A platform for real-time streaming search
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README.md Update README.md Mar 4, 2016



A platform for real-time streaming search

Table of Contents


The goal of this project is to provide a clean, scalable architecture for real-time search on streaming data. Additionally, the project contains utilities to provide some very simple throughput benchmarking of Elasticsearch Percolators vs Lucence-Luwak. A full writeup of the project can be found at:


This project was inspired by the following excellent blog posts on streaming search:

I completed this project as a Fellow in the 2015C Insight Data Engineering Silicon Valley program.

The typical use case for a streaming search system involves many users who are interested in running Lucene style queries against a streaming data source in real-time. For example, investors might want to register queries for positive or negative mentions about companies in the twitter firehose and then receive real-time alerts about matches for their queries. This project provides a base architecture for such a system. In particular, it aims to support:

  • Many diverse users registering queries
  • Full Lucene query capabilities against streaming text sources
  • Scaling in both the volume of data and in the number of queries

What's included:

  • Automated AWS cluster deployment utilities using boto3
  • Java based Storm implementation:
    • KafkaSpout for query and document spouts
    • Two flavors of streaming search bolts:
    • Storm topology for streaming search and configuration management
  • Scripts to populate document streams, including twitter API sampling utilities
  • Simple Python flask web UI
  • Testing and other utilities, including Docker components so that the entire topology can run on a local machine


The core of the platform is an Apache Storm cluster which parallelizes the work of real-time streaming search. Internally, the Storm cluster consumes messages from a Kafka cluster and these messages are distributed to bolts which each contain a Lucene-Luwak index. The project contains a demo flask UI which handles subscriptions with a Redis PUBSUB system.

The key layers of the system are:

  • Real-time ingestion via Kafka from a streaming source (e.g. Twitter firehose)
  • Storm cluster to distribute tweets from Kafka to workers. Each worker contains a Lucene instance with Luwak.
  • Publish-Subscribe system (Redis) which receives matches and delivers them back to the application server
  • Application server (Python Flask) who registers queries from the users and serves matches

More about the architecture can be found at: http://straw.ryanwalker.us/about

Getting started

There are two options for running straw. For development, you can run a mini version of the entire platform on a single local machine. In local mode, dependent services run in Dockers. For production, you can deploy the system to the cloud. The project supports a fully automated deployment to AWS with fully customizable cluster configurations.

Running locally

Minimum supported requirements: Ubuntu 14.04 with Docker 1.8.0 or better

UPDATE: I've added utility scripts to make launching the demo mode a bit simpler. Now, you can just do the following steps:

  1. cd local_demo
  2. Install the prerequisites: ./prerequisites.sh
  3. run ./launch_local_cluster.sh
  4. In a separate shell, run ./launch_demo_ui.sh
  5. In a separate shell, run ./mock_firehose.sh
  6. Open a web browser and point to http://localhost:5000
  7. Type "Justin Bieber" or some other common twitter query (only 100k unique documents can be found in the mock stream).

For reference, here are the old step=by-step launch instructions:

  1. install docker-compose and redis-server
  2. run util/stage_demo_mode.sh This will create dockers for Kafka with Zookeeper and Elasticsearch and will populate these services with some example data. [BUG: You may have to run this script twice!]
  3. cd src/storming_search OR src/luwak_search depending on which flavor of search you want to build
  4. run mvn package
  5. run ./run_luwak_topology.sh. This will start the local storm cluster with the Luwak topology.
  6. In a separate terminal, start the webserver frontend by calling ./run.py from src/frontend
  7. Open a browser and point to the frontend UI. By default: http://localhost:5000
  8. Enter a query that will likely generate lots of hits e.g. "Justin Bieber". Note: there are only 100k sampled tweets included with the repo but there are utility scripts for collecting more.
  9. To start a simulated tweet stream, cd util and ./kafka_add_documents.sh.

Deploy to AWS


  1. Install the aws cli: sudo apt-get install awscli
  2. Install Python boto3: sudo pip3 install boto3
  3. Set your default configurations by calling aws configure
  4. Modify the settings in aws_config/straw_service_config.sh to your own AWS account information and then
source straw_service_config.sh


  1. cd aws_config
  2. ./create_clusters.py --help to get instructions about this AWS creation script and follow instructions.
  3. Once all resources are created, cd configure. This directory contains scripts to configure each of the individual services; you'll need to run each of these to configure the resource, e.g. ./configure_elasticsearch.
  4. Once resources are created, run

to see the list of services and their IPs.

####Submitting topologies To submit or run topologies, you need to install storm on your machine (or, even better, on a dedicated machine within the subnet of the Storm cluster). Install storm as follows:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install openjdk-7-jdk
wget http://mirrors.gigenet.com/apache/storm/apache-storm-0.9.5/apache-storm-0.9.5.tar.gz -P ~/Downloads
sudo tar zxvf ~/Downloads/apache-storm*.gz -C /usr/local
sudo mv /usr/local/apache-storm* /usr/local/storm

Then edit /usr/local/storm/config/storm.yaml by adding the line nimbus.host: 10.X.X.X using either your private or public IP for the nimbus node. If you use a public IP, you need to update the security group. If you use a private IP, you need to be running from within the subnet.

Next, you need to tell storm where all of your cluster resources reside. To do this,

vi config/config.properties

Enter the private IPs of your system resources, following this template. We are assuming that all of the resources live on the same subnet in the cluster.

You should now switch into the source directory of either the Luwak or Elasticsearch topology and build the topology, e.g.

cd /home/ubuntu/straw/src/luwak_search
mvn clean
mvn package

Finally, you can submit the topology to the cluster (whose nimbus node was specified in step 5) by executing


Configuring Redis

The included webserver and the query result pipeline both rely on Redis as a publish-subscribe system. Redis can also be used to collect the benchmarking statistics for profiling Luwak and Elasticsearch.

Install redis on the same server as the webserver and modify the bind interface:

# set bind in redis.conf:
sudo apt-get install redis-server
sudo vi /etc/redis/redis.conf

If you want to use a separate redis instance for the benchmarking, you should repeat the above step on a different AWS machine and update the global configuration config/config.properties.

Benchmarking and simulation

A goal of the straw project was to allow for benchmarking of the Lucene-Luwak package in a distributed context.

Measuring throughput

I measure throughput through the search bolts of the Storm cluster in simple way. Start a stopwatch in a background thread. Each bolt has a counter which get incremented each time a document gets checked against the search engine. When the stopwatch hits 10 seconds, collect the data from each counter, publish the result to a redis DB, and reset the counter.

Generating/simulating data

For benchmarking and simulations, you'll need a way to generate tweets and queries. For this purpose, I've added many tools to the straw/utils directory. In particular, the scripts


can be used to add documents and queries from sample files. Some small example data files are found in straw/data. For long running simulation, you can run ./kafka_add_documents.sh in a cronjob, to periodically put documents into the Kafka cluster. NOTE: Kafka has been configured to purge documents after 1 hour.

You can easily harvest your own tweet data from the Twitter api. Try the following helper script which uses Twython to read from the Twitter streaming sample API:

./tweet_sampler.py --help

You'll need to export your twitter credentials as environment variables to run this and other scripts, e.g.

source my_twitter_credentials

where my_twitter_credentials looks like


To generate many reasonably complex queries for the benchmarking studies, the included query maker utility might be helpful

./query_maker.py --help

This script takes a sample of tweets and uses NLTK to compute bigram frequencies. The most frequent bigram are then converted into queries that Straw can parse. For ease of use, I've included data/queries.bigrams in the repo. This is a collection of 100,000 generated bigram queries collected from a sample of 20 million tweets.