Saturday, January 26, 2013

Getting real-time field values in Lucene

We know Lucene's near-real-time search is very fast: you can easily refresh your searcher once per second, even at high indexing rates, so that any change to the index is available for searching or faceting at most one second later. For most applications this is plenty fast.

But what if you sometimes need even better than near-real-time? What if you need to look up truly live or real-time values, so for any document id you can retrieve the very last value indexed?

Just use the newly committed LiveFieldValues class!

It's simple to use: when you instantiate it you provide it with your SearcherManager or NRTManager, so that it can subscribe to the RefreshListener to be notified when new searchers are opened, and then whenever you add, update or delete a document, you notify the LiveFieldValues instance. Finally, call the get method to get the last indexed value for a given document id.

This class is simple inside: it holds the values of recently indexed documents in a ConcurrentHashMap, keyed by the document id, to hold documents that were just indexed but not yet available through the near-real-time searcher. Whenever a new near-real-time searcher is successfully opened, it clears the map of all entries that are now included in that searcher. It carefully handles the transition time from when the reopen started to when it finished by checking two maps for the possible value, and failing that, it falls back to the current searcher.

LiveFieldValues is abstract: you must subclass it and implement the lookupFromSearcher method to retrieve a document's value from an IndexSearcher, since how your application stores the values in the searcher is application dependent (stored fields, doc values or even postings, payloads or term vectors).

Note that this class only offers "live get", i.e. you can get the last indexed value for any document, but it does not offer "live search", i.e. you cannot search against the value until the searcher is reopened. Also, the internal maps are only pruned after a new searcher is opened, so RAM usage will grow unbounded if you never reopen! It's up to your application to ensure that the same document id is never updated simultaneously (in different threads) because in that case you cannot know which update "won" (Lucene does not expose this information, although LUCENE-3424 is one possible solution for this).

An example use-case is to store a version field per document so that you know the last version indexed for a given id; you can then use this to reject a later but out-of-order update for that same document whose version is older than the version already indexed.

LiveFieldValues will be available in the next Lucene release (4.2).


  1. Mike, why it reminds me Solr's realtime get, and transaction log, especially by ConcurrentHashMap, and lookup by id? Is it a kind of dupe?

  2. Hi Mikhail,

    I think the idea is the same as Solr's realtime get, but I don't know the full details of how Solr's implementation works ... so sort of a dup?

    1. absolutely.
      excuse my late reply

  3. Hi Mike, I would like to get in touch with you on mail regarding a consulting / training on Lucene.
    Respond to johnsindhu at gmail dot com.

  4. Hi John,

    Sorry, I'm not available for Lucene consulting / training... maybe try sending an email to the list?