[[multiple-indices]] === Multiple Indices

Finally, remember that there is no rule that limits your application to using only a single index.((("scaling", "using multiple indices")))((("indices", "multiple"))) When we issue a search request, it is forwarded to a copy (a primary or a replica) of all the shards in an index. If we issue the same search request on multiple indices, the exact same thing happens--there are just more shards involved.

TIP: Searching 1 index of 50 shards is exactly equivalent to searching 50 indices with 1 shard each: both search requests hit 50 shards.

This can be a useful fact to remember when you need to add capacity on the fly. Instead of having to reindex your data into a bigger index, you can just do the following:

  • Create a new index to hold new data.
  • Search across both indices to retrieve new and old data.

In fact, with a little forethought, adding a new index can be done in a completely transparent way, without your application ever knowing that anything has changed.

In <>, we spoke about using an index alias to point to the current version of your index. ((("index aliases")))((("aliases, index"))) For instance, instead of naming your index tweets, name it tweets_v1. Your application would still talk to tweets, but in reality that would be an alias that points to tweets_v1. This allows you to switch the alias to point to a newer version of the index on the fly.

A similar technique can be used to expand capacity by adding a new index. It requires a bit of planning because you will need two aliases: one for searching and one for indexing:


PUT /tweets_1/_alias/tweets_search <1>

PUT /tweets_1/_alias/tweets_index <1>

<1> Both the tweets_search and the tweets_index alias point to index tweets_1.

New documents should be indexed into tweets_index, and searches should be performed against tweets_search. For the moment, these two aliases point to the same index.

When we need extra capacity, we can create a new index called tweets_2 and update the aliases as follows:


POST /_aliases { "actions": [ { "add": { "index": "tweets_2", "alias": "tweets_search" }}, <1> { "remove": { "index": "tweets_1", "alias": "tweets_index" }}, <2> { "add": { "index": "tweets_2", "alias": "tweets_index" }} <2> ]


<1> Add index tweets_2 to the tweets_search alias.

<2> Switch tweets_index from tweets_1 to tweets_2.

A search request can target multiple indices, so having the search alias point to tweets_1 and tweets_2 is perfectly valid. However, indexing requests can target only a single index. For this reason, we have to switch the index alias to point to only the new index.


A document GET request, like((("HTTP methods", "GET")))((("GET method"))) an indexing request, can target only one index. This makes retrieving a document by ID a bit more complicated in this scenario. Instead, run a search request with the http://bit.ly/1C4Q0cf[`ids` query], or do a((("mget (multi-get) API"))) http://bit.ly/1sDd2EX[`multi-get`] request on tweets_1 and tweets_2.


Using multiple indices to expand index capacity on the fly is of particular benefit when dealing with time-based data such as logs or social-event streams, which we discuss in the next section.