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Scale out your actor systems over network using gRPC streaming.

In this article, we will explore what Proto.Remote is and how it helps us to create distributed systems in which actors are located on different machines connected by a network.

Proto.Remote abstracts many of the issues, such as serialization and communication over the network away from us, and lets us concentrate on the important thing, which is our application and our problem domain.

remote title

Location Transparency

The term location transparency is used in programming when the user or application does not know where the resource is located but only knows its name. A resource can be requested by name, and the system must be able to translate it into a unique identifier, which will then be associated with resource location. Proto.Remote offers location transparency that enables us to treat communication between actors on different machines the same as communication between actors in the local system. The picture below shows how the Proto.Remote works.


For more info see Location Transparency.


To get started with Proto.Remote, we need to configure the host address, register Protobuf messages, and Remote kinds. Below we will look at each action in detail.


First, we need to install two NuGet packages: Proto.Remote and Proto.Remote.GrpcNet.

To do this in Visual Studio open the Package Manager Console and type:

Install-Package Proto.Remote
Install-Package Proto.Remote.GrpcNet

Warning! From time to time you may see Proto.Remote.GrpcCore package used instead of Proto.Remote.GrpcNet. Proto.Remote.GrpcCore uses Grpc.Core package, and thus is considered deprecated. Read more about it here.

To create Proto.Remote configuration that binds to a specified host address on a specified port we need to use method BindTo(host, port) from static class GrpcNetRemoteConfig. We can also create a configuration that binds to the localhost address by calling the method BindToLocalHost(port). In both methods, the parameter port is optional. By default, it is 0, which means that any free port will be used.

using Proto.Remote;
using Proto.Remote.GrpcNet;

var config = GrpcNetRemoteConfig
    .BindTo(advertisedHost, 12000)

Registering Protobuf messages

Protobuf is an interface definition language that defines contracts between services (messages and endpoints) in a natural language. We can take these contracts and use gRPC to generate clients and servers in different languages and take care of all of the underlying transport mechanisms and serialization/deserialization of those messages.

If we want to define a Protobuf message that has one string, then we need to create a .proto file with the content as shown below.

syntax = "proto3";
package MyMessages;
option csharp_namespace = "MyMessages";

message SomeMessage {
    string some_property = 1;

To generate code for working with message types created in a .proto file first we need to download protocol buffer compiler protoc and follow the instructions in the README. Then we run the compiler, specifying the directory where the source code of our application is located, the directory where we want to place the generated code, and the path to the .proto file. In this case, we need to call the following command:

protoc -I=$SRC_DIR --csharp_out=$DST_DIR $SRC_DIR/name.proto

This command generates a library in C# which contains message classes and can be used as a reference from our client and server implementations. If we want to generate code in another programming language, just replace the option --csharp_out with the one we need.

For more information on Protobuf read Protocol Buffers.

In order to tell the configuration factory where to find the message from our Protobuf definition, we need to call the static method WithProtoMessages from class RemoteConfigExtensions and pass to it a descriptor with the namespace.

var config = GrpcNetRemoteConfig
    .BindTo(advertisedHost, 12000)
    //like this

Read more about Protobuf.

Registering Remote Kinds

Proto.Remote allows us to spawn Proto actors that are located on different machines in a distributed system. In order to do this, we need to register the kinds of actors that can be spawned remotely.

To register what kind of actor can be called, we need to use the static method WithRemoteKind from class RemoteConfigExtensions and pass to it the name of the “kind” and a Props. This method creates a dictionary that maps the kind of an actor to Props and tells the Remote module how to set up and spawn an actor of that kind.

var config = GrpcNetRemoteConfig
    .BindTo(advertisedHost, 12000)
    //like this
    .WithRemoteKind("echo", Props.FromProducer(() => new EchoActor()));

You can read more about remote spawning here.

Configure gRPC compression

Proto.Remote allows bidirectional streaming between client and server using the gRPC framework. To optimize our bandwidth, we can configure gRPC compression. In order to do this, we need to call the static method WithChannelOptions and pass to it GrpcChannelOptions with created GzipCompressionProvider and select the compression level.

Compression is optional and might not always have the desired outcome. The bandwidth also depends on the workload and on the message size.

var remoteConfig =
    //like this
    .WithChannelOptions(new GrpcChannelOptions
            CompressionProviders = new[]
                new GzipCompressionProvider(CompressionLevel.Fastest)

You can read more about gPRC compression here.


In this section, we will look at how using just a few simple commands from Proto.Remote package we can create actors and organize communication between them in a distributed system.

Spawning remote actors

After we have completed all the necessary configuration, all that remains is to spawn an actor using the SpawnNamedAsync method and send a message to it using the context.Send method. See the example below:

var result = await system.Remote().SpawnNamedAsync("remoteaddress", "actor name", "actor kind", timeout);
context.Send(result.Pid, message);

In this article, we have examined what Proto.Remote is, how to configure it to spawn Proto.Actor on a remote machine, how to spawn an actor and send a message to it using Proto.Remote. For a more complete example of how to use Proto.Remote, see the article Chat example using Proto.Remote.