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From Ype Kingma <>
Subject Re: Using Lucene in an multiple index/large io scenario
Date Tue, 01 Jul 2003 04:33:04 GMT

On Monday 30 June 2003 15:54, wrote:
> Hello,
> i am ProjectManager from the java
> mailclient-project and we integrated Lucene as the search-backend half a
> year ago. It is now working for small scale mailtraffic but with increasing
> mailtraffic Lucene throws OutOfMemory and TooManyFilesOpen-Exceptions. I am

I assume you are getting these during updating of your indexes.

> now wondering if Lucene is capable of doing the job for us (like Otis
> Gospodnetic suggested) and would appreciate any help and knowledge you can
> share on this topic.

I only have a little experience with Lucene, so I hope others correct me
when needed.

> I think the problem arises from following issues:
> - Lucene is designed to create an index once in a while and not to update
> an index frequently. We need it to add and delete documents very often
> *and* search the index eventualy after every operation. Has anyone
> experiences running Lucene in such an environment or do you think it is
> impossible?

For updating you have at least the following options:
- keep a large inactive index and a small active index, search them
  with a MultiSearcher.
  When deleting you need to search both, you only add to the small
  active index. When optimizing this small index starts consuming
  too  many resources, merge the two.
- as you indicated below, you can use a RAMIndex as the third
- don't optimize at all and let Lucene sort it all out, this uses
  quite a few open files, evt. tune indexing speed with
  IndexWriter.maxMergeDocs and mergeFactor.
  This might slow down querying.

> - Do you have an suggestion on how to use Lucene in such an environment
> because it is not very nice code if you have to create a new
> IndexReader/Writer after every operation?

You don't need a new IndexWriter. When you want to have the
last updates taken into account, you'll need a new IndexReader.
You can also delay creating/opening an IndexReader until it is
actually needed, and you can reuse an open IndexReader for
multiple queries.
I'd recommend to close unused IndexReaders.

> - We introduced a RAMIndex that is merged to the FileIndex after N
> operations to reduce the load and to not merge documents that are removed
> directly after they are added (with filters on the mailboxes that is
> happening very often). Any ideas if that was wise or if there is a better
> solution?

Sounds ok to me. See also above. You might merge only when you
run low on memory.

> - Does Lucene have problems with many indices in the same virtual machine?

Lucene has no problem, but the underlying file system can give headaches.
The last thing I heard of Windows is that it has a fixed max. of 2000 open
files. Under Linux the max. nr of open files is settable in /proc.

> We have an index for every mailfolder and get TooManyFilesOpen-Excpetions
> when having >10 indices open. Maybe we should try to have only a single
> index that holds all messages?

The number of open files is determined by the total number of open segment
files. An non optimized index can consist of many segments, an optimized
index has one segment. Searching a non optimized index is slower
because each segment needs to be searched separately.

You have to realize that Lucene never modifies an index file, with a few
exceptions, the most noticeable being the file that contains the 'deleted'
bits in each segment. The segments are built in a hierarchy with fanout
of IndexWriter.mergeFactor, and updates are effected by (batched)  deletions
and (batched) additions.

IndexWriter.mergeFactor controls two things: the amount of RAM and
the number of files used for indexing. When you get both out memory
and too many files open exceptions during indexing, you might considering
lowering this mergeFactor.The amount of memory needed also depends
on the size of your documents (which is not normally a problem for email),
and the size of the RAMIndex.

When rapidly alternating updates and queries, the trick is to try and 
concentrate the additions in a small index and
and merge the segments of only the small index before querying
both the large and the small index.

I'm using Lucene with 26 IndexReaders open without problems. I close them
before opening any IndexWriter, though. Also I optimize after any update,
but I hope to use a better filesystem soon so I can delay the optimize
operations and use a lower maxMergeDocs during indexing.

> If you like to look at sourcecode, how we implememted all this look at
> Its not nice to just give you the plain code and not the relevant snippets,
> but these are more general design issues that i think are better explained
> in words than in code.
> I would really like to see Lucene integrated in Columba, but i had to learn
> that it is no easy task, maybe an impossible one. Based on the responses i
> willl decide if we continue to work with Lucene or sadly have to drop it.

It's only impossible when your update and query pattern cannot be made
to match the (non file modifying) index updating method of Lucene combined
with the restrictions of the underlying file system.

You'll have to plan for occasional large merges, though.
Indexing is indexing, and querying is querying.
Lucene gives you the balance in your hands.

Kind regards,
Ype Kingma

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