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Redis::Objects - Map Redis types directly to Ruby objects

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Important 2.0 changes

Redis::Objects 2.0 introduces several important backwards incompatible changes. Currently 2.0 can be installed with gem install redis-objects --pre or by listing it explicitly in your Gemfile:

# Gemfile
gem 'redis-objects', '>= 2.0.0.beta'

You're encouraged to try it out in test code (not production) to ensure it works for you. Official release is expected later in 2023.

Key Naming Changes

The internal key naming scheme has changed for Nested::Class::Namespaces to fix a longstanding bug. This means your existing data in Redis will not be accessible until you call migrate_redis_legacy_keys.

To fix this (only needed once), create a script like this:

class YouClassNameHere < ActiveRecord::Base
  include Redis::Objects
  # ... your relevant definitions here ...


Then, you need to find a time when you can temporarily pause writes to your redis server so that you can run that script. It uses redis.scan internally so it should be able to handle a high number of keys. For large data sets, it could take a while.

For more details on the issue and fix refer to #213.

Renaming of lock Method

The lock method that collided with ActiveRecord::Base has been renamed redis_lock. This means your classes need to be updated to call redis_lock instead:

class YouClassNameHere < ActiveRecord::Base
  include Redis::Objects
  redis_lock :mylock  # formerly just "lock"

For more details on the issue and fix refer to #196.


This is not an ORM. People that are wrapping ORM’s around Redis are missing the point.

The killer feature of Redis is that it allows you to perform atomic operations on individual data structures, like counters, lists, and sets. The atomic part is HUGE. Using an ORM wrapper that retrieves a "record", updates values, then sends those values back, removes the atomicity, and thus the major advantage of Redis. Just use MySQL, k?

This gem provides a Rubyish interface to Redis, by mapping Redis data types to Ruby objects, via a thin layer over the redis gem. It offers several advantages over the lower-level redis-rb API:

  1. Easy to integrate directly with existing ORMs - ActiveRecord, DataMapper, etc. Add counters to your model!
  2. Complex data structures are automatically Marshaled (if you set :marshal => true)
  3. Integers are returned as integers, rather than '17'
  4. Higher-level types are provided, such as Locks, that wrap multiple calls

This gem originally arose out of a need for high-concurrency atomic operations; for a fun rant on the topic, see An Atomic Rant, or scroll down to Atomic Counters and Locks in this README.

There are two ways to use Redis::Objects, either as an include in a model class (to tightly integrate with ORMs or other classes), or standalone by using classes such as Redis::List and Redis::SortedSet.

Installation and Setup

Add it to your Gemfile as:

gem 'redis-objects'

Redis::Objects needs a handle created by or a ConnectionPool:

The recommended approach is to use a ConnectionPool since this guarantees that most timeouts in the redis client do not pollute your existing connection. However, you need to make sure that both :timeout and :size are set appropriately in a multithreaded environment.

require 'connection_pool'
Redis::Objects.redis = 5, timeout: 5) { => '', :port => 6379) }

Redis::Objects can also default to Redis.current if Redis::Objects.redis is not set.

Redis.current = => '', :port => 6379)

(If you're on Rails, config/initializers/redis.rb is a good place for this.) Remember you can use Redis::Objects in any Ruby code. There are no dependencies on Rails. Standalone, Sinatra, Resque - no problem.

Alternatively, you can set the redis handle directly:

Redis::Objects.redis =

Finally, you can even set different handles for different classes:

class User
  include Redis::Objects
class Post
  include Redis::Objects

# you can also use a ConnectionPool here as well
User.redis = => '')
Post.redis = => '')

As of 0.7.0, redis-objects now autoloads the appropriate Redis::Whatever classes on demand. Previous strategies of individually requiring redis/list or redis/set are no longer required.

Option 1: Model Class Include

Including Redis::Objects in a model class makes it trivial to integrate Redis types with an existing ActiveRecord, DataMapper, Mongoid, or similar class. Redis::Objects will work with any class that provides an id method that returns a unique value. Redis::Objects automatically creates keys that are unique to each object, in the format:


For illustration purposes, consider this stub class:

class User
  include Redis::Objects
  counter :my_posts
  def id

user =  # 1
puts user.my_posts.value # 3
puts user.my_posts.value # 0
user.my_posts.reset 5
puts user.my_posts.value # 5

Here's an example that integrates several data types with an ActiveRecord model:

class Team < ActiveRecord::Base
  include Redis::Objects

  redis_lock :trade_players, :expiration => 15  # sec
  value :at_bat
  counter :hits
  counter :runs
  counter :outs
  counter :inning, :start => 1
  list :on_base
  list :coaches, :marshal => true
  set  :outfielders
  hash_key :pitchers_faced  # "hash" is taken by Ruby
  sorted_set :rank, :global => true

Familiar Ruby array operations Just Work (TM):

@team = Team.find_by_name('New York Yankees')
@team.on_base << 'player1'
@team.on_base << 'player2'
@team.on_base << 'player3'
@team.on_base    # ['player1', 'player2', 'player3']
@team.on_base.length  # 1
@team.on_base = ['player1', 'player2']  # ['player1', 'player2']

Sets work too:

@team.outfielders << 'outfielder1'
@team.outfielders << 'outfielder2'
@team.outfielders << 'outfielder1'   # dup ignored
@team.outfielders  # ['outfielder1', 'outfielder2']
@team.outfielders.each do |player|
  puts player
player = @team.outfielders.detect{|of| of == 'outfielder2'}
@team.outfielders = ['outfielder1', 'outfielder3']  # ['outfielder1', 'outfielder3']

Hashes work too:

@team.pitchers_faced['player1'] = 'pitcher2'
@team.pitchers_faced['player2'] = 'pitcher1'
@team.pitchers_faced = { 'player1' => 'pitcher2', 'player2' => 'pitcher1' }

And you can do unions and intersections between objects (kinda cool):

@team1.outfielders | @team2.outfielders   # outfielders on both teams
@team1.outfielders & @team2.outfielders   # in baseball, should be empty :-)

Counters can be atomically incremented/decremented (but not assigned):

@team.hits.increment  # or incr
@team.hits.decrement  # or decr
@team.hits.incr(3)    # add 3
@team.runs = 4        # exception

Defining a different method as the id field is easy

class User
  include Redis::Objects
  redis_id_field :uid
  counter :my_posts

user.uid                # 195137a1bdea4473
user.my_posts.increment # 1

Finally, for free, you get a redis method that points directly to a Redis connection:

@team =

You can use the redis handle to directly call any Redis API command.

Option 2: Standalone Usage

There is a Ruby class that maps to each Redis type, with methods for each Redis API command. Note that calling new does not imply it's actually a "new" value - it just creates a mapping between that Ruby object and the corresponding Redis data structure, which may already exist on the redis-server.


The counter_name is the key stored in Redis.

@counter ='counter_name')
@counter.increment  # or incr
@counter.decrement  # or decr
puts @counter.value

This gem provides a clean way to do atomic blocks as well:

@counter.increment do |val|
  raise "Full" if val > MAX_VAL  # rewind counter

See the section on Atomic Counters and Locks for cool uses of atomic counter blocks.


A convenience class that wraps the pattern of using setnx to perform locking.

@lock ='serialize_stuff', :expiration => 15, :timeout => 0.1)
@lock.lock do
  # do work

This can be especially useful if you're running batch jobs spread across multiple hosts.


Simple values are easy as well:

@value ='value_name')
@value.value = 'a'

Complex data is no problem with :marshal => true:

@account = Account.create!(params[:account])
@newest  ='newest_account', :marshal => true)
@newest.value = @account.attributes
puts @newest.value['username']

Compress data to save memory usage on Redis with :compress => true:

@account = Account.create!(params[:account])
@marshaled_value ='marshaled', :marshal => true, :compress => true)
@marshaled_value.value = @account.attributes
@unmarshaled_value ='unmarshaled', :compress => true)
@unmarshaled_value = 'Really Long String'
puts @marshaled_value.value['username']
puts @unmarshaled_value.value


Lists work just like Ruby arrays:

@list ='list_name')
@list << 'a'
@list << 'b'
@list.include? 'c'   # false
@list.values  # ['a','b']
@list << 'c'
# etc

You can bound the size of the list to only hold N elements like so:

# Only holds 10 elements, throws out old ones when you reach :maxlength.
@list ='list_name', :maxlength => 10)

Complex data types are serialized with :marshal => true:

@list ='list_name', :marshal => true)
@list << {:name => "Nate", :city => "San Diego"}
@list << {:name => "Peter", :city => "Oceanside"}
@list.each do |el|
  puts "#{el[:name]} lives in #{el[:city]}"

Note: If you run into issues, with Marshal errors, refer to the fix in Issue #176.


Hashes work like a Ruby Hash, with a few Redis-specific additions. (The class name is "HashKey" not just "Hash", due to conflicts with the Ruby core Hash class in other gems.)

@hash ='hash_name')
@hash['a'] = 1
@hash['b'] = 2
@hash.each do |k,v|
  puts "#{k} = #{v}"
@hash['c'] = 3
puts @hash.all  # {"a"=>"1","b"=>"2","c"=>"3"}

Redis also adds incrementing and bulk operations:

@hash.incr('c', 6)  # 9
@hash.bulk_set('d' => 5, 'e' => 6)
@hash.bulk_get('d','e')  # "5", "6"

Remember that numbers become strings in Redis. Unlike with other Redis data types, redis-objects can't guess at your data type in this situation, since you may actually mean to store "1.5".


Sets work like the Ruby Set class. They are unordered, but guarantee uniqueness of members.

@set ='set_name')
@set << 'a'
@set << 'b'
@set << 'a'  # dup ignored
@set.member? 'c'      # false
@set.members          # ['a','b']
@set.members.reverse  # ['b','a']
@set.each do |member|
  puts member
# etc

You can perform Redis intersections/unions/diffs easily:

@set1 ='set1')
@set2 ='set2')
@set3 ='set3')
members = @set1 & @set2   # intersection
members = @set1 | @set2   # union
members = @set1 + @set2   # union
members = @set1 ^ @set2   # difference
members = @set1 - @set2   # difference
members = @set1.intersection(@set2, @set3)  # multiple
members = @set1.union(@set2, @set3)         # multiple
members = @set1.difference(@set2, @set3)    # multiple

Or store them in Redis:

@set1.interstore('intername', @set2, @set3)
members = @set1.redis.get('intername')
@set1.unionstore('unionname', @set2, @set3)
members = @set1.redis.get('unionname')
@set1.diffstore('diffname', @set2, @set3)
members = @set1.redis.get('diffname')

And use complex data types too, with :marshal => true:

@set1 ='set1', :marshal => true)
@set2 ='set2', :marshal => true)
@set1 << {:name => "Nate",  :city => "San Diego"}
@set1 << {:name => "Peter", :city => "Oceanside"}
@set2 << {:name => "Nate",  :city => "San Diego"}
@set2 << {:name => "Jeff",  :city => "Del Mar"}

@set1 & @set2  # Nate
@set1 - @set2  # Peter
@set1 | @set2  # all 3 people

Sorted Sets

Due to their unique properties, Sorted Sets work like a hybrid between a Hash and an Array. You assign like a Hash, but retrieve like an Array:

@sorted_set ='number_of_posts')
@sorted_set['Nate']  = 15
@sorted_set['Peter'] = 75
@sorted_set['Jeff']  = 24

# Array access to get sorted order
@sorted_set[0..2]           # => ["Nate", "Jeff", "Peter"]
@sorted_set[0,2]            # => ["Nate", "Jeff"]

@sorted_set['Peter']        # => 75
@sorted_set['Jeff']         # => 24
@sorted_set.score('Jeff')   # same thing (24)

@sorted_set.rank('Peter')   # => 2
@sorted_set.rank('Jeff')    # => 1

@sorted_set.first           # => "Nate"
@sorted_set.last            # => "Peter"
@sorted_set.revrange(0,2)   # => ["Peter", "Jeff", "Nate"]

@sorted_set['Newbie'] = 1
@sorted_set.members         # => ["Newbie", "Nate", "Jeff", "Peter"]
@sorted_set.members.reverse # => ["Peter", "Jeff", "Nate", "Newbie"]

@sorted_set.rangebyscore(10, 100, :limit => 2)   # => ["Nate", "Jeff"]
@sorted_set.members(:with_scores => true)        # => [["Newbie", 1], ["Nate", 16], ["Jeff", 28], ["Peter", 76]]

# atomic increment
@sorted_set.incr('Peter')   # shorthand
@sorted_set.incr('Jeff', 4)

The other Redis Sorted Set commands are supported as well; see Sorted Sets API.

Atomic Counters and Locks

You are probably not handling atomicity correctly in your app. For a fun rant on the topic, see An Atomic Rant.

Atomic counters are a good way to handle concurrency:

@team = Team.find(1)
if @team.drafted_players.increment <= @team.max_players
  # do stuff
  @team.team_players.create!(:player_id => 221)
  # reset counter state

An atomic block gives you a cleaner way to do the above. Exceptions or returning nil will rewind the counter back to its previous state:

@team.drafted_players.increment do |val|
  raise Team::TeamFullError if val > @team.max_players  # rewind
  @team.team_players.create!(:player_id => 221)

Here's a similar approach, using an if block (failure rewinds counter):

@team.drafted_players.increment do |val|
  if val <= @team.max_players
    @team.team_players.create!(:player_id => 221)

Class methods work too, using the familiar ActiveRecord counter syntax:

Team.increment_counter :drafted_players, team_id
Team.decrement_counter :drafted_players, team_id, 2
Team.increment_counter :total_online_players  # no ID on global counter

Class-level atomic blocks can also be used. This may save a DB fetch, if you have a record ID and don't need any other attributes from the DB table:

Team.increment_counter(:drafted_players, team_id) do |val|
  TeamPitcher.create!(:team_id => team_id, :pitcher_id => 181)
  Team.increment_counter(:active_players, team_id)


Locks work similarly. On completion or exception the lock is released:

class Team < ActiveRecord::Base
  redis_lock :reorder # declare a lock

@team.reorder_lock.lock do

Class-level lock (same concept)

Team.obtain_lock(:reorder, team_id) do

Lock expiration. Sometimes you want to make sure your locks are cleaned up should the unthinkable happen (server failure). You can set lock expirations to handle this. Expired locks are released by the next process to attempt lock. Just make sure you expiration value is sufficiently large compared to your expected lock time.

class Team < ActiveRecord::Base
  redis_lock :reorder, :expiration => 15.minutes

Keep in mind that true locks serialize your entire application at that point. As such, atomic counters are strongly preferred.


Use :expiration and :expireat options to set default expiration.

value :value_with_expiration, :expiration => 1.hour
value :value_with_expireat, :expireat => lambda { + 1.hour }

⚠️ In the above example, expiration is evaluated at class load time. In this example, it will be one hour after loading the class, not after one hour after setting a value. If you want to expire one hour after setting the value, please use :expireat with lambda.

Custom serialization

You can customize how values are serialized by setting serializer: CustomSerializer. The default is Marshal from the standard lib, but it can be anything that responds to dump and load. JSON and YAML are popular options.

If you need to pass extra arguments to dump or load, you can set marshal_dump_args: { foo: 'bar' } and marshal_load_args: { foo: 'bar' } respectively.

class CustomSerializer
  def self.dump(value)
    # custom code for serializing

  def self.load(value)
    # custom code for deserializing

@account = Account.create!(params[:account])
@newest  ='custom_serializer', marshal: true, serializer: CustomSerializer)
@newest.value = @account.attributes


Copyright (c) 2009-2022 Nate Wiger. All Rights Reserved. Released under the Artistic License.