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From Erick Erickson <>
Subject Re: Syncing lucene index with a database
Date Thu, 26 Mar 2009 21:49:54 GMT
You've got a great grasp of the issues, comments below. But before you
do, a lot of this kind if thing is incorporated in SOLR, which is build on
Lucene. Particularly updating an index then using it.
So you might take a look over there. It even has a DataImportHandler...

WARNING: I've only been monitoring the SOLR list, not using it so
take anything I mention about SOLR with a grain of salt.

On Thu, Mar 26, 2009 at 6:28 PM, Matt Schraeder <> wrote:

> I'm new to Lucene and just beginning my project of adding it to our web
> app.  We are indexing data from a MS SQL 2000 database and building
> full-text search from it.

How many rows/columns are we talking here? the answer for
100,000,000 is different than for 1,000.

> Everything I have read says that building the index is a resource heavy
> operation so we should use it sparingly.  For the most part the database
> table we are working from is updated once a day so as soon as the table
> itself is updated we can rebuild our Lucene indexes.  However, there are
> a few feilds that get updated with a cronjob every 15 minutes.  In terms
> of speed and efficiency, what would be a better system for keeping our
> data synced between the database and Lucene?

How many fields is this? And are they searched or displayed? Both?
Neither? If you don't search these fields, you could keep an auxiliary index
with your primary key and the new fields. For that matter, if it was
a small enough amount of data you could keep it in an internal map
keyed by your DB unique id. Size matters here.....

> Of course one option would be to rebuild the Lucene index each time the
> cronjob runs to keep the database and Lucene index synced.  We could
> either return the entire database table, loop through the rows, get a
> row's document in lucene remove/readd it, and do that for each row.
> Alternatively after we update the main table we return just the rows
> that were changed, loop through those and remove/readd them in lucene,
> and do that for just the rows that have changed.

I wouldn't rebuild the entire index, just the changed rows. Assuming that
your 15 minute deltas aren't for a large percentage of the rows.

> Alternatively I have thought of using Lucene purely for search to
> return just the primary key of items from our database table, then query
> the database for those items and get the most up to date data from the
> database to actually display our search results.  This would let us use
> Lucene's superior searching capabilities and searching speed, but would
> still require us to pull the data to be displayed from the database.

This may be a fine choice. What is the throughput you expect to have to
satisfy? 1 qpm or 1000 qps? And how many rows of results do you expect
to display? How fast can you get rows from the DB? I can imagine
you could write a pretty simple test harness and determine how much
added overhead getting info from the DB would account for and see if
that passes a threshold for user angst given a reasonable approximation
of throughput.

> Another option is that we could do the same, but only return the fields
> that could change frequently.  This would use Lucene to store and index
> the majority of what is displayed on a search results page, only using
> the database to return the 2 or 3 fields that might change in a search
> for each row that lucene returns.

Possible, but it really depends upon whether the difference between
fetching a few fields really shows up compared to fetching them all. Which
in turn depends upon the answers for some of the questions above.

> I'm honestly not sure what the "proper" choice should be, or if it
> really depends on our own test cases.  Is it perfectly okay to run an
> index update every 15 minutes?

It depends (tm). How long does it take to build the index in the first
place? You could conceivably have a background process that builds
the index every 15 minutes, copies the resulting files to "the right place",
and notifies your searcher to close the old IndexReaders and open the
new one, possibly firing up a few warmup searches first. The viability
here really depends on how long it takes.

> How much difference would it make in
> terms of search time to search with lucene AND pull from the database?

If you run the test above for just fetching from the DB, that would pretty
much be your delta,

> My main issue with searching with lucene but getting the actual data
> from the database is that it seems like that would make our current
> search system that is entirely database driven to run slower.

Maybe, maybe not. Being driven entirely from the database, especially for
full text searches (depending upon the nature of your data) can be very
expensive. I'm afraid you'll have to try it....

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