As many might think, gRPC doesn’t stand for “google Remote Procedure Call” but is a recursive acronym meaning “gRPC Remote Procedure Call”. I don’t know if you buy it but the truth is that is was originally developed by Google and then open-sourced.
If you’ve been in the IT for a while RPC doesn’t necessarily bring back happy memories. On the JVM it all started with RMI in the 90s. RMI was inspired by CORBA and suffered from a lack of interoperability as both the client and the server had to be implemented in Java. RMI was also particularly slow as Java serialisation is not a very efficient protocol.
Later in the 2000s came XML based RPC with XML-RPC and especially SOAP. Both of these formats address the interoperability as it no longer matters how the client/server are implemented. They only need to speak XML. However XML is still not an efficient protocol and communications remain slow.
SOAP provides an interesting definition language (WSDL – Web Service Definition Language) that can be used to generate service implementations.
gRPC addresses all these drawbacks. By default, it uses protobuf (Protocol buffers) for the service definitions and as its serialisation mechanism, which allows it to interoperate with many different languages while providing an efficient serialisation protocol. gRPC also takes advantage of HTTP/2 to add streaming capabilities.