Atomicity with Lua

Author: Brian Sam-Bodden

Improving atomicity and performance with Lua#

One way to improve our implementation is by moving the responsibility of performing the INCR and EXPIRE operations from the incrAndExpireKey method, to a Lua script.

Rate Limiting Lua Script#

Redis has the ability to execute Lua scripts on the server side. Lua scripts are executed atomically, that is, no other script or command will run while a script is running, which gives us the same transactional semantics as MULTI / EXEC.

Below is a simple Lua script to encapsulate the rate limiting logic. The script returns true if the request is to be rejected or false otherwise:

-- rateLimiter.lua
local key = KEYS[1]
local requests = tonumber('GET', key) or '-1')
local max_requests = tonumber(ARGV[1])
local expiry = tonumber(ARGV[2])
if (requests == -1) or (requests < max_requests) then'INCR', key)'EXPIRE', key, expiry)
return false
return true

Place the script under src/main/resources/scripts. Now, Let's break it down:

  1. Lua scripts in Redis work with keys (KEYS[]) and arguments (ARGV[]) in our case we are expecting one key in KEYS[1] (Lua arrays are 1-based)
  2. We retrieve the quota for the key in requests by making a call to the GET command, returning -1 if the key does not exist, and converting the value to a number.
  3. The quota is passed as the first argument (ARGV[1]) and stored in max_requests, the expiry in seconds is the second argument and stored in expiry
  4. The if statement checks whether the request is the first request in the time window or if the number of requests have not exceeded the quota, in which case we run the INCR-EXPIRE commands and retunr false (meaning we are not rate limiting and allowing the request through).
  5. If they've exceeded the quote, then we rate limit by returning true

If you want to learn more about Lua, see Programming in Lua.

Redis Lua Scripts in Spring Data Redis#

Spring Data Redis supports Lua scripting via the class RedisScript. It handles serialization and intelligently uses the Redis script cache. The cache is populated using the SCRIPT LOAD command. The default ScriptExecutor uses EVALSHA using the SHA1 of the script and falling back to EVAL if the script has not yet been loaded into the cache.

Let's add the bean annotated method script() to load our script from the classpath:

public RedisScript<Boolean> script() {
return RedisScript.of(new ClassPathResource("scripts/rateLimiter.lua"), Boolean.class);

Modifying the Filter to use Lua#

Next, we'll modify the filter to include the script as well as the quota; the value that we need to pass to the script:

class RateLimiterHandlerFilterFunction implements HandlerFilterFunction<ServerResponse, ServerResponse> {
private ReactiveRedisTemplate<String, Long> redisTemplate;
private RedisScript<Boolean> script;
private Long maxRequestPerMinute;
public RateLimiterHandlerFilterFunction(ReactiveRedisTemplate<String, Long> redisTemplate,
RedisScript<Boolean> script, Long maxRequestPerMinute) {
this.redisTemplate = redisTemplate;
this.script = script;
this.maxRequestPerMinute = maxRequestPerMinute;

Now we can modify the filter method to use the script. Scripts are run using the execute methods of RedisTemplate or ReactiveRedisTemplate. The execute methods use a configurable ScriptExecutor/ReactiveScriptExecutor that inherits the key and value serialization setting of the template to run the scripts:

public Mono<ServerResponse> filter(ServerRequest request, HandlerFunction<ServerResponse> next) {
int currentMinute =;
String key = String.format("rl_%s:%s", requestAddress(request.remoteAddress()), currentMinute);
return redisTemplate //
.execute(script, List.of(key), List.of(maxRequestPerMinute, 59)) //
.single(false) //
.flatMap(value -> value ? //
ServerResponse.status(TOO_MANY_REQUESTS).build() : //

Let's break down the method additions:

  1. The filter method uses the template execute method passing the script, keys and arguments.
  2. We expect a single result (true or false). The single method takes a default value to be returned in case we get an empty result.
  3. Finally, we use the flatMap method to grab the value:
    • If it is true we reject the request with an HTTP 429.
    • If it is false we handle the request

Applying the filter#

Let's add a configurable @Value annotated Long value to the FixedWindowRateLimiterApplication to hold the request quota.

Long maxRequestPerMinute;

In our we'll set it to a max of 20 request per minute:


To invoke the filter we use the newly modified constructor, passing the template, the script, and the maxRequestPerMinute value:

RouterFunction<ServerResponse> routes() {
return route() //
.GET("/api/ping", r -> ok() //
.contentType(TEXT_PLAIN) //
.body(BodyInserters.fromValue("PONG")) //
).filter(new RateLimiterHandlerFilterFunction(redisTemplate, script(), maxRequestPerMinute)).build();

Testing with curl#

Using our trusty curl loop:

for n in {1..22}; do echo $(curl -s -w " :: HTTP %{http_code}, %{size_download} bytes, %{time_total} s" -X GET http://localhost:8080/api/ping); sleep 0.5; done

You should see the 21st request being rejected:

โžœ for n in {1..22}; do echo $(curl -s -w " :: HTTP %{http_code}, %{size_download} bytes, %{time_total} s" -X GET http://localhost:8080/api/ping); sleep 0.5; done
PONG :: HTTP 200, 4 bytes, 0.173759 s
PONG :: HTTP 200, 4 bytes, 0.008903 s
PONG :: HTTP 200, 4 bytes, 0.008796 s
PONG :: HTTP 200, 4 bytes, 0.009625 s
PONG :: HTTP 200, 4 bytes, 0.007604 s
PONG :: HTTP 200, 4 bytes, 0.008052 s
PONG :: HTTP 200, 4 bytes, 0.011364 s
PONG :: HTTP 200, 4 bytes, 0.012158 s
PONG :: HTTP 200, 4 bytes, 0.010415 s
PONG :: HTTP 200, 4 bytes, 0.010373 s
PONG :: HTTP 200, 4 bytes, 0.010009 s
PONG :: HTTP 200, 4 bytes, 0.006587 s
PONG :: HTTP 200, 4 bytes, 0.006807 s
PONG :: HTTP 200, 4 bytes, 0.006970 s
PONG :: HTTP 200, 4 bytes, 0.007948 s
PONG :: HTTP 200, 4 bytes, 0.007949 s
PONG :: HTTP 200, 4 bytes, 0.006606 s
PONG :: HTTP 200, 4 bytes, 0.006336 s
PONG :: HTTP 200, 4 bytes, 0.007855 s
PONG :: HTTP 200, 4 bytes, 0.006515 s
:: HTTP 429, 0 bytes, 0.006633 s
:: HTTP 429, 0 bytes, 0.008264 s

If we run Redis in monitor mode, we should see the Lua calls to EVALSHA, followed by the call to GET for a rejected request, and the same plus calls to INCR and EXPIRE for an allowed request:

1630342834.878972 [0] "EVALSHA" "16832548450a4b1c5e23ffab55bddefe972fecd2" "1" "rl_localhost:0" "20" "59"
1630342834.879044 [0 lua] "GET" "rl_localhost:0"
1630342834.879091 [0 lua] "INCR" "rl_localhost:0"
1630342834.879141 [0 lua] "EXPIRE" "rl_localhost:0" "59"
1630342835.401937 [0] "EVALSHA" "16832548450a4b1c5e23ffab55bddefe972fecd2" "1" "rl_localhost:0" "20" "59"
1630342835.402009 [0 lua] "GET" "rl_localhost:0"

The complete code for this implementation is under the branch with_lua.