Maintaining protobuf specs

The Penumbra project dynamically generates code for interfacing with gRPC. The following locations within the repository are relevant:

  • proto/penumbra/**/*.proto, the developer-authored spec files
  • crates/proto/src/gen/*.rs, the generated Rust code files
  • proto/go/**/*.pb.go, the generated Go code files
  • tools/proto-compiler/, the build logic for generating the Rust code files

We use buf to auto-publish the protobuf schemas at, and to generate Go and Typescript packages. The Rust code files are generated with our own tooling, located at tools/proto-compiler.

Installing protoc

The protoc tool is required to generate our protobuf specs via tools/proto-compiler. We mandate the use of a specific major version of the protoc tool, to make outputs predictable. Currently, the supported version is 24.x. Obtain the most recent pre-compiled binary from the protoc website for that major version. After installing, run protoc --version and confirm you’re running at least 24.4 (or newer). Don’t install protoc from package managers such as apt, as those versions are often outdated, and will not work with Penumbra.

To install the protoc tool from the zip file, extract it to a directory on your PATH:

unzip -d ~/.local/

Installing buf

The buf tool is required to update lockfiles used for version management in the Buf Schema Registry. Visit the buf download page to obtain a version. After installing, run buf --version and confirm you’re running at least 1.27.0 (or newer).

Building protos

From the top-level of the git repository:


Then run git status to determine whether any changes were made. The build process is deterministic, so regenerating multiple times from the same source files should not change the output.

If the generated output would change in any way, CI will fail, prompting the developer to commit the changes.

Updating buf lockfiles

We pin specific versions of upstream Cosmos deps in the buf lockfile for our proto definitions. Doing so avoids a tedious chore of needing to update the lockfile frequently when the upstream BSR entries change. We should review these deps periodically and bump them, as we would any other dependency.

cd proto/penumbra
# edit buf.yaml to remove the tags, i.e. suffix `:<tag>`
buf mod update

Then commit and PR in the results.