In this exercise, we will implement a toy protocol parser for a simple, redis-like protocol.

You will learn:

  • How to write a simple Rust library

  • How to interact with borrowed and owned memory, especially how to take ownership

  • How to handle cases using the match syntax

  • How to create a safe protocol parser in Rust manually

The library does not handle I/O.

Protocol Specification

The protocol has two commands:

  • PUBLISH <message>\n


With the additional properties:

  1. Messages cannot contain newlines.

  2. A missing newline at the end of the message is an error.

  3. Data after the first newline is an error.

  4. Empty messages are allowed. In this case, the message is PUBLISH \n.


  1. Create a library project called redisish.

  2. Read the documentation for str (primitive), especially split_once and trim. Pay attention to their return type. Use the result value of split_once to guide your logic.

  3. Implement the following function so that it implements the rules above.

    pub fn parse(input: &str) -> Result<Command, Error> {
  4. Along the way, implement appropriate datastructures for Command and Error.

  5. Write tests.

  6. Finishing touches: implement std::error::Error for your Error type. Run clippy on your codebase. Run rustfmt on your codebase.


This section gives partial solutions to look at or refer to.

In general, we also recommend to use the Rust documentation to figure out things you are missing to familiarise yourself with it. If you ever feel completely stuck or that you haven’t understood something, please hail the trainers quickly.

Getting Started

Create a new Cargo project, check the build and the test setup:

$ cargo new --lib redisish
$ cd redisish
$ cargo build
$ cargo test

Appropriate data structures

The appropriate data structure kinds for Command and Error are:

pub enum Command {

pub enum Error {

The reason is that both describe can take multiple cases, which can be listed. Especially the Command type benefits a lot by encoding that only Publish carries data.

Full Data definition

Here’s a full definition:

#[derive(Eq,PartialEq,Debug)] (1) (2)
pub enum Command { (3)
    Retrieve, (4)

#[derive(Eq, PartialEq, Debug)]
pub enum Error { (5)
1 This enables comparison between 2 instances of the type, by comparing every field/variant. This enables the assert_eq! macro, which relies on equality being defined. Eq for total equality isn’t strictly necessary for this example, but it is good practice to derive it if it applies.
2 This enables automatic debug output for the type. The assert_eq! macro requires this for testing.
3 Command has 2 variants for the two possible commands. One carries data (the message), the other not.
4 The trailing comma here is optional, but considered good style.
5 Error is just a list of error kinds. This could be expanded by carrying more information, e.g. where the error was found in the input.

Dealing with borrowed data

If you run into the case where Rust doesn’t let you return an &str, heap allocate it, by turning it into a String.

pub fn parse(input: &str) -> Result<Command, Error> {
    let message: &str = { (1) (2)
        //  a lot of parsing happening here

    let owned_message: String = message.to_string();
1 Type annotations for clarity.
2 Don’t use this pattern in your implementation, it’s here as a brief filler.


If you struggle finding a good testing pattern or you feel like your tests are verbose, use this pattern:

use redisish::{self, Command, Error}; (1)

#[test] (2)
fn test_publish() {
    let line = "PUBLISH TestMessage\n"; (3)
    let result: Result<Command, Error> = redisish::parse(line); (4)
    let expected = Ok(Command::Publish("TestMessage".into())); (5) (6)
    assert_eq!(result, expected);
1 Import the types we are testing. self imports the redisish module, allowing us to call the very generic name parse as redisish::parse giving it a better visual footprint.
2 Functions marked with the #[test] attribute are picked up by the compiler and all run. If a test function panics, the test is considered failed.
3 The message under test, as a borrowed value. (string literals are always borrowed from the data section of your program)
4 Parse the borrowed value. Type annotations on the binding not required, but there for clarity.
5 Construct a value that matches the expected result.
6 Command::Publish requires an owned String, and into() is one way of getting one.

Figuring out the passed command

If you need a nice pattern for figuring out what the passed command was, use the ability to match on strings:

let split = data.split_once(' ');

match split {
    Some(("RETRIEVE", payload)) => {
         // retrieve case
    Some((_,_)) {
    None => {
        // maybe PUBLISH case? check verb
    _ => { Err(Error::UnknownVerb) }

Full source code

If all else fails, feel free to copy this solution to play around with it.

use std::fmt;

pub enum Command {

#[derive(Eq, PartialEq, Debug)]
pub enum Error {

impl fmt::Display for Error {
    fn fmt(&self, f: &mut fmt::Formatter<'_>) -> fmt::Result {
        write!(f, "Error parsing command: {:?}!", self)

impl std::error::Error for Error {


pub fn parse(input: &str) -> Result<Command, Error> {
    match input.split_once('\n') {
        Some(("RETRIEVE", "")) => Ok(Command::Retrieve),
        Some((data, "")) => match data.split_once(' ') {
            Some(("PUBLISH", payload)) => Ok(Command::Publish(String::from(payload.trim()))),
            Some((_, _)) => Err(Error::UnknownVerb),
            None => Err(Error::IncompleteMessage)
        Some((data, _)) => Err(Error::TrailingData),
        None => Err(Error::IncompleteMessage),