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Metadata

gRPC supports sending metadata between client and server. This doc shows how to send and receive metadata in gRPC-go.

Background

Four kinds of service method:

And concept of metadata.

Constructing metadata

A metadata can be created using package metadata. The type MD is actually a map from string to a list of strings:

type MD map[string][]string

Metadata can be read like a normal map. Note that the value type of this map is []string, so that users can attach multiple values using a single key.

Creating a new metadata

A metadata can be created from a map[string]string using function New:

md := metadata.New(map[string]string{"key1": "val1", "key2": "val2"})

Another way is to use Pairs. Values with the same key will be merged into a list:

md := metadata.Pairs(
    "key1", "val1",
    "key1", "val1-2", // "key1" will have map value []string{"val1", "val1-2"}
    "key2", "val2",
)

Note: all the keys will be automatically converted to lowercase, so "key1" and "kEy1" will be the same key and their values will be merged into the same list. This happens for both New and Pairs.

Storing binary data in metadata

In metadata, keys are always strings. But values can be strings or binary data. To store binary data value in metadata, simply add "-bin" suffix to the key. The values with "-bin" suffixed keys will be encoded when creating the metadata:

md := metadata.Pairs(
    "key", "string value",
    "key-bin", string([]byte{96, 102}), // this binary data will be encoded (base64) before sending
                                        // and will be decoded after being transferred.
)

Retrieving metadata from context

Metadata can be retrieved from context using FromIncomingContext:

func (s *server) SomeRPC(ctx context.Context, in *pb.SomeRequest) (*pb.SomeResponse, err) {
    md, ok := metadata.FromIncomingContext(ctx)
    // do something with metadata
}

Sending and receiving metadata - client side

Client side metadata sending and receiving examples are available here.

Sending metadata

There are two ways to send metadata to the server. The recommended way is to append kv pairs to the context using AppendToOutgoingContext. This can be used with or without existing metadata on the context. When there is no prior metadata, metadata is added; when metadata already exists on the context, kv pairs are merged in.

// create a new context with some metadata
ctx := metadata.AppendToOutgoingContext(ctx, "k1", "v1", "k1", "v2", "k2", "v3")

// later, add some more metadata to the context (e.g. in an interceptor)
ctx := metadata.AppendToOutgoingContext(ctx, "k3", "v4")

// make unary RPC
response, err := client.SomeRPC(ctx, someRequest)

// or make streaming RPC
stream, err := client.SomeStreamingRPC(ctx)

Alternatively, metadata may be attached to the context using NewOutgoingContext. However, this replaces any existing metadata in the context, so care must be taken to preserve the existing metadata if desired. This is slower than using AppendToOutgoingContext. An example of this is below:

// create a new context with some metadata
md := metadata.Pairs("k1", "v1", "k1", "v2", "k2", "v3")
ctx := metadata.NewOutgoingContext(context.Background(), md)

// later, add some more metadata to the context (e.g. in an interceptor)
md, _ := metadata.FromOutgoingContext(ctx)
newMD := metadata.Pairs("k3", "v3")
ctx = metadata.NewContext(ctx, metadata.Join(metadata.New(send), newMD))

// make unary RPC
response, err := client.SomeRPC(ctx, someRequest)

// or make streaming RPC
stream, err := client.SomeStreamingRPC(ctx)

Receiving metadata

Metadata that a client can receive includes header and trailer.

Unary call

Header and trailer sent along with a unary call can be retrieved using function Header and Trailer in CallOption:

var header, trailer metadata.MD // variable to store header and trailer
r, err := client.SomeRPC(
    ctx,
    someRequest,
    grpc.Header(&header),    // will retrieve header
    grpc.Trailer(&trailer),  // will retrieve trailer
)

// do something with header and trailer

Streaming call

For streaming calls including:

  • Server streaming RPC
  • Client streaming RPC
  • Bidirectional streaming RPC

Header and trailer can be retrieved from the returned stream using function Header and Trailer in interface ClientStream:

stream, err := client.SomeStreamingRPC(ctx)

// retrieve header
header, err := stream.Header()

// retrieve trailer
trailer := stream.Trailer()

Sending and receiving metadata - server side

Server side metadata sending and receiving examples are available here.

Receiving metadata

To read metadata sent by the client, the server needs to retrieve it from RPC context. If it is a unary call, the RPC handler's context can be used. For streaming calls, the server needs to get context from the stream.

Unary call

func (s *server) SomeRPC(ctx context.Context, in *pb.someRequest) (*pb.someResponse, error) {
    md, ok := metadata.FromIncomingContext(ctx)
    // do something with metadata
}

Streaming call

func (s *server) SomeStreamingRPC(stream pb.Service_SomeStreamingRPCServer) error {
    md, ok := metadata.FromIncomingContext(stream.Context()) // get context from stream
    // do something with metadata
}

Sending metadata

Unary call

To send header and trailer to client in unary call, the server can call SendHeader and SetTrailer functions in module grpc. These two functions take a context as the first parameter. It should be the RPC handler's context or one derived from it:

func (s *server) SomeRPC(ctx context.Context, in *pb.someRequest) (*pb.someResponse, error) {
    // create and send header
    header := metadata.Pairs("header-key", "val")
    grpc.SendHeader(ctx, header)
    // create and set trailer
    trailer := metadata.Pairs("trailer-key", "val")
    grpc.SetTrailer(ctx, trailer)
}

Streaming call

For streaming calls, header and trailer can be sent using function SendHeader and SetTrailer in interface ServerStream:

func (s *server) SomeStreamingRPC(stream pb.Service_SomeStreamingRPCServer) error {
    // create and send header
    header := metadata.Pairs("header-key", "val")
    stream.SendHeader(header)
    // create and set trailer
    trailer := metadata.Pairs("trailer-key", "val")
    stream.SetTrailer(trailer)
}