gRPC vs REST: Which is the Best for Your Distributed System?

Apr 9, 2022·

2 min read

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In today's world of distributed computing, Remote Procedure Call (RPC) frameworks have become increasingly popular. One such framework is gRPC, which is an open-source remote procedure call (RPC) framework that was created by Google. In this article, we'll explore gRPC and how it differs from REST.

REST, which stands for Representational State Transfer, is a popular architectural style for building distributed systems. RESTful APIs use HTTP as a communication protocol, and typically use JSON as a data format. REST APIs are resource-based and use HTTP verbs to perform actions on those resources.

gRPC, on the other hand, uses a binary protocol called Protocol Buffers to transmit data between client and server. Protocol Buffers are a language-agnostic data serialization format that is highly efficient, smaller in size, and faster to parse than JSON. gRPC is designed to work with any language, making it easy to build distributed systems in a variety of programming languages.

One of the main differences between REST and gRPC is the way that they handle data serialization. REST APIs typically use JSON, which is a text-based format. This means that data needs to be serialized and deserialized at both the client and server sides. This can be slow and inefficient, especially when working with large amounts of data.

gRPC, on the other hand, uses Protocol Buffers, which is a binary format. This means that data can be transmitted more efficiently between the client and server, and the serialization and deserialization process is much faster. Additionally, gRPC provides built-in support for streaming, which allows for real-time communication between client and server.

Another difference between REST and gRPC is the way that they handle errors. REST APIs typically use HTTP status codes to indicate the success or failure of a request. gRPC, on the other hand, uses status codes that are specific to the gRPC protocol. These status codes provide more detailed information about the failure, which can be helpful for debugging and troubleshooting.

gRPC also provides built-in support for load balancing, service discovery, and tracing, which can help to simplify the development of distributed systems. gRPC uses HTTP/2 as the underlying protocol, which allows for multiplexing and flow control. This means that gRPC can handle large amounts of traffic and can scale to meet the needs of even the largest distributed systems.

In conclusion, while both REST and gRPC are popular architectural styles for building distributed systems, they differ in the way that they handle data serialization, error handling, and other key aspects of distributed computing. gRPC's use of Protocol Buffers and built-in support for streaming, load balancing, service discovery, and tracing make it an attractive option for building efficient, high-performance distributed systems.