Improving the performance of full-text search

For Firefly, Dropbox’s full-text search engine, speed has always been a priority. (For more background on Firefly, check out our blog post). When our team saw search latency deteriorate from 250 ms to 1000 ms (95th percentile), we knew what to do—we measured, we analyzed, we fixed.

Problem

In order to create a good user experience for Firefly, we strive to keep our query latency under 250 ms (at 95th percentile). We noticed that our latency had deteriorated quite a bit since we started adding users to the system.

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Firefly – Instant, Full-Text Search Engine for Dropbox (Part 1)

Introduction

With hundreds of billions of files, Dropbox has become one of the world’s largest stores of private documents, and it’s still growing strong! As users add more and more files it becomes harder for them to stay organized. Eventually, search replaces browsing as the primary way users find their content. In other words, the more content our users store with us the more important it is for them to have a powerful search tool available. With this motivation in mind, we set out to deploy instant, full-text search for Dropbox.

Like any serious practitioners of large distributed systems our first order of business was clear: come up with a name for the project!

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