Beating Google With CouchDB, Celery and Whoosh (Part 7)

The Planet Data CenterThe key ingredients of our search engine are now in place, but we face a problem. We can download webpages and store them in CouchDB. We can rank them in order of importance and query them using Whoosh but the internet is big, really big! A single server doesn’t even come close to being able to hold all the information that you would want it to – Google has an estimated 900,000 servers. So how do we scale this the software we’ve written so far effectively?

The reason I started writing this series was to investigate how well Celery’s integration with CouchDB works. This gives us an immediate win in terms of scaling as we don’t need to worry about a different backend, such as RabbitMQ. Celery itself is designed to scale so we can run celeryd daemons as many boxes as we like and the jobs will be divided amongst them. This means that our indexing and ranking processes will scale easily.

CouchDB is not designed to scale across multiple machines, but there is some mature software, CouchDB-lounge that does just that. I won’t go into how to get set this up but fundamentally you set up a proxy that sits in front of your CouchDB cluster and shards the data across the nodes. It deals with the job of merging view results and managing where the data is actually stored so you don’t have to. O’Reilly’s CouchDB: The Definitive Guide has a chapter on clustering that is well worth a read.

Unfortunately while Woosh is easy to work with it’s not designed to be used on a large scale. Indeed if someone was crazy enough to try to run the software we’ve developed in this series they might be advised to replace Whoosh with Solr. Solr is a lucene-based search server which provides an HTTP interface to the full-text index. Solr comes with a sharding system to enable you to query an index that is too large for a single machine.

So, with our two data storage tools providing HTTP interface and both having replication and sharding either built in or as available as a proxy the chances of being able to scale effectively are good. Celery should allow the background tasks that are needed to run a search engine can be scaled, but the challenges of building and running a large scale infrastructure are many and I would not claim that these tools mean success is guarenteed!

In the final post of this series I will discuss what I’ve learnt about running Celery with CouchDB, and with CouchDB in general. I’ll also describe how to download and run the complete code so you can try these techniques for yourself.

Read part 8.


Photo of The Planet Data Center by The Planet.

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Author: Andrew Wilkinson

I'm a computer programmer and team leader working at the UK grocer and tech company, Ocado Technology. I mostly write multithreaded real time systems in Java, but in the past I've worked with C#, C++ and Python.

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