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Author:
Elena Kolevska, Technical Enablement Manager

Getting started with Redis Functions

The most impactful addition to Redis version 7.0 is Redis Functions - a new programmability option, improving on scripts by adding modularity, reusability, and better overall developer experience.

Functions are, in contrast to scripts, persisted in the .rdb and .aof files as well as automatically replicated to all the replicas, which makes them a first-class citizen of Redis.

Redis has the capability of supporting multiple execution engines so in one of the future releases we’ll be able to write Redis Functions in Lua, Javascript, and more languages, but at the moment (Redis v7.0) the only supported language is Lua.

A common pain point for developers is to maintain a consistent view of data entities through a logical schema. Redis Functions are ideally suited for solving this problem and in this tutorial, we will demonstrate just that - we’ll create a library with two functions; the first one will make sure that we can automatically set _created_at and _updated_at timestamps for hash keys and the second one will simply update the _updated_at timestamp without changing the other elements, simulating the “touch” Unix function. Let's go!

Environment setup

First, let’s set up a working environment with Redis 7. You can follow the installation instructions in the guides below, according to your operating system:

Alternatively, you can spin up a Docker container with Redis Stack:

$ docker run -p 6379:6379 --name redis-7.0 -it --rm redis/redis-stack:7.0.0-RC4

Note: In the rest of this tutorial we’ll use the $ character to indicate that the command needs to be run on the command prompt and redis-cli> to indicate the same for a redis-cli prompt._

Warm-Up

Now that we have our Redis server running, we can create a file named mylib.lua and in it create a function named hset that would receive the keys and arguments we pass on the command line as parameters.

Functions in Redis are always a part of a library, and a single library can have multiple functions.

For starters, let's create a simple function that returns "Hello Redis 7.0" and save it in the mylib.lua file.

#!lua name=mylib

local function hset(keys, args)
return "Hello Redis 7.0"
end

The first line specifies that we want to use the Lua engine to run this function and that its name is mylib.The name is the library identifier and we will use it every time we need to update it.

Next, we need to register this function so it can be accessed through the Functions api. In the registration we specify that the function hset can be called with the name of my_hset:

redis.register_function('my_hset', hset)

The full code, so far, is:

#!lua name=mylib
local function hset(keys, args)
return "Hello Redis 7.0"
end

redis.register_function('my_hset', hset)

Before we can call the function on the command line, we need to load and register it with the Redis server:

$ cat /path/to/mylib.lua | redis-cli -x FUNCTION LOAD

Finally, let’s run the function we registered:

redis-cli> FCALL my_hset 1 foo

You should see the greeting "Hello Redis 7.0" as a response.

Maintaining a consistent view of data entities through a logical schema

We're now ready to start working on the requirement. First, let's implement the part that adds an updatedat timestamp:

#!lua name=mylib
local function hset(keys, args)
local hash = keys[1] -- Get the key name
local time = redis.call('TIME')[1] -- Get the current time from the Redis server

-- Add the current timestamp to the arguments that the user passed to the function, stored in `args`
table.insert(args, '_updated_at')
table.insert(args, time)

-- Run HSET with the updated argument list
return redis.call('HSET', hash, unpack(args))
end

redis.register_function('my_hset', hset)

After you updated the code, you will have to reload the library in the Redis server, using the replace argument to specify that you want to overwrite the previous version:

$ cat /path/to/mylib.lua | redis-cli -x FUNCTION LOAD REPLACE

If you try to create and update a hash through our function now, you will see that a timestamp is automatically added to it:

redis-cli> FCALL my_hset 1 foo k1 v1 k2 v2
3

redis-cli> HGETALL foo
1) "k1"
2) "v1"
3) "k2"
4) "v2"
5) "_updated_at"
6) "1643581494"

If we try to update the same key, we will see that the _updated_at timestamp got updated too:

redis-cli> FCALL my_hset 1 foo k4 v4
1

redis-cli> HGETALL foo
1) "k1"
2) "v1"
3) "k2"
4) "v2"
5) "_updated_at"
6) "1643581580"
7) "k4"
8) "v4"

Now let's add the logic that checks if the key is being created or updated, and adds the _created_at timestamp accordingly:

#!lua name=mylib
local function hset(keys, args)
local hash = keys[1] -- Get the key name
local time = redis.call('TIME')[1] -- Get the current time from the Redis server

-- Check if the key exists and if not - add a `_created_at` timestamp
local exists = redis.call('exists', hash)
if exists==0 then
table.insert(args, '_created_at')
table.insert(args, time)
end

-- Add the current timestamp to the arguments that the user passed to the function, stored in `args`
table.insert(args, '_updated_at')
table.insert(args, time)

-- Run HSET with the updated argument list
return redis.call('HSET', hash, unpack(args))
end

redis.register_function('my_hset', hset)

Reload the library:

$ cat /path/to/mylib.lua | redis-cli -x FUNCTION LOAD REPLACE

And try to create a new key:

redis-cli> FCALL my_hset 1 bar k1 v1 k2 v2
4

redis-cli> HGETALL bar
1) "k1"
2) "v1"
3) "k2"
4) "v2"
5) "_updated_at"
6) "1643581710"
7) "_created_at"
8) "1643581710"

Both a _created_at and _updated_at timestamps were added. If we update the key, we will see that the _updated_at timestamp will change, while the _created_at will stay the same:

redis-cli> FCALL my_hset 1 bar k4 v4
1

redis-cli> HMGET bar _created_at _updated_at
1) "1643581710"
2) "1643581992"

The second requirement was to implement a function that will allow us to update the _updated_at timestamp without updating any other fields. For that, we'll have to create a new function in our library:

local function touch(keys, args)
local time = redis.call('TIME')[1]
return redis.call('HSET', keys[1], '_updated_at', time)
end

And we should also add the function registration:

redis.register_function('my_touch', touch)

The full code will now look like this:

#!lua name=mylib
local function hset(keys, args)
local hash = keys[1] -- Get the key name
local time = redis.call('TIME')[1] -- Get the current time from the Redis server

local exists = redis.call('exists', hash)
if exists==0 then
table.insert(args, '_created_at')
table.insert(args, time)
end

-- Add the current timestamp to the arguments that the user passed to the function, stored in `args`
table.insert(args, '_updated_at')
table.insert(args, time)

-- Run HSET with the updated argument list
return redis.call('HSET', hash, unpack(args))
end

local function touch(keys, args)
local time = redis.call('TIME')[1]
return redis.call('HSET', keys[1], '_updated_at', time)
end

redis.register_function('my_hset', hset)
redis.register_function('my_touch', touch)

Reload the updated library:

$ cat /path/to/mylib.lua | redis-cli -x FUNCTION LOAD REPLACE

And try running the new function and confirm that the _updated_at timestamp has indeed changed:

redis-cli> FCALL my_touch 1 bar
0

redis-cli> HMGET bar _created_at _updated_at
1) "1643581710"
2) "1643582276"

Thinking ahead

One of the basic rules of software development is that you cannot rely on user input, so let’s make sure we don’t do that. If a user creates a string named my_string and tries to run the touch function on it they will get an error:

redis-cli> SET my_string hello
OK

redis-cli> FCALL my_hset 1 my_string k1 v1
(error) WRONGTYPE Operation against a key holding the wrong kind of value script: my_hset, on @user_function:17.

Let’s handle this error by adding a type check:

if exists==1 and redis.call('TYPE', hash)["ok"] ~= 'hash' then
error = 'The key ' .. hash .. ' is not a hash'
redis.log(redis.LOG_WARNING, error);
return redis.error_reply(error)
end

The complete code:

#!lua name=mylib
local function hset(keys, args)
local hash = keys[1] -- Get the key name
local time = redis.call('TIME')[1] -- Get the current time from the Redis server

local exists = redis.call('exists', hash)
if exists==0 then
table.insert(args, '_created_at')
table.insert(args, time)
end

if exists==1 and redis.call('TYPE', hash)["ok"] ~= 'hash' then
local error = 'The key ' .. hash .. ' is not a hash'
redis.log(redis.LOG_WARNING, error);
return redis.error_reply(error)
end

-- Add the current timestamp to the arguments that the user passed to the function, stored in `args`
table.insert(args, '_updated_at')
table.insert(args, time)

-- Run HSET with the updated argument list
return redis.call('HSET', hash, unpack(args))
end

local function touch(keys, args)
local time = redis.call('TIME')[1]
return redis.call('HSET', keys[1], '_updated_at', time)
end

redis.register_function('my_hset', hset)
redis.register_function('my_touch', touch)

If we reload the library and try again, we'll get an error with a helpful message:

$ cat /path/to/mylib.lua | redis-cli -x FUNCTION LOAD REPLACE

redis-cli> FCALL my_hset 1 my_string
(error) The key my_string is not a hash

Refactoring

We can notice that we have some code repetition in our library, namely the type check and the getting of the timestamp in both our functions. That's a good opportunity for some code reuse. Let's extract the logic into their own functions:

local function get_time()
return redis.call('TIME')[1]
end

local function is_not_hash(key_name)
if redis.call('TYPE', key_name)['ok'] ~= 'hash' then
return 'The key ' .. key_name .. ' is not a hash.'
end

return nil
end

This function is only going to be called by our two existing functions and not from the outside, so that's why we don't need to register it. The refactored code will now look like this:

#!lua name=mylib

-- Get the current time from the Redis server
local function get_time()
return redis.call('TIME')[1]
end

local function is_not_hash(key_name)
if redis.call('TYPE', key_name)['ok'] ~= 'hash' then
return 'The key ' .. key_name .. ' is not a hash.'
end

return nil
end

local function hset(keys, args)
local hash = keys[1] -- Get the key name
local time = get_time()

local exists = redis.call('exists', hash)
if exists==0 then
table.insert(args, '_created_at')
table.insert(args, time)
end

local hash_error = is_not_hash(hash)
if exists==1 and hash_error ~= nil then
return redis.error_reply(hash_error)
end

-- Add the current timestamp to the arguments that the user passed to the function, stored in `args`
table.insert(args, '_updated_at')
table.insert(args, time)

-- Run HSET with the updated argument list
return redis.call('HSET', hash, unpack(args))
end

local function touch(keys, args)
local hash = keys[1]

local hash_error = is_not_hash(hash)
if hash_error ~= nil then
return redis.error_reply(hash_error)
end

return redis.call('HSET', hash, '_updated_at', get_time())
end

redis.register_function('my_hset', hset)
redis.register_function('my_touch', touch)

Using Function flags

In this step, we'll get familiar with the use of Function flags - a piece of information that describes the circumstances under which a function is allowed to run. Currently, we support 5 flags:

  • no-writes - this flag indicates that the script only reads data but never writes.
  • allow-oom - this flag allows a script to execute even when the server is out of memory (OOM).
  • allow-stale - this flag enables running the script against a stale replica.
  • no-cluster - this flag doesn't allow the script to run in a clustered database.
  • allow-cross-slot-keys - this flag allows a script to access keys from multiple slots.

To best illustrate why function flags are useful we'll work with a simple example that gets the basic info and favourite colours of a user. Save the following snippet in a file named get_user.lua:

#!lua name=mynewlib
local function get_user(keys, args)
local hash = keys[1] -- Get the key name

local user = redis.call('HGETALL', hash)
local user_colours = redis.call('SMEMBERS', hash .. ':colours')

table.insert(user, #user+1, 'colours')
table.insert(user, #user+1, user_colours)


return user
end

redis.register_function('get_user', get_user)

If we try to execute this function with FCALL_RO - the read-only variant of FCALL, we will get an error, even though it only performs read operations. In order to demonstrate that the function is read-only, we need to use the no-writes flag in its registration:

$ cat /path/to/get_user.lua | redis-cli -x FUNCTION LOAD

redis-cli> FCALL_RO get_user 1 user:1
(error) ERR Can not execute a script with write flag using *_ro command.

#!lua name=mynewlib

local function get_user(keys, args)
local hash = keys[1] -- Get the key name

local user = redis.call('HGETALL', hash)
local user_colours = redis.call('SMEMBERS', hash .. ':colours')

table.insert(user, #user+1, 'colours')
table.insert(user, #user+1, user_colours)


return user
end

redis.register_function{
function_name='get_user',
callback=get_user,
flags={ 'no-writes' }
}

Finally, this will give us the expected result:

$ cat /path/to/get_user.lua | redis-cli -x FUNCTION LOAD REPLACE

redis-cli> FCALL_RO get_user 1 user:1
1) "email"
2) "foo@bar.com"
3) "colours"
4) 1) "green"
2) "red"
3) "blue"

That's it, you now know how to write, load and execute Redis Function. Congratulations!

For more information on Redis Functions you can check the Redis Functions documentation and to learn more about the Lua API you can check the Redis Lua API Reference.