gRPC vs GraphQL: A Definitive Comparison with 5 Key Differences

on Data Exchange Technology, data management, Data Management Tools, Data Processing, Tutorials • October 21st, 2021 • Write for Hevo

Every Organisation relies heavily on Data Sharing. Employees from various departments and different Organizations will wish to share information with one another. This data can be in the form of Text, Documents, Videos, etc. Users will also want to visit an Organization’s Website and request the data they are interested in. 

Thus, there should be a way to facilitate these Data Exchange Processes. Traditional ways of exchanging data like the use of Physical Data Storage Devices may not be effective for this. The good news is that there are many Data Exchange Technologies available for you. Two of the most common Data Exchange Technologies are gRPC and GraphQL. These two technologies can facilitate Data Exchange between your Organization’s Users and between your Organization and other Organizations. This will facilitate Data Exchange between different parties regardless of the distance between the two. 

In this article, we will be discussing gRPC vs GraphQL. This will help you know the key differences between the two so that you may choose the suitable one for your Organization. 

Table of Contents

The gRPC Concept: What It Is and How to Use It

gRPC Architecture: gRPC vs GraphQL
Image Source: gRPC

gRPC is a quick and lightweight system for requesting data. It’s a new version of an old method known as Remote Procedure Call (RPC). It was developed by Google and made Open-Source later. It works based on contracts and negotiations that are defined by the relationship between the Server and the Client rather than by the Architecture. 

gRPC is lightweight and requires few resources. This makes it a good solution even for low powered situations. It uses Protocol Buffers (Protobuf) to serialize Structured Data and facilitate effective communication. gRPC is Open Source, hence, you can use it for free. 

gRPC is suitable where the Data Requester wants to preserve resources. It is mostly used in IoT devices like Smart Light Switches, Voice Controllers, Cameras, and Smoke Alarm Locks. 

What Is GraphQL and How Do I Use It?

GraphQL Architecture: gRPC vs GraphQL
Image Source: Gridsome

GraphQL is a system for requesting data whose focus is on pinpointing requests and delivering what is required. It is a Client-driven approach that makes it unique from other APIs. Instead of using the normal Server to Client Model, it lets the Client decide how everything is handled. The Client decides the type of data that is wanted and the preferred format for the data. 

GraphQL doesn’t over fetch data, but it returns exactly what is requested by the Client. It is also Cross-platform, with the ability to support more than a dozen languages including Perl, PHP, Java, Python, and others. 

In the next section, we will be discussing gRPC vs GraphQL to know how they compare in different core areas. 

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gRPC vs GraphQL: What’s the Difference?

The following  are the differences between gRPC and GraphQL:

gRPC vs GraphQL: Best Use Case

gRPC Best Use Case

gRPC is a quick system for requesting data. It is suitable for use where processing is to be done routinely or where a system requires a set amount of data. It is also suitable for use where the Data Requester has limited resources. 

GraphQL Best Use Case

GraphQL requires the user to define the required Data Format. It is best used in situations where the Data Requester wants to get the data in a specific format for a particular use case. In such cases, the Data Formats and the relationships between them are very important.

gRPC vs GraphQL: Architecture

gRPC Architecture

gRPC’s Architecture is based on the concept of Contracts. In this architecture, negotiation is defined by the Client-Server Relationship instead of the Architecture itself. Much of the power and responsibility is given to the Client to execute. At the same time, much of the handling and computation work is offloaded to the Remote Server that hosts the resource. 

GraphQL Architecture

GraphQL has a unique approach to the Client-Server Relationship and it is like a reversal of the traditional model. It is the Client that determines the data they want as well as the format in which they want it. This approach reverses the classic Server to Client dictation and facilitates an extended functionality. 

gRPC vs GraphQL: Protocols and Verbs

gRPC Protocols and Verbs

It uses the HTTP/2 Protocol which is capable of supporting Bidirectional and Multiplexing. It is an improvement of the HTTP/1 Protocol. It also uses a binary protocol rather than JSON. 

HTTP Development Across Time: gRPC vs GraphQL
Image Source: freeCodeCamp

For more information on HTTP/2, visit Google’s Web Fundamentals Guide here

GraphQL Protocols and Verbs

It uses the HTTP Protocol. It can be accessed via a simple POST API or via the playground. It also offers different names such as Query and Mutation of CRUD operation. 

gRPC vs GraphQL: Speed

gRPC Speed

Speed is an important factor to consider when comparing gRPC vs GraphQL. gRPC has a great focus on performance through a Compact Data Format, through the use of HTTP/2 as the transport layer and fast encoding and decoding of messages. 

Code generation on both the Client and the Server is done using Protocol Buffers (protobuf) definitions to save Developers from the need to write boilerplate code. It also gives them an opportunity to enjoy type safety. 

GraphQL Speed

GraphQL allows the Clients to request for any number of Data Fields at a go. The response will be as fast as the speed of the slowest requested field. This means that users should optimize queries continuously based on usage patterns. 

Thus, GraphQL will be slower than gRPC in most cases. 

gRPC vs GraphQL: Supported Programming Languages

gRPC Supported Programming Languages

gRPC has official libraries for most of the popular programming languages including Java, C#, C/C++, JavaScript, Go, PHP, Python, and Kotlin. This gives users the flexibility to choose the languages they are comfortable with. 

GraphQL Supported Programming Languages

GraphQL is also flexible when it comes to the supported programming languages. It supports more than a dozen languages including Perl, PHP, Java, Python, and others. Thus, users can also choose the programming language of choice. 

That is how gRPC and GraphQL compare in different core areas. 

Conclusion

This blog discussed fine differences across gRPC and GraphQL. We also discussed concepts behind gRPC and GraphQL, their protocols and architecture. 

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Share your learning experience from gRPC vs GraphQL and the contrasts you found most useful. Let us know what you think in the comments area below!

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