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redis is an in-memory, key/value store. Think of it as a dictionary with any number of keys, each of which has a value that can be set or retrieved. However, Redis goes beyond a simple key/value store as it is actually a data structures server, supporting different kinds of values. Some fundamental concepts:

  • Can be used as a databse, cache, or message broker
  • Supports multiple data types and structures
  • Built-in replication
  • Keys can be up to 512MB in size

Getting Started

Rivanna nodes can connect to external Redis databases hosted in Kubernetes or a public cloud (AWS, Azure, GCP, etc.)

To use Redis from the command-line, use the redis-cli. In Rivanna, this is a module:

$  module load redis-cli

You can now create a connection to the server. Use port 6379 (the default port). No password is required:

$  redis-cli -h redis.uvarc.io

Basic Operations

As a dictionary, Redis allows you to set and retrieve pairs of keys and values. Think of a “key” as a unique identifier (string, integer, etc.) and a “value” as whatever data you want to associate with that key. Values can be strings, integers, floats, booleans, binary, lists, arrays, dates, and more.

KEY                 VALUE
hello               world
1234                5678
1a2b3c              /path/to/file.csv

Note! The “value” half of a Redis key/value pair can be quite large - 512MB. This is considerably larger than other popular NoSQL databases such as DynamoDB or MongoDB.

To view all keys (once you have established a connection to the Redis server):

redis.uvarc.io:6379> keys *
1) "hello"
2) "1234"
3) "1a2b3c"
4) "124a"

Then use a specific key to fetch its value:

redis.uvarc.io:6379> get hello

To set a new key/value:

redis.uvarc.io:6379> set herman melville

Set an expiring key/value (EX in seconds, PX in miliseconds)

redis.uvarc.io:6379> set jane eyre EX 30

Delete a key/value:

redis.uvarc.io:6379> del herman

Working Alongside Other Users

Redis allows for the creation and management of multiple databases, called “indexes”. By default new connections are attached to index 0 but this can be changed to the integer of another index. Keys/values stored in one index are unavailable to another index. Use select to move between indexes. There are 64 total indexes in this implementation.

redis.uvarc.io:6379> select 0
redis.uvarc.io:6379> set hello world
redis.uvarc.io:6379> get hello
redis.uvarc.io:6379> select 1
redis.uvarc.io:6379[1]> get hello

Indexes need not be created in order. We suggest you select a high arbitrary number (0 to 63) for a private index. Populate and empty it as you find necessary. However, in the standard security environment remember that your keys/values are visible to other Rivanna users.

To connect to the Redis endpoint and specify an index other than 0, use the -n flag with the integer of the index. The redis-cli prompt will indicate when you are using a non-zero index:

$ redis-cli -h redis.uvarc.io -n 17

Advanced Operations

Data Types & Structures

In addition to strings and integers, Redis supports the following data types and data manipulations:

  • Lists
  • Sets
  • Hashes
  • Increments
  • Command repetition
  • Random Keys
  • Sorted sets
  • Secondary indexes
  • Scripts

Values are not constrained

Remember that the “value” half of a key/value pair does not have to contain only a single value. It can essentially be populated with multiple, separated values, so long as you can anticipate the order, and identity of those values. In this way a key/value is akin to a “row” of a comma-separated data file.

To implement this functionality, you have two options:

  1. Use a hash. Hashes in Redis store multiple objects within the same key, i.e. sets of key/value pairs within a single key/value pair. Hashes are named, then subkeys and their values are defined:
redis.uvarc.io:6379> hset hash-key subkey1 value1 subkey2 value2

Then fetch all values:

redis.uvarc.io:6379> hgetall hash-key
1) "subkey1"
2) "value1"
3) "subkey2"
4) "value2"

Fetch a specific field:

redis.uvarc.io:6379> hget hash-key subkey2
  1. Store your payload as JSON. Redis will store your JSON data as one long string, which you can then parse:
redis-cli -h redis.uvarc.io --raw
redis.uvarc.io:6379> set json_key '{"eventType": "purchase", "amount": 5, "item_id": "XXX"}' 
redis.uvarc.io:6379> keys *
redis.uvarc.io:6379[5]> get json_key
{"eventType": "purchase", "amount": 5, "item_id": "XXX"}

Note the use of the --raw`` flag when invoking the redis-cli` tool. This ensures that response data is decoded back to UTF-8 instead of bytes.


Create a list by pushing a value into it:

redis.uvarc.io:6379> LPUSH dbs redis 
(integer) 1 
redis.uvarc.io:6379> LPUSH dbs mongodb 
(integer) 2 
redis.uvarc.io:6379> LPUSH dbs mysql 
(integer) 3 
redis.uvarc.io:6379> LPUSH dbs mysql 
(integer) 4

Pushing a new value into a list gives the new value the 0 position of the list. (To add new values to the end of the list use the RPUSH command.) List values can be duplicated within the list.

Get a list range back by defining the min and max indices you want:

redis.uvarc.io:6379> LRANGE dbs 0 10
1) "mysql" 
2) "mysql"
3) "mongodb" 
4) "redis"
redis.uvarc.io:6379> LRANGE dbs 0 1
1) "mysql"
2) "mysql"

You can also LPOP, LPUSH, and LTRIM as well as RPOP, RPUSH, and RTRIM with Redis lists.


You can populate a set within a single key. Set members already present cannot be duplicated within the set:

redis.uvarc.io:6379> sadd set1 bananas
(integer) 1
redis.uvarc.io:6379> sadd set1 apples
(integer) 1
redis.uvarc.io:6379> sadd set1 grapes
(integer) 1
redis.uvarc.io:6379> sadd set1 bananas
(integer) 0

Then retrieve the set members:

redis.uvarc.io:6379> smembers set1
1) "grapes"
2) "apples"
3) "bananas"

Incremental Counters

Use Redis as a counter or tracker:

redis.uvarc.io:6379> set counter 1
redis.uvarc.io:6379> incr counter
(integer) 2
redis.uvarc.io:6379> incr counter
(integer) 3

Increment by integers other than 1:

redis.uvarc.io:6379> get counter
redis.uvarc.io:6379> incrby counter 3
(integer) 4
redis.uvarc.io:6379> incrby counter 6
(integer) 10

Command Repetition

If you need the same command to be repeated N times, simply preface your command with that integer:

redis.uvarc.io:6379> set counter 1
redis.uvarc.io:6379> 5 incr counter
(integer) 2
(integer) 3
(integer) 4
(integer) 5
(integer) 6

Random Keys

Using a database populated with keys and values, some workflows could make use of this as a queue for jobs or batches to be processed when order does not matter. Your process can fetch a random key:

redis.uvarc.io:6379> randomkey
redis.uvarc.io:6379> get herman

Working with redis in Code

Redis has many available SDKs for most modern languages. Every operation available via the cli is available in those SDKs.

Some popular choices:

Use redis in Your Research

We are frequently asked by researchers how to incorporate databases into their work. Here are four suggestions for how Redis might help your research::

  1. Queue - Have a list of datafiles or batches that need processing? Redis supports queues in two ways:
    • Load a Redis index with identifiers and let jobs retrieve single values at a time. Each job, when complete, removes that key from the table, working its way until the queue is empty.
    • For less demanding processes, write your HPC job to loop through values in a Redis index to fetch identifiers and process them in series as part of one SLURM job.
    • Use Redis as a simple Pub/Sub message broker. This model de-couples message producers from message receivers, and allows for multiple of each.
  2. Cache - Store interim results or data for use in later computation. This is a faster and more scalable replacement for temporary text files.
  3. Dictionary - Use an extended key/value store as an in-memory lookup resource for reference values. Where you may have previously stored reference values in a text file or relational DB table, Redis would likely outperform that pattern. Transactions with Redis are also atomic, which means multiple keys can be set, retrieved, or modified at the same time without risking data concurrency.

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