An ephemeral, reactive geospatial REST API

I spent a portion of my holiday break (mainly the plane rides) tinkering with Ratpack and a reactive R-tree library. This is the second time I’ve tinkered with this combination of tech. Unlike the first, which was benchmarking NoSQL geo-spatial engine candidates; Mongo, Redis, Rethink, R-tree, and ElasticSearch, this exploration/POC was meant to test the performance of a REST-enabled in-memory, ephemeral, geospatial “engine” without a backing data store, related drivers, and the network overhead.

The project mainly leverages the following:

  1. Ratpack
  2. David Moten’s immutable R-tree implementation
  3. wrk as a load-testing tool with custom Lua scripts

The objective was to see how hard I could push a REST framework, the geospatial engine, and the (presumably reactive) drivers in both point insertions and queries.

I chose to tinker with David Moten’s R-tree (again) as its a natural fit for Ratpack. R-trees are a shoe in for geospatial tests in general. R-trees entirely back or compliment other trees (b and quad) in popular geospatial engines such as CouchDB, Mongo, and SQL alternatives; PostGIS, MySQL, Oracle Spatial, etc… Not only that, but both are written from the ground up to support reactive principles. Yay!

The API supports the following operations on its points and place (w/ a name, address, etc…):

  • The creation of points within the tree (w/ a JSON POST to /api/v0/places)
  • Query of points within the tree within a certain bounded area (w/ a GET to /api/v0/places/near/$lat/$long/$distanceInKm)
  • Retrieval of a single point based on its ID (w/ a GET to /api/v0/places/$placeId)
  • Random retrieval of a single point (w/ a GET to /api/v0/places/random)

… and a few more endpoint detailed in the handler chain.

Usage of the R-tree is straightforward, with the bulk of logic in the service implementation. In fact, the only tricky part handling the continued re-assigned of the volatile variable holding the R-tree whenever a place/point is inserted.

To handle this, a Rx PublishSubject is created and all mutating operations (inserts) are done via interaction with the subject rather than the R-tree itself. The subject handles the re-assignment of the tree data structure as it processes each stream (request).

tree = R-treeBuilder.create()

subject = PublishSubject.create()
subject.subscribe(new Subscriber<Entry<IdAssignedPlace,Point>>() {

    void onCompleted() {


    void onError(Throwable exception) {

        log.error(exception.getMessage(), exception)

    void onNext(final Entry<IdAssignedPlace, Point> entry) {

        log.debug("adding place '${entry.value().name}' w/ coordinates [${entry.value().latitude},${entry.value().longitude}]")
        tree = tree.add(entry)

All other query and fetch operations are executed against the Observable streams that derive from the tree. This results in query performance that’s really quite astounding, but at the cost of memory, CPU, and data durability. Query operations against the R-tree are a bit costlier as they perform distance calculations against the returning Observable stream.

Observable<PlaceWithDistance> findPlacesNear(Double latitude, Double longitude, Double searchRadius) {

  final Point geographicPoint = Geometries.pointGeographic(latitude, longitude)

  final Position queryPosition = Position.create(latitude, longitude)

  final Position north = queryPosition.predict(searchRadius, 0)
  final Position south = queryPosition.predict(searchRadius, 180)
  final Position east = queryPosition.predict(searchRadius, 90)
  final Position west = queryPosition.predict(searchRadius, 270)

  final Rectangle searchArea = Geometries.rectangle(west.getLon(), south.getLat(), east.getLon(), north.getLat())
    .filter({ Entry<IdAssignedPlace, Point> entry ->

      final Point point = entry.geometry()
      final Position position = Position.create(point.y(), point.x())

      queryPosition.getDistanceToKm(position) < searchRadius
    } as Func1)
    .map({ Entry<IdAssignedPlace, Point> entry ->

    } as Func1)
    .map( { IdAssignedPlace place ->

      new PlaceWithDistance(distance: Geometries.pointGeographic(place.latitude, place.longitude).distance(geographicPoint) * Constants.FIND_NEAR_DISTANCE_CALCULATION_MULTIPLIER, place: place)
    } as Func1)

For more information, see the load test blog post.

Give Ratpack and David’s R-tree a read over too. They’re both light, performant, explicit and generally easy to use and test against.

See Also

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