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What is Remote Procedure Call or RPC?

Remote procedure call is like outsourcing a task to someone else and use the result to your own end.

Remote procedure call, also known as RPC, is like organizing a dinner and calling your bakery for some bread: you're asking for the result (some bread) of a request performed by a remote service (the bakery) for your dinner (application) to work as expected.

RPC is a transportation protocol used to make distributed services talk and work with each others. In a microservices-oriented architecture, the business logic is divided in independent services. If a service needs another service to perform some action or retrieve some information, it can us RPC to communicate with it.

RPC vs SOAP vs REST vs GraphQL

RPC can be compared to GraphQL, Rest APIs or SOAP which serve the same purpose: making it easy for services to communicate. However, they all have their differences and were created to solve different problems:

  • RPC: Created in the late 1960s, it was a response to the early distributing computing issues engineers were facing at that time. It allows services to call functions on other servers.
  • SOAP: Designed by Microsoft in 1998, it is a messaging protocol based on XML and most often HTTP requests.
  • REST: Introduced by Roy Fielding in 2000, it is a lightweight alternative to SOAP which defines resources you can interact with using HTTP requests and different verbs (GET, POST, etc.).
  • GraphQL: Created internally at Facebook in 2012, it allows clients to ask for exactly what they want using queries based on a schema exposed by the server.

Benefits of using RPC

  • Simple interactions
  • Action oriented (calling a remote function)
  • Lightweight payloads
  • High performance

One of the prominent RPC framework is gRPC. Developed by Google, it supports a lot of programming languages, uses http/2 and has additional features like auth, tracing and load balancing.

Digging deeper into RPC