February 5, 2023


Technology Room

How To Serialize Knowledge Successfully with Protocol Buffers – Grape Up

5 min read

In a world of microservices, we regularly should move info between purposes. We serialize information right into a format that may be retrieved by either side. One of many serialization options is Protocol Buffers (Protobuf) – Google’s language-neutral mechanism. Messages may be interpreted by a receiver utilizing the identical or completely different language than a producer. Many languages are supported, resembling Java, Go, Python, and C++.

A knowledge construction is outlined utilizing impartial language by means of .proto information. The file is then compiled into code for use in purposes. It’s designed for efficiency. Protocol Buffers encode information into binary format, which reduces message dimension and improves transmission pace.

Defining Message Format

This .proto the file represents geolocation info for a given automobile.

1 syntax = "proto3";
3 package deal com.grapeup.geolocation;
5 import "google/sort/latlng.proto";
6 import "google/protobuf/timestamp.proto";
8 message Geolocation 
9  string vin = 1;
10  google.protobuf.Timestamp occurredOn = 2;
11  int32 pace = 3;
12  google.sort.LatLng coordinates = 4;
1 syntax = "proto3";

Syntax refers to Protobuf model, it may be proto2 or proto3.

1package com.grapeup.geolocation;

Bundle declaration prevents naming conflicts between completely different initiatives.

1 message Geolocation 
2  string vin = 1;
3  google.protobuf.Timestamp occurredOn = 2;
4  int32 pace = 3;
5  google.sort.LatLng coordinates = 4;

Message definition comprises a reputation and a set of typed fields. Easy information sorts can be found, resembling bool, int32, double, string, and so forth. You can even outline your personal sorts or import them.

1google.protobuf.Timestamp occurredOn = 2;

The = 1, = 2 markers establish the distinctive tag. Tags are a numeric illustration for the sphere and are used to establish the sphere within the message binary format. They should be distinctive in a message and shouldn’t be modified as soon as the message is in use. If a area is faraway from a definition that’s already used, it should be reserved.

Discipline sorts

Except for scalar sorts, there are lots of different sort choices when defining messages. Listed here are few, however yow will discover all of them within the Language Information Language Guide (proto3)  |  Protocol Buffers  |  Google Developers .

Nicely Recognized Sorts

1 import "google/sort/latlng.proto";
2 import "google/protobuf/timestamp.proto";
4 google.protobuf.Timestamp occurredOn = 2;
5 google.sort.LatLng coordinates = 4;

There are predefined sorts out there to make use of Overview  |  Protocol Buffers  |  Google Developers . They’re referred to as Nicely Know Sorts and should be imported into .proto .

LatLng represents a latitude and longitude pair.

Timestamp is a particular cut-off date with nanosecond precision.

Customized sorts

1 message SingularSearchResponse 
2  Geolocation geolocation = 1;

You need to use your custom-defined sort as a area in one other message definition.


1 message SearchResponse 
2  repeated Geolocation geolocations = 1;

You may outline lists through the use of repeated key phrase.


It may occur that in a message there’ll at all times be just one area set. On this case, TelemetryUpdate will include both geolocation, mileage, or gas degree info.

This may be achieved through the use of oneof. Setting worth to one of many fields will clear all different fields outlined in oneof.

1 message TelemetryUpdate 
2  string vin = 1;
3  oneof replace 
4    Geolocation geolocation = 2;
5    Mileage mileage =3;
6    FuelLevel fuelLevel = 4;
10 message Geolocation 
11  ...
14 message Mileage 
15  ...
18 message FuelLevel 
19  ...

Take note backward-compatibility when eradicating fields. When you obtain a message with oneof that has been faraway from .proto definition, it is not going to set any of the values. This habits is similar as not setting any worth within the first place.

You may carry out completely different actions based mostly on which worth is ready utilizing the getUpdateCase() technique.

1 public Optionally available<Object> getTelemetry(TelemetryUpdate telemetryUpdate) 
2        Optionally available<Object> telemetry = Optionally available.empty();
3        swap (telemetryUpdate.getUpdateCase()) 
4            case MILEAGE -> telemetry = Optionally available.of(telemetryUpdate.getMileage());
5            case FUELLEVEL -> telemetry = Optionally available.of(telemetryUpdate.getFuelLevel());
6            case GEOLOCATION -> telemetry = Optionally available.of(telemetryUpdate.getGeolocation());
7            case UPDATE_NOT_SET -> telemetry = Optionally available.empty();
9        return telemetry;

Default values

In proto3 format fields will at all times have a price. Due to this proto3 can have a smaller dimension as a result of fields with default values are omitted from payload. Nevertheless this causes one problem – for scalar message fields, there isn’t a approach of telling if a area was explicitly set to the default worth or not set in any respect.

In our instance, pace is an elective area – some modules in a automobile may ship pace information, and a few won’t. If we don’t set pace, then the geolocation object can have pace with the default worth set to 0. This isn’t the identical as not having pace set on messages.

As a way to take care of default values you should use official wrapper sorts protobuf/wrappers.proto at main · protocolbuffers/protobuf . They permit distinguishing between absence and default. As an alternative of getting a easy sort, we use Int32Value, which is a wrapper for the int32 scalar sort.

1 import "google/protobuf/wrappers.proto";
3 message Geolocation 
4  google.protobuf.Int32Value pace = 3;

If we don’t present pace, will probably be set to nil.

Configure with Gradle

When you’ve outlined your messages, you should use protoc, a protocol buffer compiler, to generate courses in a selected language. The generated class can then be used to construct and retrieve messages.

As a way to compile into Java code, we have to add dependency and plugin in construct.gradle

1 plugins 
2    id 'com.google.protobuf' model '0.8.18'
5 dependencies 
6    implementation 'com.google.protobuf:protobuf-java-util:3.17.2'

and setup the compiler. For Mac customers an osx particular model needs to be used.

1 protobuf 
2    protoc 
3        if (osdetector.os == "osx") 
4            artifact = "com.google.protobuf:protoc:$protobuf_version:osx-x86_64"
5         else 
6            artifact = "com.google.protobuf:protoc:$protobuf_version"

Code might be generated utilizing generateProto process.

The code might be situated in construct/generated/supply/proto/foremost/java in a package deal as laid out in .proto file.

We additionally want to inform gradle the place the generated code is situated

1 sourceSets 
2    foremost 
3        java 
4            srcDirs 'construct/generated/supply/proto/foremost/grpc'
5            srcDirs 'construct/generated/supply/proto/foremost/java'

The generated class comprises all the mandatory strategies for constructing the message in addition to retrieving area values.

1 Geolocation geolocation = Geolocation.newBuilder()
2            .setCoordinates(LatLng.newBuilder().setLatitude(1.2).setLongitude(1.2).construct())
3            .setVin("1G2NF12FX2C129610")
4            .setOccurredOn(Timestamp.newBuilder().setSeconds(12349023).construct())
5            .construct();
7 LatLng coordinates = geolocation.getCoordinates();
8 String vin = geolocation.getVin();

Protocol Buffers – Abstract

As proven protocol buffers are simply configured. The mechanism is language agnostic, and it’s straightforward to share the identical .proto definition throughout completely different microservices.

Protobuf is well paired with gRPC, the place strategies may be outlined in .proto information and generated with gradle.

There may be official documentation out there Protocol Buffers  |  Google Developers and guides Language Guide (proto3)  |  Protocol Buffers  |  Google Developers .

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