Example: An Echo Server

We’re going to use what has been covered so far to build an echo server. This is a Tokio application that incorporates everything we’ve learned so far. The server will simply receive messages from the connected client and send back the same message it received to the client.

We’ll be able to test this echo server using the basic Tcp client we created in the hello world section.

The full code can be found here.


First, generate a new crate.

$ cargo new --bin echo-server
cd echo-server

Next, add the necessary dependencies:

tokio = "0.1"
# futures = "0.1"

and the crates and types into scope in main.rs:

# #![deny(deprecated)]
extern crate tokio;
# extern crate futures;

use tokio::io;
use tokio::net::TcpListener;
use tokio::prelude::*;

# fn main() {}

Now, we setup the necessary structure for a server:

  • Bind a TcpListener to a local port.
  • Define a task that accepts inbound connections and processes them.
  • Spawn the server task.
  • Start the Tokio runtime

Again, no work actually happens until the server task is spawned on the executor.

# #![deny(deprecated)]
# extern crate tokio;
# extern crate futures;
# use tokio::prelude::*;
# use tokio::net::TcpListener;
fn main() {
    let addr = "".parse().unwrap();
    let listener = TcpListener::bind(&addr).unwrap();

    // Here we convert the `TcpListener` to a stream of incoming connections
    // with the `incoming` method. We then define how to process each element in
    // the stream with the `for_each` combinator method
    let server = listener.incoming().for_each(|socket| {
        // TODO: Process socket
    .map_err(|err| {
        // Handle error by printing to STDOUT.
        println!("accept error = {:?}", err);

    println!("server running on localhost:6142");
#    // `select` completes when the first of the two futures completes. Since
#    // future::ok() completes immediately, the server won't hang waiting for
#    // more connections. This is just so the doc test doesn't hang.
#    let server = server.select(futures::future::ok(())).then(|_| Ok(()));

    // Start the server
    // This does a few things:
    // * Start the Tokio runtime
    // * Spawns the `server` task onto the runtime.
    // * Blocks the current thread until the runtime becomes idle, i.e. all
    //   spawned tasks have completed.

Here we’ve created a TcpListener that can listen for incoming TCP connections. On the listener we call incoming which turns the listener into a Stream of inbound client connections. We then call for_each which will yield each inbound client connection. For now we’re not doing anything with this inbound connection - that’s our next step.

Once we have our server, we can give it to tokio::run. Up until this point our server feature has done nothing. It’s up to the Tokio runtime to drive our future to completion.

Note: We must call map_err on our server future because tokio::run expects a future with Item of type () and Error of type (). This is to ensure that we handle all values and errors before handing off the future to the runtime.

Handling the connections

Now that we have incoming client connections, we should handle them.

We just want to copy all data read from the socket back onto the socket itself (e.g. “echo”). We can use the standard io::copy function to do precisely this.

The copy function takes two arguments, where to read from and where to write to. We only have one argument, though, with socket. Luckily there’s a method, split , which will split a readable and writeable stream into its two halves. This operation allows us to work with each stream independently, such as pass them as two arguments to the copy function.

The copy function then returns a future, and this future will be resolved when the copying operation is complete, resolving to the amount of data that was copied.

Let’s take a look at the closure we passed to for_each again.

# #![deny(deprecated)]
# extern crate tokio;
# extern crate futures;
# use tokio::prelude::*;
# use tokio::net::TcpListener;
# use tokio::io;
# fn main() {
# let addr = "".parse().unwrap();
# let listener = TcpListener::bind(&addr).unwrap();
let server = listener.incoming().for_each(|socket| {
  // split the socket stream into readable and writable parts
  let (reader, writer) = socket.split();
  // copy bytes from the reader into the writer
  let amount = io::copy(reader, writer);

  let msg = amount.then(|result| {
    match result {
      Ok((amount, _, _)) => println!("wrote {} bytes", amount),
      Err(e)             => println!("error: {}", e),


  // spawn the task that handles the client connection socket on to the
  // tokio runtime. This means each client connection will be handled
  // concurrently
# .map_err(|_| ());
# let server = server.select(futures::future::ok(())).then(|_| Ok(()));
# tokio::run(server);
# }

As you can see we’ve split the socket stream into readable and writable parts. We then used io::copy to read from reader and write into writer. We use the then combinator to look at the amount future’s Item and Error as a Result printing some diagnostics.

The call to tokio::spawn is the key here. We crucially want all clients to make progress concurrently, rather than blocking one on completion of another. To achieve this we use the tokio::spawn function to execute the work in the background.

If we did not do this then each invocation of the block in for_each would be resolved at a time meaning we could never have two client connections processed concurrently!

The full code can be found here.

Next up: Overview