Indexing Performance Tipsedit

If you are in an indexing-heavy environment, such as indexing infrastructure logs, you may be willing to sacrifice some search performance for faster indexing rates. In these scenarios, searches tend to be relatively rare and performed by people internal to your organization. They are willing to wait several seconds for a search, as opposed to a consumer facing a search that must return in milliseconds.

Because of this unique position, certain trade-offs can be made that will increase your indexing performance.

Test Performance Scientificallyedit

Performance testing is always difficult, so try to be as scientific as possible in your approach. Randomly fiddling with knobs and turning on ingestion is not a good way to tune performance. If there are too many causes, it is impossible to determine which one had the best effect. A reasonable approach to testing is as follows:

  1. Test performance on a single node, with a single shard and no replicas.
  2. Record performance under 100% default settings so that you have a baseline to measure against.
  3. Make sure performance tests run for a long time (30+ minutes) so you can evaluate long-term performance, not short-term spikes or latencies. Some events (such as segment merging, and GCs) won’t happen right away, so the performance profile can change over time.
  4. Begin making single changes to the baseline defaults. Test these rigorously, and if performance improvement is acceptable, keep the setting and move on to the next one.

Using and Sizing Bulk Requestsedit

This should be fairly obvious, but use bulk indexing requests for optimal performance. Bulk sizing is dependent on your data, analysis, and cluster configuration, but a good starting point is 5–15 MB per bulk. Note that this is physical size. Document count is not a good metric for bulk size. For example, if you are indexing 1,000 documents per bulk, keep the following in mind:

  • 1,000 documents at 1 KB each is 1 MB.
  • 1,000 documents at 100 KB each is 100 MB.

Those are drastically different bulk sizes. Bulks need to be loaded into memory at the coordinating node, so it is the physical size of the bulk that is more important than the document count.

Start with a bulk size around 5–15 MB and slowly increase it until you do not see performance gains anymore. Then start increasing the concurrency of your bulk ingestion (multiple threads, and so forth).

Monitor your nodes with Marvel and/or tools such as iostat, top, and ps to see when resources start to bottleneck. If you start to receive EsRejectedExecutionException, your cluster can no longer keep up: at least one resource has reached capacity. Either reduce concurrency, provide more of the limited resource (such as switching from spinning disks to SSDs), or add more nodes.

When ingesting data, make sure bulk requests are round-robined across all your data nodes. Do not send all requests to a single node, since that single node will need to store all the bulks in memory while processing.


Disks are usually the bottleneck of any modern server. Elasticsearch heavily uses disks, and the more throughput your disks can handle, the more stable your nodes will be. Here are some tips for optimizing disk I/O:

  • Use SSDs. As mentioned elsewhere, they are superior to spinning media.
  • Use RAID 0. Striped RAID will increase disk I/O, at the obvious expense of potential failure if a drive dies. Don’t use mirrored or parity RAIDS since replicas provide that functionality.
  • Alternatively, use multiple drives and allow Elasticsearch to stripe data across them via multiple directories.
  • Do not use remote-mounted storage, such as NFS or SMB/CIFS. The latency introduced here is antithetical to performance.
  • If you are on EC2, beware of EBS. Even the SSD-backed EBS options are often slower than local instance storage.

Segments and Mergingedit

Segment merging is computationally expensive, and can eat up a lot of disk I/O. Merges are scheduled to operate in the background because they can take a long time to finish, especially large segments. This is normally fine, because the rate of large segment merges is relatively rare.

But sometimes merging falls behind the ingestion rate. If this happens, Elasticsearch will automatically throttle indexing requests to a single thread. This prevents a segment explosion problem, in which hundreds of segments are generated before they can be merged. Elasticsearch will log INFO-level messages stating now throttling indexing when it detects merging falling behind indexing.

Elasticsearch defaults here are conservative: you don’t want search performance to be impacted by background merging. But sometimes (especially on SSD, or logging scenarios), the throttle limit is too low.

The default is 20 MB/s, which is a good setting for spinning disks. If you have SSDs, you might consider increasing this to 100–200 MB/s. Test to see what works for your system:

PUT /_cluster/settings
    "persistent" : {
        "" : "100mb"

If you are doing a bulk import and don’t care about search at all, you can disable merge throttling entirely. This will allow indexing to run as fast as your disks will allow:

PUT /_cluster/settings
    "transient" : {
        "" : "none" 

Setting the throttle type to none disables merge throttling entirely. When you are done importing, set it back to merge to reenable throttling.

If you are using spinning media instead of SSD, you need to add this to your elasticsearch.yml:

index.merge.scheduler.max_thread_count: 1

Spinning media has a harder time with concurrent I/O, so we need to decrease the number of threads that can concurrently access the disk per index. This setting will allow max_thread_count + 2 threads to operate on the disk at one time, so a setting of 1 will allow three threads.

For SSDs, you can ignore this setting. The default is Math.min(3, Runtime.getRuntime().availableProcessors() / 2), which works well for SSD.

Finally, you can increase index.translog.flush_threshold_size from the default 512 MB to something larger, such as 1 GB. This allows larger segments to accumulate in the translog before a flush occurs. By letting larger segments build, you flush less often, and the larger segments merge less often. All of this adds up to less disk I/O overhead and better indexing rates. Of course, you will need the corresponding amount of heap memory free to accumulate the extra buffering space, so keep that in mind when adjusting this setting.


Finally, there are some other considerations to keep in mind:

  • If you don’t need near real-time accuracy on your search results, consider dropping the index.refresh_interval of each index to 30s. If you are doing a large import, you can disable refreshes by setting this value to -1 for the duration of the import. Don’t forget to reenable it when you are finished!
  • If you are doing a large bulk import, consider disabling replicas by setting index.number_of_replicas: 0. When documents are replicated, the entire document is sent to the replica node and the indexing process is repeated verbatim. This means each replica will perform the analysis, indexing, and potentially merging process.

    In contrast, if you index with zero replicas and then enable replicas when ingestion is finished, the recovery process is essentially a byte-for-byte network transfer. This is much more efficient than duplicating the indexing process.

  • If you don’t have a natural ID for each document, use Elasticsearch’s auto-ID functionality. It is optimized to avoid version lookups, since the autogenerated ID is unique.
  • If you are using your own ID, try to pick an ID that is friendly to Lucene. Examples include zero-padded sequential IDs, UUID-1, and nanotime; these IDs have consistent, sequential patterns that compress well. In contrast, IDs such as UUID-4 are essentially random, which offer poor compression and slow down Lucene.