Document Indexing

This document describes how documents are added to the index.


  • Document - this contains the actual document and its fields.
  • RSAddDocumentCtx - this is the per-document state that is used while it is being indexed. The state is discarded once complete
  • ForwardIndex - contains terms found in the document. The forward index is used to write the InvertedIndex (later on)
  • InvertedIndex - an index mapping a term to occurrences within applicable documents.


The indexing process begins by creating a new RSAddDocumentCtx and adding a document to it. Internally this is divided into several steps.

  1. Submission. A DocumentContext is created, and is associated with a document (as received) from input. The submission process will also perform some preliminary caching.

  2. Preprocessing

    Once a document has been submitted, it is preprocessed. Preprocessing performs stateless processing on all document input fields. For text fields, this means tokenizing the document and creating a forward index. The preprocesors will store this information in per-field variables within the AddDocumentCtx. This computed result is then written to the (persistent) index later on during the indexing phase.

    If the document is sufficiently large, the preprocessing is done in a separate thread, which allows concurrent preprocessing and also avoids blocking other threads. If the document is smaller, the preprocessing is done within the main thread, avoiding the overhead of additional context switching. The SELF_EXC_THRESHOLD (macro) contains the threshold for 'sufficiently large'.

    Once the document is preprocessed, it is submitted to be indexed.

  3. Indexing

    Indexing proper consists of writing down the precomputed results of the preprocessing phase above. It is done in a single thread, and is in the form of a queue.

    Because documents must be written to the index in the exact order of their document ID assignment, and because we must also yield to other potential indexing processes, we may end up in a situation where document IDs are written to the index out-of-order. In order to solve that, the order in which documents are actually written must be well-defined. If there is only one thread writing documents, then this thread will not need to worry about out-of-order IDs while writing.

    Having a single background thread also helps optimize in several areas, as will be seen later on. The basic idea is that when there are a lot of documents queued for the indexing thread, the indexing thread may treat them as batch commands, greatly reducing the number of locks/unlocks of the GIL and the number of times term keys need to be opened and closed.

  4. Skipping already indexed documents

    The phases below may operate on more than one document at a time. When a document is fully indexed, it is marked as done. When the thread iterates over the queue it will only perform processing/indexing on items not yet marked as done.

  5. Term Merging

    Term merging, or forward index merging, is done when there is more than a single document in the queue. The forward index of each document in the queue is scanned, and a larger, 'master' forward index is constructed in its place. Each entry in the forward index contains a reference to the origin document as well as the normal offset/score/frequency information.

    Creating a 'master' forward index avoids opening common term keys once per document.

    If there is only one document within the queue, a 'master' forward index is not created.

    Note that the internal type of the master forward index is not actually ForwardIndex.

  6. Document ID assignment

    At this point, the GIL is locked and every document in the queue is assigned a document ID. The assignment is done immediately before writing to the index so as to reduce the number of times the GIL is locked; thus, the GIL is locked only once - right before the index is written.

  7. Writing to Indexes

    With the GIL being locked, any pending index data is written to the indexes. This usually involves opening one or more Redis keys, and writing/copying computed data into those keys.

    Once this is done, the reply for the given document is sent, and the AddDocumentCtx freed.


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