Elastic London Meetup: Rightmove & Signal Media and a new free security plugin for Elasticsearch

I finally made it to a London Elastic Meetup again after missing a few of the recent events: this time Rightmove were the hosts and the first speakers. They described how they had used Elasticsearch Percolator to run 3.5 million stored searches on new property listings as part of an overall migration from the Exalead search engine and Oracle database to a new stack based on Elasticsearch, Apache Kafka and CouchDB. After creating a proof-of-concept system on Amazon’s cloud they discovered that simply running all 3.5m Percolator queries every time a new property appeared would be too slow and thus implemented a series of filters to cut down the number of queries applied, including filtering out rental properties and those in the wrong location. They are now running around 40m saved searches per day and also plan to upgrade from their current Elasticsearch 2.4 system to the newer version 5, as well as carry out further performance improvements. After the talk I chatted to the presenter George Theofanous about our work for Bloomberg using our own library Luwak, which could be an way for Rightmove to run stored searches much more efficiently.

Next up was Signal Media, describing how they built an automated system for upgrading Elasticsearch after their cluster grew to over 60 nodes (they ingest a million articles a day and up to May 2016 were running on Elasticsearch 1.5 which had a number of issues with stability and performance). To avoid having to competely shut down and upgrade their cluster, Joachim Draeger described how they carried out major version upgrades by creating a new, parallel cluster (he named this the ‘blue/green’ method), with their indexing pipeline supplying both clusters and their UI code being gradually switched over to the new cluster once stability and performance were verified. This process has cut their cluster to only 23 nodes with a 50% cost saving and many performance and stability benefits. For ongoing minor version changes they have built an automated rolling upgrade system using two Amazon EBS volumes for each node (one is for the system, and is simply switched off as a node is disabled, the other is data and is re-attached to a new node once it is created with the upgraded Elasticsearch machine image). With careful monitoring of cluster stability and (of course) testing, this system enables them to upgrade their entire production cluster in a safe and reliable way without affecting their customers.

After the talks I announced the Search Industry Awards I’ll be helping to judge in November (please apply if you have a suitable search project or innovation!) and then spoke to Simone Scarduzio about his free Elasticsearch and Kibana security plugin, a great alternative to the Elastic X-Pack (only available to Elastic subscription customers). We’ll certainly be taking a deeper look at this plugin for our own clients.

Thanks again to Yann Cluchey for organising the event and all the speakers and hosts.

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