Quickstart: A Tutorial Introduction to Rest.li

Arun Ponniah Sethuramalingam edited this page Sep 13, 2017 · 66 revisions



In this tutorial, we’ll take a first look at Rest.li and learn about some of its most basic features. We’ll construct a server that responds with Fortunes for GET requests and also create a client that sends a request to the server and prints a fortune returned by the server.

Rest.li uses an inversion of control model in which Rest.li defines the client and server architecture and handles many details of constructing, receiving, and processing RESTful requests. On the server-side, Rest.li calls your code at the appropriate time to respond to requests. You only need to worry about your application-specific response to requests. On the client side, Rest.li helps send type-safe requests to the server and receives type-safe responses.

To allow Rest.li to perform its tasks, you need to conform to a simple architecture, in which you define a schema for your data, and classes that support REST operations on that data. Your classes will designate handlers for REST operations using Annotations, and return objects that represent your data schema. Rest.li will handle mostly everything else.

We’ll see how Rest.li helps you perform these actions using automatic code generation, supporting base classes and other infrastructure.

Note: You will notice references to ‘Pegasus’ in various places as you work through this tutorial and read other Rest.li documents. Pegasus is the code name for the project that includes Rest.li and some related modules. It is also used in some package names.

Example Source Code – Top Level Structure

If you like to do things yourself, you should be able to enter the code in this tutorial into whatever editor you like and construct each step of the process. You can also follow along using the ready-made source in the repository under examples/quickstart directory. Using the provided source tree frees you from worrying about the build scripts and directory structure until you want to use Rest.li in your own projects.

The example can be built using Gradle. Many of the steps involve code generation that is automated by Gradle plugins provided as part of Rest.li. We’ll show you the basic build scripts you need for this example as we go along. For more details about the build process see Gradle Build Integration. You will need Gradle 1.6+ (run gradle --version to check). If you have a different Gradle version and do not want to install the version required by this example globally, we recommend quickly setting up a Gradle wrapper for this project).

Before we get started, you’ll need to create a basic directory structure to hold your classes. At the root of the example source tree, you should have three sub-directories, api/, client/ and server/.

You will also need build.gradle and settings.gradle files at the top level.

The settings.gradle file just includes the sub-projects:

file: example-standalone-app/settings.gradle

include 'api'
include 'server'
include 'client'

The file build.gradle should contain:

file: example-standalone-app/build.gradle

buildscript {
  repositories {
  dependencies {
    classpath 'com.linkedin.pegasus:gradle-plugins:11.0.17'

task wrapper(type: Wrapper) {
  gradleVersion = '4.1'

final pegasusVersion = '11.0.17'
ext.spec = [
  'product' : [
    'pegasus' : [
      'data' : 'com.linkedin.pegasus:data:' + pegasusVersion,
      'generator' : 'com.linkedin.pegasus:generator:' + pegasusVersion,
      'r2Netty' : 'com.linkedin.pegasus:r2-netty:' + pegasusVersion,
      'restliCommon' : 'com.linkedin.pegasus:restli-common:' + pegasusVersion,
      'restliClient' : 'com.linkedin.pegasus:restli-client:' + pegasusVersion,
      'restliServer' : 'com.linkedin.pegasus:restli-server:' + pegasusVersion,
      'restliTools' : 'com.linkedin.pegasus:restli-tools:' + pegasusVersion,
      'gradlePlugins' : 'com.linkedin.pegasus:gradle-plugins:' + pegasusVersion,
      'restliNettyStandalone' : 'com.linkedin.pegasus:restli-netty-standalone:' + pegasusVersion,
      'restliServerStandalone' : 'com.linkedin.pegasus:restli-server-standalone:' + pegasusVersion

allprojects {
  apply plugin: 'idea'
  apply plugin: 'eclipse'

subprojects {
  apply plugin: 'maven'

  afterEvaluate {
    // add the standard pegasus dependencies wherever the plugin is used
    if (project.plugins.hasPlugin('pegasus')) {
      dependencies {
        dataTemplateCompile spec.product.pegasus.data
        restClientCompile spec.product.pegasus.restliClient

  repositories {

This gradle build file pulls all required jars from a global Maven repository. It also loads some plugins that facilitate the build process and various code generation steps. Notice that plugins are also provided for IntelliJ Idea and Eclipse. For example, executing

$ gradle idea

will generate an Idea project ready to open in Idea. Using Idea or Eclipse is a handy way to explore and follow along as you read this tutorial.

Here’s how the structure of your top-level project should look as we begin:

+- build.gradle
+- settings.gradle
+- api/
+- client/
+- server/

Creating a Server

The first thing we will do is implement a very simple server that responds to GET requests.

The basic steps you will follow to create a Rest.li server are:

  1. Define data schema. Rest.li uses an Avro-like format known as Pegasus Data Schema to define the resource data.
  1. Generate language bindings. Rest.li will generate java class bindings for these data schemas to be used in your server and clients.
  1. Implement resource classes containing methods to act on your data. Rest.li provides a set of base classes and annotations that will map these methods to URIs and REST operations.
  1. Create an HTTP server that instantiates a Rest.li server. The Rest.li server will automatically locate your resource classes and invoke the appropriate methods when a request is received.

Rest.li provides tools to make these steps simple, including code generators that create classes from the data schema, base classes, and annotations that map entry points in your code to REST operations.

Let’s walk through each step of the process.

Step 1. Define Data Schema

The first step in creating a Rest.li service is to define a data model or schema for the data that will be returned by your server. We will define the data model in the api/ directory, which serves to define the API or interface between the server and clients.

All Rest.li data models are defined in Pegasus Data Schema files, which have a .pdsc suffix. We’ll define a Fortune data model in Fortune.pdsc. The location of this file is important, be sure to place it in a path corresponding to your namespace, under api/src/main/pegasus/

file: example-standalone-app/api/src/main/pegasus/com/example/fortune/Fortune.pdsc

  "type": "record",
  "name": "Fortune",
  "namespace": "com.example.fortune",
  "doc": "Generate a fortune cookie",
  "fields": [
      "name": "fortune",
      "type": "string",
      "doc": "The Fortune cookie string"

Fortune.pdsc defines a record named Fortune, with an associated namespace. The record has one field, a string whose name is fortune. Fields as well as the record itself can have optional documentation strings. This is, of course, a very simple schema. See Data Schema and Templates for details on the syntax and more complex examples.

Step 2. Generate Java Bindings

Rest.li uses the data model in .pdsc files to generate java versions of the model that can be used by the server. The easiest way to generate these classes is to use the Gradle integration provided as part of Rest.li. You will need a build.gradle file in the api/ directory that looks like this:

file: example-standalone-app/api/build.gradle

apply plugin: 'pegasus'

With Fortune.pdsc and build.gradle files in place, you can generate a java binding for the data model. This java version is what will actually be used by your server to return data to calling clients. Change into the api/ directory and run the following command:

$ gradle build

The pegasus Gradle plugin will detect the presence of Fortune.pdsc and use the dataTemplateGenerator to generate Fortune.java. The generated java classes will be placed under api/src/mainGeneratedDataTemplate/ directory.

Your file system structure should now look like this:

+- build.gradle
+- settings.gradle
+- api/
|  +- build.gradle
|  +- src/
|     +- main/
|     |  +- pegasus/
|     |     +- com/
|     |        +- example/
|     |           +- fortune/
|     |              +- Fortune.pdsc
|     +- mainGeneratedDataTemplate/
|        +- java/
|           +- com/
|              +- example/
|                 +- fortune/
|                    +- Fortune.java
+- client/
+- server/

The generated java file contains a java representation of the data model defined in the schema, and includes get and set methods for each element of the model, as well as other supporting methods. You can look at the generated file to see the full implementation if you are curious; the following excerpt should give you the general idea. This class is entirely derived from your data model and should not be modified.

file: example-standalone-app/api/src/mainGeneratedDataTemplate/java/com/example/fortune/Fortune.java

public class Fortune extends RecordTemplate {
  public String getFortune() {
    return getFortune(GetMode.STRICT);

  public Fortune setFortune(String value) {
    putDirect(FIELD_Fortune, String.class, String.class, value, SetMode.DISALLOW_NULL);
    return this;

  // ... other methods

Step 3. Implement Rest.li Server Resource

Now that we have defined our data model, the next step is to define a ‘resource’ class that will be invoked by the Rest.li server in response to requests from clients. We’ll create a class named FortunesResource. This class is written by hand, and implements any REST operations you want to support, returning data using the java data model class generated in the previous step. The file should be placed according to your package path under server/src/main/java.

file: example-standalone-app/server/src/main/java/com/example/fortune/impl/FortunesResource.java

package com.example.fortune.impl;

import com.linkedin.restli.server.annotations.RestLiCollection;
import com.linkedin.restli.server.resources.CollectionResourceTemplate;
import com.example.fortune.Fortune;
import java.util.HashMap;
import java.util.Map;

 * Simple Rest.li Resource that serves up a fortune cookie.
@RestLiCollection(name = "fortunes", namespace = "com.example.fortune")
public class FortunesResource extends CollectionResourceTemplate<Long, Fortune> {

  // In-memory store for the fortunes
  static Map<Long, String> fortunes = new HashMap<Long, String>();
  static {
    fortunes.put(1L, "Today is your lucky day.");
    fortunes.put(2L, "There's no time like the present.");
    fortunes.put(3L, "Don't worry, be happy.");

  public Fortune get(Long key) {
    // Retrieve the requested fortune
    String fortune = fortunes.get(key);
    if (fortune == null) {
      fortune = "Your luck has run out. No fortune for id = " + key;

    // return an object that represents the fortune cookie
    return new Fortune().setFortune(fortune);

FortunesResource extends a Rest.li class, CollectionResourceTemplate and, for this simple example, overrides a single method, get, which takes a single argument, an id of a resource to be returned. Rest.li will call this method when it dispatches a GET request to the Fortune resource. Additional REST operations could be provided by overriding other methods. See the Rest.li User Guide for more details about supporting additional REST methods and other types of resources.

Notice that if this GET were to perform any IO it would be ‘blocking’, meaning that the thread handling this request will wait for that IO to complete. Later we will show how we can build async GET methods that return ParSeq Promise and Task classes so that we do not block while performing IO operations.

The RestLiCollection annotation at the top of the file marks this class as a REST collection, and declares that this resource handles the /fortunes URI. The result is that calling http://localhost/fortunes/ (assuming your server is running on localhost) will call FortunesResource.get(), which should return a Fortune object corresponding to the given fortune identifier. For this simple implementation, we will create a static HashMap that maps several fortune strings to ids. If a requested id is found in the HashMap, we will construct a Fortune object, set the message and id, and return the object. If the requested id is not found, we’ll return a default message. Rest.li will handle delivering the result to the calling client as a JSON object. (Recall that Fortune.java was generated in a previous step and is found under the api directory)

In a real implementation, you would, of course, perform whatever steps are required to retrieve or construct your response to the request, but ultimately, you will return an instance of your data model class that represents the data defined in your schema.

Step 4. Build and Run the Server

We’ve now completed the bulk of our application specific server side code. We’ve defined our data model, and implemented a Resource class that can respond to a GET request by returning data according to the model. The only thing remaining is to configure a HTTP framework to call our application logic. We will use Netty, an excellent framework that works great with Rest.li to build fully async services. For details on how to configure Rest.li with other servlet containers see Rest.li with Servlet Containers.

Rest.li also includes a Request Response layer (R2) that provides a transport abstraction and other services.

Notice that Rest.li automatically scans all resource classes in the specified package and initializes the REST endpoints/routes without any hard-coded connection. Adding additional resources or operations can be done simply by expanding your data schema and providing additional functionality in your Resource class(es).

To compile and run the server, we need a build.gradle file in the server/ directory, which should look like this:

file: example-standalone-app/server/build.gradle

apply plugin: 'pegasus'

ext.apiProject = project(':api')

dependencies {
  compile project(path: ':api', configuration: 'dataTemplate')
  compile spec.product.pegasus.restliServer
  compile spec.product.pegasus.restliNettyStandalone

task startFortunesServer(type: JavaExec) {
  main = 'com.linkedin.restli.server.NettyStandaloneLauncher'
  args = ['-port', '8080', '-packages', 'com.example.fortune.impl']
  classpath = sourceSets.main.runtimeClasspath
  standardInput = System.in

Next, create a gradle.properties file containing the following line:

file: example-standalone-app/server/gradle.properties


This disables some compatibility checks on the generated files. You will need these checks in a real project but to keep this example simple we are disabling these checks.

With these files in place, your server directory structure should look like this:

+- build.gradle
+- settings.gradle
+- api/
|  ...
+- client/
+- server/
   +- build.gradle
   +- gradle.properties
   +- src/
      +- main/
         +- java/
            +- com/
               +- example/
                  +- fortune/
                     +- impl/
                       +- FortuneResource.java

Now you can build the server from the server/ directory with:

$ gradle build

Note: If prompted, run the build command a second time. The first build runs a bootstrapping code generation process, requiring a second build to compile the generated code.

After building the server, you can launch the server using the following command:

$ gradle startFortunesServer

Once the server is running, you can perform tests using curl:

$ curl -v http://localhost:8080/fortunes/1

* About to connect() to localhost port 8080 (#0)
*   Trying ::1... connected
* Connected to localhost (::1) port 8080 (#0)
> GET /fortunes/1 HTTP/1.1
> User-Agent: curl/7.19.7 (x86_64-redhat-linux-gnu) libcurl/7.19.7 NSS/ zlib/1.2.3 libidn/1.18 libssh2/1.2.2
> Host: localhost:8080
> Accept: */*
< HTTP/1.1 200 OK
< X-LinkedIn-Type: com.example.fortune.Fortune
< Content-Type: application/json
< Content-Length: 45
< Server: Jetty(6.1.26)
* Connection #0 to host localhost left intact
* Closing connection #0
{"id":1,"fortune":"Today is your lucky day."}[

Here, curl issued a GET request for /fortunes/1. Rest.li routed the request to the FortunesResource, which interpreted the argument 1, found the corresponding string, and constructed a Fortune object to return. Rest.li automatically transforms the java data model to JSON and returns the result to the caller.

Publishing Server’s Interface Definition

Before we move on to look at the Rest.li’s client support, notice that the process of building the server generated an additional file. If you look at your directory structure, you should see an IDL file under server/src/mainGeneratedRest/idl/. The file is in JSON format and defines the interface supported by the server. The interface is generated as a result of the annotations in the Resource class, in this example, FortunesResource.java. However if for some reason the file is not available in your filesystem you can generate it by issuing the following command

$ cd server
$ gradle publishRestliIdl

The publishRestliIdl task will first run the generateRestModel which creates server/src/mainGeneratedRest/idl/com.example.fortune.fortunes.restspec.json. It will then copy this file into the api module at api/src/main/idl/com.example.fortune.fortunes.restspec.json.

You may also notice a snapshot/ directory next to the idl/ directory. This is used by the compatibility checker to keep track of changes. You can ignore that for now.

Here is the generated IDL file. Notice that all of this information was derived from server’s FortunesResource.java including the documentation strings.

file: example-standalone-app/server/src/mainGeneratedRest/idl/com.example.fortune.fortunes.restspec.json

  "name" : "fortune",
  "namespace" : "com.example.fortune",
  "path" : "/fortunes",
  "schema" : "com.linkedin.restli.example.Fortune",
  "doc" : "Simple Rest.li Resource that serves up a fortune cookie.\n\ngenerated from: com.example.fortune.impl.FortunesResource",
  "collection" : {
    "identifier" : {
      "name" : "fortuneId",
      "type" : "long"
    "supports" : [ "get" ],
    "methods" : [ {
      "method" : "get"
    } ],
    "entity" : {
      "path" : "/fortunes/{fortuneId}"

This file represents the contract between the server and the client. Accordingly, the build also copied the IDL to the api module, where it can be accessed by the client code.

Just to verify that everything is in place, this is how your project’s api/ and server/ directories should look at this point:

+- build.gradle
+- settings.gradle
+- api/
|  +- build.gradle
|  +- src/
|     +- main/
|     |  +- idl/
|     |  |  +- com.example.fortune.fortunes.restspec.json
|     |  +- pegasus/
|     |  |  +- com/
|     |  |     +- example/
|     |  |        +- fortune/
|     |  |           +- Fortune.pdsc
|     |  +- snapshot/
|     |     +- com.example.fortune.fortunes.snapshot.json
|     +- mainGeneratedDataTemplate/
|        +- java/
|           +- com/
|              +- example/
|                 +- fortune/
|                    +- Fortune.java
+- client/
+- server/
   +- build.gradle
   +- gradle.properties
   +- src/
      +- main/
      |  +- java/
      |     +- com/
      |        +- example/
      |           +- fortune/
      |              +- impl/
      |                +- FortuneResource.java
      +- mainGeneratedRest/
         +- idl/
         |  +- com.example.fortune.fortunes.restspec.json
         +- snapshot/
            +- com.example.fortune.fortunes.snapshot.json

Creating a Client

Now that we have a server implemented and tested with curl, let’s see how we can use Rest.li to help build a client.

Step 1. Generate Client Request Builders

Rest.li uses the IDL published by the server to generate client classes that can be used to construct requests. The pegasus Gradle plugin provides tools to generate these classes. Let’s start by creating a build.gradle file in the client/ directory:

file: examples-standalone-app/client/build.gradle

apply plugin: 'java'

dependencies {
  compile project(path: ':api', configuration: 'restClient')
  compile spec.product.pegasus.r2Netty

task startFortunesClient(type: JavaExec) {
  main = 'com.example.fortune.RestLiFortunesClient'
  classpath = sourceSets.main.runtimeClasspath

To generate the interface classes used by the client, change to the client/ directory and type the command.

$ gradle build

Building in the client directory generates java classes that represent the resources and operations on those resources supported by the server. These are basically convenience classes that help you build requests from the client side. In this example, you should see some new java files, including FortunesRequestBuilders.java and FortunesGetRequestBuilder.java. These files are placed in the api/ module where they can be shared among multiple clients. FortunesRequestBuilders is a factory class that instantiates any request builders you may need. In this example, our server resource only supports GET requests, so the process has just generated a FortunesGetRequestBuilder class. You can look at the generated source code under the api/src/mainGeneratedRest/ directory, if you’re interested, but for this tutorial, let’s just go on to creating a client and see how a builder is used.

Note: You may also see two additional files: FortuneBuilders.java and FortunesGetBuilder.java. These are deprecated interfaces that were used prior to Rest.li v1.24.4. If you are just getting started with Rest.li and using the latest version you can ignore these files.

Step 2. Implement Client Class

Creating a client involves using a few classes to handle connecting to the server, and using the Builder classes generated in the previous step to construct requests. Let’s see how that works before we look at the actual client code.

The following lines of code instantiate a FortunesRequestBuilders factory, and then call its get() method to create a FortunesGetRequestBuilder object. Finally, the FortunesGetRequestBuilder instance lets you supply the information that needs to be passed in the request and builds a Request object.

FortunesRequestBuilders fortunesBuilders = new FortunesRequestBuilders();
FortunesGetRequestBuilder getBuilder = fortunesBuilders.get();
Request<Fortune> getRequest = getBuilder.id(fortuneId).build();

The process of sending a request from a client basically consists of creating a RestClient object and invoking its sendRequest() method to send the request to the server:

RestClient restClient = new RestClient(r2Client, "http://localhost:8080/");
ResponseFuture<Fortune> getFuture = restClient.sendRequest(getRequest);
Response<Fortune> response = getFuture.getResponse();

RestClient.sendRequest() returns a Future, which can be used to wait on and retrieve the response from the server. Note that the response is type-safe, and parametrized as type Fortune, so we can use the Fortune interface to retrieve the results, like this:

String message = response.getEntity().getFortune();
long id = response.getEntity().getId();

Here is a completed RestLiFortunesClient class, which uses the R2 library to create the transport mechanisms. For this example, the client will just generate a random ID between 0 and 5, and print the response. This file should go under client/src/main/java/ directory with the appropriate java package structure.

file: example-standalone-app/client/src/main/java/com/example/fortune/RestLiFortunesClient.java

package com.example.fortune;

import com.linkedin.common.callback.FutureCallback;
import com.linkedin.common.util.None;
import com.linkedin.r2.transport.common.Client;
import com.linkedin.r2.transport.common.bridge.client.TransportClient;
import com.linkedin.r2.transport.common.bridge.client.TransportClientAdapter;
import com.linkedin.r2.transport.http.client.HttpClientFactory;
import com.linkedin.restli.client.Request;
import com.linkedin.restli.client.Response;
import com.linkedin.restli.client.ResponseFuture;
import com.linkedin.restli.client.RestClient;
import com.example.fortune.FortunesRequestBuilders;
import java.util.Collections;

public class RestLiFortunesClient {
   * This stand-alone app demos the client-side Rest.li API.
   * To see the demo, run the server, then start the client
  public static void main(String[] args) throws Exception {

    // Create an HttpClient and wrap it in an abstraction layer
    final HttpClientFactory http = new HttpClientFactory();
    final Client r2Client = new TransportClientAdapter(
        http.getClient(Collections.<String, String>emptyMap()));

    // Create a RestClient to talk to localhost:8080
    RestClient restClient = new RestClient(r2Client, "http://localhost:8080/");

    // Generate a random ID for a fortune cookie, in the range 0 - 5
    long fortuneId = (long) (Math.random() * 5);

    // Construct a request for the specified fortune
    FortunesGetRequestBuilder getBuilder = fortuneBuilders.get();
    Request<Fortune> getRequest = getBuilder.id(fortuneId).build();

    // Send the request and wait for a response
    final ResponseFuture<Fortune> getFuture = restClient.sendRequest(getRequest);
    final Response<Fortune> response = getFuture.getResponse();

    // Print the response

    // Shutdown
    restClient.shutdown(new FutureCallback<None>());
    http.shutdown(new FutureCallback<None>());

  private static final FortunesRequestBuilders fortuneBuilders = new FortunesRequestBuilders();

Step 3. Build and Run the Client

With your client code in place, your directory structure should look like this:

+- build.gradle
+- settings.gradle
+- api/
|  ...
+- client/
|  +- build.gradle
|  +- src/
|     +- main/
|        +- java/
|           +- com/
|              +- example/
|                 +- fortune/
|                      +- RestLiFortunesClient.java
+- server/

Build the client by building in the client directory:

$ gradle build

To test our final client/server pair, start the server in one terminal window:

$ gradle startFortunesServer

Then in another window, run:

$ gradle startFortunesClient

You should see a “fortune cookie” printed out from the client before it exits.

If you want to inspect the request being sent by the client, stop the server, and run netcat or a similar packet sniffer tool to listen on port 8080, and then run the client:

$ netcat -l -p 8080

GET /fortunes/1 HTTP/1.1
Host: localhost:8080
X-LI-R2-W-MsgType: REST
Content-Length: 0


We’ve now completed a quick tour of a few of the most basic features of Rest.li. Let’s review the steps we took to create a server and a corresponding client:

  1. Define a data model (Fortune.pdsc)
  2. Generate Java language bindings (Fortune.java RecordTemplate class)
  3. Create a Resource that responds to REST requests (FortuneResource.java) by subclassing CollectionResourceTemplate and using RestLiAnnotations to define operations and entry points
  4. Create a server that locates our Resource classes and uses Netty to dispatch requests
  5. Generate IDL (fortune.restpec.json) and Java client request builders from the server Resource file (FortunesRequestBuilders.java and FortunesGetRequestBuilder.java)
  6. Create a client that uses the RestClient to send requests constructed by calling the builder classes (RestLiFortuneClient.java)

Notice that (ignoring Gradle build files) there are only three files in this example that you had to create:

  • The original Pegasus Data Model file (Fortune.pdsc)
  • The server resource file (FortunesResource.java)
  • The client (RestLiFortuneClient.java)

Although Rest.li has many more features that can be leveraged when creating the server and client, most of your focus will usually be on defining data models and implementing resource classes that provide and/or manipulate the data.

To learn more about Rest.li, proceed to the more complex examples in the source code and read the Rest.li User’s Guide.