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Distributed rate limiters for Golang

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Rate limiters for distributed applications in Golang with configurable back-ends and distributed locks.
Any types of back-ends and locks can be used that implement certain minimalistic interfaces. Most common implementations are already provided.

  • Token bucket

    • in-memory (local)
    • redis
    • memcached
    • etcd
    • dynamodb

    Allows requests at a certain input rate with possible bursts configured by the capacity parameter.
    The output rate equals to the input rate.
    Precise (no over or under-limiting), but requires a lock (provided).

  • Leaky bucket

    • in-memory (local)
    • redis
    • memcached
    • etcd
    • dynamodb

    Puts requests in a FIFO queue to be processed at a constant rate.
    There are no restrictions on the input rate except for the capacity of the queue.
    Requires a lock (provided).

  • Fixed window counter

    • in-memory (local)
    • redis
    • memcached
    • dynamodb

    Simple and resources efficient algorithm that does not need a lock.
    Precision may be adjusted by the size of the window.
    May be lenient when there are many requests around the boundary between 2 adjacent windows.

  • Sliding window counter

    • in-memory (local)
    • redis
    • memcached
    • dynamodb

    Smoothes out the bursts around the boundary between 2 adjacent windows.
    Needs as twice more memory as the Fixed Window algorithm (2 windows instead of 1 at a time).
    It will disallow all the requests in case when a client is flooding the service with requests. It's the client's responsibility to handle a disallowed request properly: wait before making a new one again.

  • Concurrent buffer

    • in-memory (local)
    • redis
    • memcached

    Allows concurrent requests up to the given capacity.
    Requires a lock (provided).

gRPC example

Global token bucket rate limiter for a gRPC service example:

// examples/example_grpc_simple_limiter_test.go
rate := time.Second * 3
limiter := limiters.NewTokenBucket(
    limiters.NewLockerEtcd(etcdClient, "/ratelimiter_lock/simple/", limiters.NewStdLogger()),
        rate, false),
    limiters.NewSystemClock(), limiters.NewStdLogger(),

// Add a unary interceptor middleware to rate limit all requests.
s := grpc.NewServer(grpc.UnaryInterceptor(
    func(ctx context.Context, req interface{}, info *grpc.UnaryServerInfo, handler grpc.UnaryHandler) (resp interface{}, err error) {
        w, err := limiter.Limit(ctx)
        if err == limiters.ErrLimitExhausted {
            return nil, status.Errorf(codes.ResourceExhausted, "try again later in %s", w)
        } else if err != nil {
            // The limiter failed. This error should be logged and examined.
            return nil, status.Error(codes.Internal, "internal error")
        return handler(ctx, req)

For something close to a real world example see the IP address based gRPC global rate limiter in the examples directory.


The use of DynamoDB requires the creation of a DynamoDB Table prior to use. An existing table can be used or a new one can be created. Depending on the limiter backend:

  • Partion Key
    • String
    • Required for all Backends
  • Sort Key
    • String
    • Backends:
      • FixedWindow
      • SlidingWindow
  • TTL
    • Number
    • Backends:
      • FixedWindow
      • SlidingWindow
      • LeakyBucket
      • TokenBucket

All DynamoDB backends accept a DynamoDBTableProperties struct as a paramater. This can be manually created or use the LoadDynamoDBTableProperties with the table name. When using LoadDynamoDBTableProperties, the table description is fetched from AWS and verified that the table can be used for Limiter backends. Results of LoadDynamoDBTableProperties are cached.

Distributed locks

Some algorithms require a distributed lock to guarantee consistency during concurrent requests.
In case there is only 1 running application instance then no distributed lock is needed as all the algorithms are thread-safe (use LockNoop).

Supported backends:


It's important to understand that memcached is not ideal for implementing reliable locks or data persistence due to its inherent limitations:

  • No guaranteed data retention: Memcached can evict data at any point due to memory pressure, even if it appears to have space available. This can lead to unexpected lock releases or data loss.
  • Lack of distributed locking features: Memcached doesn't offer functionalities like distributed coordination required for consistent locking across multiple servers.

If memcached exists already and it is okay to handle burst traffic caused by unexpected evicted data, Memcached-based implementations are convenient, otherwise Redis-based implementations will be better choices.


Run tests locally:

docker-compose up -d  # start etcd, Redis, memcached, zookeeper, consul, and localstack

Run Drone CI tests locally:

for p in "go1.13" "go1.12" "go1.11" "lint"; do drone exec --pipeline=${p}; done