Running Elasticsearch on Rancher

on May 31, 2016

Elasticsearch is one of the most popular analytics platform for large datasets. It is useful for a range of use-cases ranger from log aggregation, business intelligence as well as machine learning. Elasticsearch is popular because of its simple REST based API which makes it trivial to create indices, add data and make complex queries. However, before you get up and running building your dataset and running queries you need to setup a elasticsearch cluster, which can be a somewhat daunting prospect. Today, we look at how Rancher Catalogs make it trivial to setup a scalable, highly available Elasticsearch cluster.

Assuming you already have a Rancher Cluster up and running, getting Elasticsearch running on your cluster is a simple matter of browsing to Catalog in the top menu and searching for Elasticsearch. There are two versions of the Elasticsearch catalog. We are assuming that you are using 2.x, the latest stable release version. To launch the stack from the cluster, select View Details, and in the subsequent screen choose a Stack Name, Cluster Name and select launch.

Elastic Search Catalog

The stack should launch the following services; kopf, client(s), datanode(s) and master(s). The kopf container provides a web interface to manage your elasticsearch cluster. Datanodes store the actual indices. The master node runs cluster management tasks and the client nodes originate and coordinate your searches and other operations. Initially, your Elasticsearch cluster will have one container of each type (master, client and datanodes have two sidekick containers). However, you can scale out each of those components based on query load and the size of the indices. Note that you need different physical hosts for each datanode container to function correctly. Hence, you may have to register more Rancher compute nodes.

ElasticSearch Service

Once all your containers are active, you can bring up the kopf interface by browsing to the host running the kopf container. If you click on the nodes tab, you will see the various components I mentioned above listed. As you can see, I have launched a second data node in order to provide redundant storage for my indices. As we will see shortly, when creating indices, we can control the number of data shards and copies of each shards. This will help provide redundancy as well as speedup query processing.

kopf nodes

From the menu on the top of kopf, select more and then create index. In the resulting screen, you will be asked to enter the Index Name, the Number of Shards and the Number of replicas. The defaults for these are 5 shards and 1 replica respectively. The number of shards and replicas to setup for an index is highly dependent on the data set and query model. The number of shards help spread data onto multiple nodes and allow parallel processing of queries. Hence, if you only have a single datanode then you will not see much benefit from multiple shards. In addition, if you expect the data to grow rapidly you may want to have more shards so that you can add nodes later and have data move to those. Another thing to keep in mind is that elastic search recommends a max heap size of 32 GB and hence, a max shard size should be about that size so that it can be kept in memory as much as possible.

Replicas, on the other hand, are less related to datasize and more to redundancy and performance. All queries for your index need to look at one copy of each shard. If you have multiple copies of the shard, the data is resilient to one node going down. Furthermore, with multiple copies, the query load for a given shard is split between multiple nodes. Having multiple replica only makes sense when you have more than one data container/node in your cluster, and becomes more important as you scale larger and larger cluster sizes.

As an example, lets define an index called movies with 2 shards and 2 replicas. Now select the rest tab from the top menu so that we can add some documents to our index and test some queries. Elasticsearch is schema free so we can add free form data into our index as long as it is valid JSON. Update the path field to /movies/movie/1. The format of the path is /INDEX_NAME/TYPE/ID where movies is the index we just created, movie is the name we are giving to the type of document we are about to submit and id is a unique ID for the document within the index. Note the ID is optional, and if you skip this from the path, a random ID will be created for your document. Once you have added the path, select POST as the method, enter your JSON document in the bottom text field and hit send. This will add the document to the index and send you a confirmation.

 movie index data

Once you have added a few movies into the index, we can use the same rest interface in order to search and aggregate data from our index. Update the path field to /movies/movie/_search. The format of the path is /INDEX_NAME/TYPE/_search where both INDEX_NAME and TYPE are optional. If you skip type, your search will apply to all types in the index, and if you also skip index name, then your search will apply to all indices.

There are a number of different types of quires that are supported by ElasticSearch. However, we cover some of the common types here. The first type of query is the free text query. The query string parameter allows for fairly complicated queries using the Elasticsearch Query DS. However, we can also enter a simple string to match. This will match the specified word or words in any field in the documents over which the query applies.

{
    "query": {
        "query_string": {
            "query": "Apocalypse"
        }
    }
}

For example, the query above will return the result shown below. It contains details about the time taken to process the query, the shards that were searched, the total number of results, and then details of each result.

{
  "took": 139,
  "timed_out": false,
  "_shards": {
    "total": 2,
    "successful": 2,
    "failed": 0
  },
  "hits": {
    "total": 2,
    "max_score": 0.5291085,
    "hits": [{
      "_index": "movies",
      "_type": "movie",
      "_id": "AVSvEC1fG_1bjVtG66mm",
      "_score": 0.5291085,
      "_source": {
        "title": "Apocalypse Now",
        "director": "Francis Ford Coppola",
        "year": 1979,
        "genres": [
          "Drama",
          "War"
        ]
      }
    }
....

In addition to the query text, you can also specify a field or est of fields to limit your query to searching a subset of the document. For example, the search below should return the same result as before, but will have to look at a subset of the document, and should have faster performance for larger data sets. There are many other operations.

{
  "query": {
    "query_string": {
      "query": "Apocalypse"
      "fields": ["title"]
    }
  }
}

We can wrap the query string in a filtered object and then specify a filter to apply on the results of the query. This allows us to retain the free form search over the initial dataset, but then filters the results for the specific data we are looking for.

{
  "query": {
    "filtered": {
      "query_string": {
        "query": "Apocalypse"
        "fields": ["title"]
      }
      "filter": {
        "term": { "year": 1979 }
      }
    }
  }
}

Lastly, another type of query you may run is an aggregation. This is useful for computing summary statistics about the data. Two examples of these types of aggregations are shown below. The first will return a count of the movies directed by each director. The second will return the average rating for all the movies in our data set.

{
  "aggs": {
    "group_by_director": {
      "terms": {
        "field": "director"
      }
    }
  }
}

{
  "aggs" : {
    "avg_rating" : { "avg" : { "field" : "rating" } }
  }
}


Elasticsearch is one of the best ways of running analytics over large unstructured datasets and is used extensively in many domains from log-aggregation, machine learning to business intelligence. In this article, we have looked at how simple it is to set up a fully functioning Elasticsearch cluster on Rancher using the catalog. In addition, we have taken a quick look at the power of Elasticsearch using the rest API. Once you have Elasticsearch up and running you can use it for a host of different use cases with the many available visualization and aggregation frameworks such as Kibana for real time visualization or Pentaho for business analytics.

Supercharge your CI/CD Pipeline with Containers

This hands-on guidebook provides a detailed overview of how to integrate containers into your build, test, and deployment processes to dramatically improve software delivery and operations.

Free eBook: CI/CD Pipelines with Docker and Rancher

Recent Posts


Upcoming Events