Design of Google Docs

Let's understand how we can design the collaborative document editing service using various components.

We'll cover the following


We’ll complete our design in two steps. In the first step, we’ll explain different components and building blocks and the reason for their choice in our design. The second step will describe how we fulfill various functional requirements by depicting a workflow.


We’ve utilized the following set of components to complete our design:

  • API gateway: Different client requests will get intercepted through the API gateway. Depending on the request, it’s possible to forward a single request to multiple components, reject a request, or reply instantly using an already cached response, all through the API gateway. Edit requests, comments on a document, notifications, authentication, and data storing requests will all go through the API gateway.
  • Application servers: The application servers will run business logic and tasks that generally require computational power. For instance, some documents may be converted from one file type to another (for example, from a PDF to a Word document) or support features like import and export. It’s also central to the attribute collection for the recommendation engine.
  • Data stores: Various data stores will be used to fulfill our requirements. We’ll employ a relational database for saving users’ information and document-related information for imposing privilege restrictions. We can use NoSQL for storing user comments for quicker access. To save the edit history of documents, we can use a time series database. We’ll use blob storage to store videos and images within a document. Finally, we can use distributed cache like Redis and a CDN to provide end users good performance. We use Redis specifically to store different data structures, including user sessions, features for the typeahead service, and frequently accessed documents. The CDN stores frequently accessed documents and heavy objects, like images and videos.
  • Processing queue: Since document editing requires frequently sending small-sized data (usually characters) to the server, it’s a good idea to queue this data for periodic batch processing. We’ll add characters, images, videos, and comments to the processing queue. Using an HTTP call for sending every minor character is inefficient. Therefore, we’ll use WebSockets to reduce overhead and observe live changes to the document by different users.
  • Other components: Other components include the session servers that maintain the user’s session information. We’ll manage document access privileges through the session servers. Essentially, there will also be configuration, monitoring, pub-sub, and logging services that will handle tasks like monitoring and electing leaders in case of server failures, queueing tasks like user notifications, and logging debugging information.

The illustration below provides a depiction of how different components and building blocks coordinate to provide the service.

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