.

This creates a directory named greeter_service with the files below.

.
├── greeter_service
│   ├── Ballerina.toml
│   └── main.bal

Tip: Remove the automatically-created main.bal file as you are not going to use it in this guide.

Generate the source code of the service

In the terminal, from inside the same grpc_sample directory, execute the command below to generate the source code related to the service definition.

$ bal grpc --mode service --input helloworld.proto --output greeter_service/

Once successfully executed, you will see the output below.

Successfully extracted the library files.
Successfully generated the Ballerina file.

This creates the two files below inside the greeter_service directory.

.
├── greeter_service
│   ├── greeter_service.bal
│   └── helloworld_pb.bal
  • The helloworld_pb.bal file is the stub file, which contains classes that the client/service uses to talk to each other and the Ballerina types corresponding to the request and response messages.
  • The greeter_service.bal file is the service template file, which contains service(s) with all the remote methods defined in the .proto file.

Update the service template file

To add the business logic to the remote method (in this case, you only need to update the sayHello method as shown below), follow these steps:

  1. Open the greeter_service directory in your text editor.

  2. Replace the service template file (i.e., greeter_service.bal) with the code below.

    In this code:

    • The listener declaration creates a new gRPC listener with port 9090. The listener is the entity that listens to the input coming to the port and then dispatches it to the correct service(s).
    • The service declaration creates a service and attaches it to the listener. The service annotation is to create an internal mapping between the service declarations and the .proto definition. Do not change it.
    • The gRPC service can have one or more remote methods depending on the .proto definition. Here, this service has only one method called sayHello that has the HelloRequest type as the request and HelloReply type as the response.

Run the gRPC service

In the terminal, navigate to the greeter_service directory, and execute the command below to run the service package

$ bal run

You view the output below.

Compiling source
	example/greeter_service:0.1.0

Running executable

Now, you completed the server-side implementation and it is running on port 9090. Let’s move on to the gRPC client-side implementation.

Implement the gRPC client

Similar to the service, the client application also starts with creating a new Ballerina package. Once created, you can generate the client code and update the code to call the remote methods exposed by the service.

Create the client package

In a new tab of the terminal, navigate to the grpc_sample directory, and execute the command below to create the Ballerina package for the gRPC client implementation:

Note: For more information on Ballerina packages, see Organize Ballerina code.

$ bal new greeter_client

You view the output below.

Created new package 'greeter_client' at greeter_service.

This creates a directory named greeter_client with the files below.

.
├── greeter_client
│   ├── Ballerina.toml
│   └── main.bal

Tip: Remove the automatically-created main.bal file as you are not going to use it in this guide.

Generate the source code of the client

In the terminal, from inside the same grpc_sample directory, execute the command below to generate the source code related to the client definition.

$ bal grpc --mode client --input helloworld.proto --output greeter_client/

Once successfully executed, you will see the output below.

Successfully extracted the library files.
Successfully generated the Ballerina file.

This creates the two files below inside the greeter_client directory.

.
├── greeter_client
│   ├── greeter_client.bal
│   └── helloworld_pb.bal
  • The helloworld_pb.bal file is the stub file, which contains the classes that the client/service uses to talk to each other and the Ballerina types corresponding to request and response messages.
  • The greeter_client.bal file is the client template file, which contains the main function with the client declaration.

Update the client template file

Replace the client template file (i.e., greeter_client.bal) with the code below to add the business logic to the remote method.

In this code:

  • The client declaration creates a connection to the remote server which is listening on port 9090. The generated client has remote methods that can use to talk to a remote server.
  • The main function contains the statements that call the sayHello remote function and prints the response to the console.

Run the gRPC client

In the terminal, navigate to the greeter_client directory, and execute the command below to run the service package

$ bal run

You view the output below printed on the console.

Info: Since the server is up and running, once the client application is successfully executed, the client application invokes the sayHello function with the HelloRequest message and receives the HelloReply as the response.

Compiling source
	example/greeter_client:0.1.0
Running executable
Response : Hello Ballerina

Learn more

To learn more about gRPC support in Ballerina, see the following: