Chained Components

Processors, searcher plug-ins and document processors are chained components. They are executed serially, with each providing some service or transform, and other optionally depending on these. In other words, a chain is a set of components with dependencies.

Javadoc: com.yahoo.component.chain.Chain

A chained component has three basic differences from a component in general:

  • The named services it provides to other components in the chain.
  • The list of services or checkpoints which the component itself should be before in a chain, in other words, its dependants.
  • The list of services or checkpoints which the component itself should be after in a chain, in other words, its dependencies.
What a component should be placed before, what it should be placed after and what itself provides, may be either defined using Java annotations directly on the component class, or it may be added specifically to the component declarations in services.xml. In general, the implementation should have as many of the necessary annotations as practical, leaving the application specific configuration clean and simple to work with.

Ordering Components

The execution order of the components in a chain is not defined by the order of the components in the configuration. Instead the order is defined by adding the ordering constraints to the components:

  • Any component may declare that it @Provides some named functionality (the names are just labels that have no meaning to the container).
  • Any component may declare that it must be placed @Before some named functionality,
  • or that it must be placed @After some functionality.
The container will pick any ordering of a chain consistent with the constraints of the components in the chain.

Dependencies can be added in two ways. Dependencies which are due to the code should be added as annotations in the code:

import com.yahoo.processing.*;

@Provides("SourceSelection")
@Before("Federation")
@After("IntentModel")
public class SimpleProcessor extends Processor {

    @Override
    public Response process(Request request, Execution execution) {
        //TODO: Implement this
    }
}
Multiple functionality names may be specified by using the syntax @Provides/Before/After({"A", "B"}).

Annotations which do not belong in the code may be added in the configuration:

<container version="1.0">

  <processing>
    <processor id="processor1" class="com.yahoo.test.Processor1" />
    <chain id="default">
      <processor idref="processor1"/>
      <processor id="processor2" class="com.yahoo.test.Processor2">
        <after>com.yahoo.test.Processor1</after>
      </processor>
    </chain>
  </processing>

  <nodes>
    <node hostalias="node1" />
  </nodes>
</container>
For convenience, components always Provides their own fully qualified class name (the package and simple class name concatenated, e.g. com.yahoo.example.SimpleProcessor) and their simple name (that is, only the class name, like SimpleProcessor in our searcher case), so it is always possible to declare that one must execute before or after some particular component. This goes for both general processors, searchers and document processors.

Finally, note that ordering constraints are just that; in particular they are not used to determine if a given search chain, or set of search chains, is “complete”.

Chain Inheritance

As implied by examples above, chains may inherit other chains in services.xml.

<container version="1.0">
  <processing>
    <chain id="foo">
      <processor id="com.yahoo.example.ConnexityProcessor"/>
      <processor id="com.yahoo.example.IteratingProcessor"/>
      <processor id="com.yahoo.example.SignificanceProcessor" />
    </chain>
    <chain id="bar" inherits="foo" excludes="com.yahoo.example.IteratingProcessor">
      <processor id="com.yahoo.example.ReverseProcessor" />
    </chain>
  </processing>
  <nodes>
    <node hostalias="node1" />
  </nodes>
</container>
A chain will include all components from the chains named in the optional inherits attribute, exclude from that set all components named in the also optional excludes attribute and add all the components listed inside the defining tag. Both inherits and excludes are space delimited lists of reference names.

For search chains, there are two built-in search chains which are especially useful to inherit from, native and vespa. native is a basic search chain, containing the basic functionality most systems will need anyway, vespa inherits from native and adds a few extra searchers which most installations containing Vespa backends will need.

<container version="1.0">
  <search>
    <chain id="default" inherits="vespa" excludes="com.yahoo.prelude.querytransform.StemmingSearcher com.yahoo.prelude.querytransform.NormalizingSearcher">
      <searcher id="com.yahoo.example.ConnexitySearcher" />
      <searcher id="com.yahoo.example.SignificanceSearcher" />
      <searcher id="com.yahoo.example.ReverseSearcher" />
    </chain>
  </search>
  <nodes>
    <node hostalias="node1" />
  </nodes>
</container>

Unit Tests

A component should be unit tested in a chain containing the components it depends on. It is not necessary to run the dependency handling framework to achieve that, as the com.yahoo.component.chain.Chain class has several constructors which are easy to use while testing.

Chain<Searcher> c = new Chain(new UselessSearcher("first"),
        new UselessSearcher("second"),
        new UselessSearcher("third"));
Execution e = new Execution(c, Execution.Context.createContextStub(null));
Result r = e.search(new Query());
The above is a rather useless test, but it illustrates how the basic workflow can be simulated. The constructor will create a chain with supplied searchers in the given order (it will not analyze any annotations).

Passing Information Between Components

When different searchers or document processors depend on shared classes or field names, it is good practice to define the name only in a single place. An example in the searcher development introduction illustrates an easy way to do that.

Invoking a Specific Search Chain

The search chain to use can be selected in the request, by adding the request parameter:

  searchChain=myChain
If no chain is selected in the query, the chain called default will be used. If no chain called default has been configured, the chain called native will be used. The native chain is always present and contains a basic set of searchers needed in most applications. Custom chains will usually inherit the native chain to include those searchers.

The search chain can also be set in a query profile.

Configuration Examples

Annotations which do not belong in the code may be added in the configuration, here a simple example with search chains:

<container version="1.0">
  <search>
    <chain id="default" inherits="vespa">
      <searcher id="simpleSearcher"/>
    </chain>
    <searcher id="simpleSearcher" class="com.yahoo.search.example.SimpleSearcher">
      <before>Cache</before>
      <after>Statistics</after>
      <after>Logging</after>
      <provides>SimpleTest</provides>
    </searcher>
  </search>
  <nodes>
    <node hostalias="node1" />
  </nodes>
</container>
And for document processor chains, it becomes:
<container version="1.0">
  <document-processing>
    <chain id="default">
      <documentprocessor id="ReplaceInFieldDocumentProcessor">
        <after>TextMetrics</after>
    </chain>
  </document-processing>
  <nodes>
    <node hostalias="node1"/>
  </nodes>
</container>
For searcher plugins the class com.yahoo.search.searchchain.PhaseNames defines a set of checkpoints third party searchers may use to help order themselves when extending the Vespa search chains.

Note that ordering constraints are just that; in particular they are not used to determine if a given search chain, or set of search chains, is “complete”.