Creating an index lifecycle policy

An index lifecycle policy enables you to define rules over when to perform certain actions, such as a rollover or force merge, on an index. Index lifecycle management automates execution of those actions at the right time.

When you create an index lifecycle policy, consider the tradeoffs between performance and availability. As you move your index through the lifecycle, you’re likely moving your data to less performant hardware and reducing the number of shards and replicas. It’s important to ensure that the index continues to have enough replicas to prevent data loss in the event of failures.

Index Lifecycle Policies is automatically enabled in Kibana. Go to Management > Elasticsearch > Index Lifecycle Policies.

If you don’t want to use this feature, you can disable it by setting xpack.ilm.enabled to false in your kibana.yml configuration file. If you disable Index Management, then Index Lifecycle Policies is also disabled.

][UI for creating an index lifecycle policy

Defining the phases of the index lifecycle

You can define up to four phases in the index lifecycle. For each phase, you can enable actions to optimize performance for that phase.

The four phases in the index lifecycle are:

  • Hot. The index is actively being queried and written to. You can roll over to a new index when the original index reaches a specified size, document count, or age. When a rollover occurs, a new index is created, added to the index alias, and designated as the new “hot” index. You can still query the previous indices, but you only ever write to the “hot” index. See Setting a rollover action.
  • Warm. The index is typically searched at a lower rate than when the data is hot. The index is not used for storing new data, but might occasionally add late-arriving data, for example, from a Beat with a network problem that’s now fixed. You can optionally shrink the number replicas and move the shards to a different set of nodes with smaller or less performant hardware. You can also reduce the number of primary shards and force merge the index into smaller segments.
  • Cold. The index is no longer being updated and is seldom queried, but is still searchable. If you have a big deployment, you can move it to even less performant hardware. You might also reduce the number of replicas because you expect the data to be queried less frequently. To keep the index searchable for a longer period, and reduce the hardware requirements, you can use the freeze action. Queries are slower on a frozen index because the index is reloaded from the disk to RAM on demand.
  • Delete. The index is no longer relevant. You can define when it is safe to delete it.

The index lifecycle always includes an active hot phase. The warm, cold, and delete phases are optional. For example, you might define all four phases for one policy and only a hot and delete phase for another. See Actions for more information on the actions available in each phase.

Setting a rollover action

The rollover action enables you to automatically roll over to a new index based on the index size, document count, or age. Rolling over to a new index based on these criteria is preferable to time-based rollovers. Rolling over at an arbitrary time often results in many small indices, which can have a negative impact on performance and resource usage.

When you create an index lifecycle policy, the rollover action is enabled by default. The default size for triggering the rollover is 50 gigabytes, and the default age is 30 days. The rollover occurs when any of the criteria are met.

With the rollover action enabled, you can move to the warm phase on rollover or you can time the move for a specified number of hours or days after the rollover. The move to the cold and delete phases is based on the time from the rollover.

If you are using daily indices (created by Logstash or another client) and you want to use the index lifecycle policy to manage aging data, you can disable the rollover action in the hot phase. You can then transition to the warm, cold, and delete phases based on the time of index creation.

Setting the index priority

For the hot, warm, and cold phases, you can set a priority for recovering indices after a node restart. Indices with higher priorities are recovered before indices with lower priorities. By default, the index priority is set to 100 in the hot phase, 50 in the warm phase, and 0 in the cold phase. If the cold phase of one index has data that is more important than the data in the hot phase of another, you might increase the index priority in the cold phase. See Index recovery prioritization.