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Redis-backed rate limiter and quota service.


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Divvy is a quota / rate limiter service, implemented in NodeJS and backed by Redis. Divvy acts as a thin policy and configuration layer between your services and Redis. Using divvy, you can decouple rate limiting policy from the services which rely on it.



  • Window-based rate limiting: Divvy keeps track of resource consumption using a per-counter time window. The window starts when a hit arrives, and resets according to a timeout you configure (for example, "10 requests per minute").
  • Count anything: Divvy doesn't care what you are counting, whether it is HTTP requests or some other type of counter. You can design your counter namespace however you wish (see examples).
  • Automatic "multi-actor" counters: In addition to global counters, you can create counters that are automatically partitioned by some trait of the request, such as the IP address. This makes it easy to design different limits for different types of users.
  • Precedence-based configuration: Rate limits are configured and evaluated in order, allowing more specific rules to take precedence over default or fallback rules.
  • Validation: Divvy will error if you define an unreachable rule configuration.

With Divvy you can express policies like:

  • Limit GET /printer/supplies to 100 requests per minute globally.
  • Limit POST /printer/print to
    • 60 requests/minute for authorized users.
    • 5 requests/minute for everyone else, by IP address.
  • No limit for GET /printer/status

Continue to Getting Started for a more detailed example.


  • A Redis server.
  • NodeJS version 8.0.0 or newer.
  • Clients: A TCP connection to the Divvy service.

Getting Started

In this section, we'll run the server locally and show how to record "hits", the basic command that checks and consumes quota.


You can install and run tests with either Yarn or NPM.


$ yarn
$ yarn test


$ npm install
$ npm test

Run the server

Launch the server in the foreground:

$ node index.js examples/example-config.ini
Listening on port TCP port 8321, Redis host localhost:6379

Consume quota

Now, let's consume some quota! The basic command we will send is:

HIT key1=val1 [key2=val2 ...]

Connect to the server using telnet:

$ telnet localhost 8321
Trying ::1...
Connected to localhost.
Escape character is '^]'.

Now send a HIT:

HIT method=GET path=/status

You should see a response like:

OK true 999 60

Let's look at what each field means:

  • Status: OK: The server understood the command, yay!
  • Allowed: true: We have enough quota for this operation.
  • Credit remaining: 999: We have a bunch of quota left, too.
  • Next reset (seconds): 60: Our quota will be set back to 1000 in 60 seconds.

Let's try a few more and watch our quota decrease:

HIT method=GET path=/status
OK true 998 58
HIT method=GET path=/status
OK true 997 58
HIT method=GET path=/status
OK true 995 57
HIT method=GET path=/status
OK true 994 56

Now, let's try hitting a different a resource. The example config says there is a limit of 3 requests per hour for GET /pantry/cookies/*, by IP. The examples below all match the following rule in example-config.{ini,json}:

[method=GET path=/pantry/cookies/* ip=*]
creditLimit = 3
resetSeconds = 3600
actorField = ip
comment = '3 requests per hour for GET /pantry/cookies, by IP'

Let's simulate a single IP fetching a variety of cookies:

HIT method=GET path=/pantry/cookies/chocolate-chip ip=
OK true 2 3600
HIT method=GET path=/pantry/cookies/chocolate-chip ip=
OK true 1 3599
HIT method=GET path=/pantry/cookies/oatmeal ip=
OK true 0 3598
HIT method=GET path=/pantry/cookies/cricket-flavored ip=
OK false 0 3597

You can see that the last attempt was denied, because this IP had already consumed 3 cookies this hour. What if we use a different IP?

HIT method=GET path=/pantry/cookies/oatmeal ip=
OK true 2 3600

This policy illustrates a powerful concept: Automatic partitioning of counters based on the actor, which in this case is configured to be whatever value is given as ip.


This section describes version 1 of the Divvy service protocol.


The protocol is a line-oriented "chat" or telnet-style protocol, taking place over a TCP connection (default port 8321). A client sends a request "command" to the server and receives a response message. Requests are always processed by the server in order, on a per-connection basis.

Both request and response messages consist of a sequence of text followed by a newline character \n.

Request messages consist of a command word, for example HIT, followed by command-specific arguments.

Response messages consist of a status word, for example OK or ERR, followed by command-specific response or error data.

There is no inherent protocol restriction on multiple concurrent client connections, however order-of-execution is only guaranteed within a connection.

Data types

Messages make use of boolean, string and numeric data types.

Booleans are serialized as the exact value true or false.

Strings are serialized as UTF-8 character sequences, and may be either quoted or unquoted. Unquoted strings are available as a convenience when the string has no characters that require quoting (whitespace or equals-sign); there is no difference in processing.

Strings must conform to the following regexes:

  • Unquoted: /^[^"=\s]+$/
  • Quoted: /^"[^"\n]*"$/

Numbers are always serialized as decimal integers.


HIT [key=value] [key2=value ...]

Perform a check-and-decrement of quota. Zero or more key-value pairs specify the operation being performed, and will be evaluated by the server against its configuration.

Response: The following fields as positional values:

  • isAllowed: one of true, false, indicating whether quota was available.
  • currentCredit: number of credit(s) available at the end of this command.
  • nextResetSeconds: time, in seconds, until credit next resets.


HIT method="POST" path="/cgi-bin/upload.cgi"
OK true 57 60

HIT method="DELETE" path="/index.html"
OK false 0 0

Error responses

When a command cannot be processed, the server responds with an error message. The format is:

ERR <error-code> [reason]


  • error-code: A string giving the logical error code. Required. Values include:
    • unknown-command: Client tried to execute an unknown command.
    • unknown: An unknown error.. spooky!
  • reason: A string giving a human-interpretable error reason (optional).


Configuration is expressed as a sequence of buckets. Buckets have the following required attributes:

  • operation: Zero or more key-value pairs which must be found in the incoming HIT request.
    • The special value * may be used here to express, "key must be present, but any value can match".
    • Glob keys are supported in the interest of specifying limits across subpaths, such as /v1/billing/*.
  • creditLimit: The number of hits that are allowed in the quota period, typically a positive integer. A value of zero will cause matching requests to always be denied (see "Always allowing or denying").
  • resetSeconds: The quota period; reset the counter and refresh quota after this many seconds, typically a positive integer. A value of zero has special meaning (see "Always allowing or denying").

The following optional fields are also supported:

  • label: A short, slug-like name for the rule. If set, Prometheus metrics for hits matching the rule will be labeled with rule_label as this value. Labels have no effect on statsd metrics.
  • comment: A diagnostic comment, printed when running server with DEBUG=divvy.
  • actorField: Described in "Actors and multi-tenancy".
  • matchPolicy: Either "stop" (the default), or "canary". See "Advanced usage" for details on canarying rules.

Rule order

Bucket order is signficant: Quota is determined for a HIT request by finding the first bucket where all key/value pairs required by the bucket's operation match the request. Additional key/value pairs in the request may be ignored.

Always allowing or denying

Zero values have special semantic meaning:

  • Always allow: When resetSeconds is 0 and creditLimit is a positive number, matching requests are always allowed; no counters are touched on the backend.
  • Always deny: When creditLimit is 0, matching requests are never allowed; no counters are touched on the backend.

Default rule

All configuration files must define a final, default rule, which will be matched when no other rules match.

Example default rules:

creditLimit = 0
resetSeconds = 0
comment = 'Default deny!'
creditLimit = 1
resetSeconds = 0
comment = 'Default accept!'

File format

Config files are written in JSON or INI file syntax. We may add other formats later. See examples/ for examples.

Actors and multi-tenancy

By default, each bucket will be tracked and decremented as a single counter in the Divvy redis backend. However more often we want to track quota on a "per-something" basis: per IP, per user, per API key, and so on. Actors provide this flexibility.

If a bucket configuration specifies actorField, Divvy will track a separate counter for every distinct value of that field in HIT requests. Here is a short example:

  "operation": {
    "method": "GET",
    "ip": "*"
  "creditLimit": 100,
  "resetSeconds": 60,
  "actorField": "ip",
  "comment":  "100 requests/second per IP"
[method=GET ip=*]
creditLimit = 100
resetSeconds = 60
actorField = 'ip'
comment = '100 requests/second per IP'

Now we will get a different credit counter for every unique IP:

HIT method=GET ip=
OK true 99 60
HIT method=GET ip=
OK true 98 60
HIT method=GET ip=
OK true 97 60
HIT method=GET ip=   <-- different ip
OK true 99 60                   <-- fresh quota!

Note: Divvy never interprets the value of actorField. Since Divvy automatically tracks new quota upon receiving a new actor, clients must be careful to normalize these fields.

Advanced usage

Canarying rules

By default when responding to an incoming request, the server will evaluate the request sequentially against all rules, stopping and returning a protocol response based on the first rule that matches. We call this "stop upon match" behavior the "match policy" of the rule, and the default setting corresponds to a rule configuration of "matchPolicy": "stop".

Sometimes, you may wish to deploy a new rule and observe its match rate, but not (yet) serve a protocol response based on it. In these cases, the quota of the rule should be decremented and metrics should be published, but the server should ignore the accept/reject result and continue on to the next rule. We call this "canarying" the rule, and it can be configured on a per-rule basis as "matchPolicy": "canary".

Example canary rule

Let's say you have the following configuration deployed to production:

[method=GET path=/pantry/cookies/* ip=*]
creditLimit = 3
resetSeconds = 3600
actorField = ip
comment = '3 requests per hour for GET /pantry/cookies, by IP'

[method=GET path=/pantry/* ip=*]
creditLimit = 1
resetSeconds = 3600
actorField = ip
comment = '1 request per day for GET /pantry/*, by IP'

Let's say you'd like to add a new rule ahead of these: Allow at most one "special cookie" to be requested per day, across all IPs. We update the configuration file with this as a new highest-precedence rule:

[method=GET path=/pantry/cookies/special-cookie]
creditLimit = 1
resetSeconds = 86400
comment = 'canary: 1 request per day for GET /pantry/cookies/special-cookie'
matchPolicy = canary  # <----- Canary this rule, don't take action on it.

[method=GET path=/pantry/cookies/* ip=*]
creditLimit = 3
resetSeconds = 3600
actorField = ip
comment = '3 requests per hour for GET /pantry/cookies, by IP'

[method=GET path=/pantry/* ip=*]
creditLimit = 1
resetSeconds = 3600
actorField = ip
comment = '1 request per day for GET /pantry/*, by IP'

Requests matching this rule will test and decrement its quota, and publish metrics, but the response will fall through to other rules:

HIT method=GET path=/pantry/cookies/special-cookie ip=
OK true 2 3600
HIT method=GET path=/pantry/cookies/special-cookie ip=
OK true 1 3599
HIT method=GET path=/pantry/cookies/special-cookie ip=
OK true 0 3598
HIT method=GET path=/pantry/cookies/special-cookie ip=
OK false 0 3597

After looking at metrics and confirming expected behavior, you can promote this rule to take action by setting "matchPolicy": "stop" in the config, or simply deleting the matchPolicy line as "stop" is the default policy.

Server options

The server can be configured with several environment variables.

  • PORT: TCP port to listen on (default: 8321).
  • REDIS_HOST: Hostname of redis backend (default: localhost).
  • REDIS_PORT: Port number of redis backend (default: 6379).
  • STATSD_HOST: Hostname of statsd server, see "Statistics" (no default).
  • STATSD_PORT: Port of statsd server (no default);
  • STATSD_PREFIX: Optional prefix to use with statsd metrics (no default).
  • STATSD_USE_TCP: If non-empty, use tcp instead of udp (no default).
  • HTTP_SERVICE_PORT: Port to serve HTTP endpoints from, currently only exporting prometheus metrics (no default).
  • PROMETHEUS_METRICS_PATH: HTTP path to expose prometheus metrics from (no default).



If STATSD_HOST and STATSD_PORT are given, the server will report certain metrics to it:

  • Counters
    • <prefix>.hit.accepted: Count HIT operations where quota was available.
      • <prefix>.hit.accepted.<label>: Additional counter incremented when rule has a label.
    • <prefix>.hit.rejected: Count HIT operations where quota was not available.
      • <prefix>.hit.rejected.<label>: Additional counter incremented when rule has a label.
    • <prefix>.error.unknown-command: Count of ERR unknown-command.
    • <prefix>.error.unknown: Count of ERR unknown.
  • Timers
    • <prefix>.hit: Time to complete hit operations.
  • Gauges
    • <prefix>.connections: Concurrent connections.


If you are using Prometheus, you may specify the HTTP_SERVICE_PORT and PROMETHEUS_METRICS_PATH environment variables to publish metrics and allow your Prometheus scraper to query them. The following metrics will be published:

  • divvy_tcp_connections_total: Gauge of current open TCP connections.
  • divvy_hit_duration_seconds: Histogram of processing duration for HITs.
  • divvy_hits_total: Counter of all HIT operations. Labeled by:
    • status: either accepted or rejected for normal rules; either canary-accepted or canary-rejected for rules with "canary" match policy.
    • rule_label: the rule's label field, if specified.
  • divvy_errors_total: Counter of divvy errors. Labeled by:
    • code: the type of error, such as unknown-command.

Client Libraries

License and Copyright

Licensed under the MIT license. See LICENSE.txt for full terms.

Copyright 2016-2019 Button, Inc.