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From Nigel <>
Subject Analyzing performance and memory consumption for boolean queries
Date Tue, 23 Jun 2009 20:53:09 GMT
Our query performance is surprisingly inconsistent, and I'm trying to figure
out why.  I've realized that I need to better understand what's going on
internally in Lucene when we're searching.  I'd be grateful for any answers
(including pointers to existing docs, if any).

Our situation is this: We have roughly 250 million docs spread across four
indexes.  Each doc has about a dozen fields, all stored and most indexed.
(They're the usual document things like author, date, title, contents,
etc.)  Queries differ in complexity but always have at least a few terms in
boolean combination, up to some larger queries with dozens or even hundreds
of terms combined with ands, ors, nots, and parens.  There's no sorting,
even by relevance: we just want to know what matches.  Query performance is
often sub-second, but not infrequently it can take over 20 seconds (we the
time-limited hit collector, so anything over 20 seconds is stopped).
Obviously the more complex queries are slower on average, but a given query
can sometimes be much slower or much faster.

My assumption is that we're having memory problems or disk utilization
problems or both.  Our app has a 5gb JVM heap on an 8gb server with no other
user processes running, so we shouldn't be paging and should have some room
for Linux disk cache.  The server is lightly loaded and concurrent queries
are the exception rather than the norm.  Two of the four indexes are updated
a few times a day via rsync and subsequently closed and re-opened, but poor
query performance doesn't seem to be correlated with these times.

So, getting to some specific questions:

1) How is the inverted index for a given field structured in terms of what's
in memory and what's on disk?  Is it dynamic, based on available memory, or
tuneable, or fixed?  Is there a rule of thumb that could be used to estimate
how much memory is required per indexed field, based on the number of terms
and documents?  Likewise, is there a rule of thumb to estimate how many disk
accesses are required to retrieve the hits for that field?  (I'm thinking,
by perhaps false analogy, of how a database maintains a b-tree structure
that may reside partially in RAM cache and partially in disk pages.)

2) When boolean queries are searched, is it as simple as iterating the hits
for each ANDed or ORed term and applying the appropriate logical operators
to the results?  For example, is searching for "foo AND bar" pretty much the
same resource-wise as doing two separate searches, and therefore should the
query performance be a linear function of the number the number of search
terms?  Or is there some other caching and/or decision logic (perhaps kind
of like a database's query optimizer) at work here that makes the I/O and
RAM requirements more difficult to model from the query?  (Remember that
we're not doing any sorting.)

I'm hoping that with some of this knowledge, I'll be able to better model
the RAM and I/O usage of the indexes and queries, and thus eventually
understand why things are slow or fast.


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