Performance FAQ


Contains a short FAQ about eXist-db's performance.


Are there limits on the size or amount of data eXist-db can store?

As an advanced, powerful native XML database, eXist-db is capable of storing and querying XML documents of arbitrary depth and complexity, and there is no theoretical limit to the amount of data or the number of documents and collections you store in eXist-db. Currently eXist-db is set to limit the number of documents and collections (respectively) to 2^32, but this can be raised. Thus, the raw size of your data is not the key factor to consider when evaluating how eXist-db will perform for your applications.

How much do external factors like memory, storage, operating system, and processor power affect eXist-db's performance?

eXist-db has modest memory requirements (the default memory footprint is 512 MB), but as your data grows, queries grow more complex, and number of concurrent users increase, the performance of eXist-db will improve by supplying it with adequate memory, storage, and processing power. Certain operating systems impose upper limits on the amount of memory that can be allocated to a single application; for example, the 32-bit version of Windows limits applications to 1.3 GB of RAM, which while adequate for many applications may not last forever. As a multithreaded Java application, eXist-db benefits from multicore processors. Solid state storage offers performance advantages over much better than hard disk storage. Understanding external factors like these will allow you to give eXist-db the environment it needs to perform to your requirements. Regardless of the hardware and operating system you are using, you will want to explore the core factors that contribute to eXist-db performance.

What core factors play into eXist-db's performance?

The key factor affecting performance in eXist-db is the interrelationship between the structure of your data and the queries you need to run. eXist-db has been designed to execute XQuery efficiently by pre-indexing the structure of your data (and, if you configure it, the contents of elements or attributes). Indexing allows eXist-db to perform operations in memory (which is fast), rather than reading from disk (which is slow). eXist-db generally performs very well when querying XML documents and their collections. When performance suffers, it is typically because indexing has not been employed, because queries have been written inefficiently, or because the data needs to be restructured to allow queries to perform most optimally.

Among the many ways to optimize eXist-db's performance, eXist-db's indexing abilities can dramatically improve the performance of queries. Range or NGram indexes can improve the performance of queries that rely on string or value comparisons, and full text indexes can dramatically increase the speed and sophistication of full text searches. These indexes, paired with the right cache and memory settings will allow eXist-db to load just the right amount of data in memory for fast processing and minimize disk I/O operations or the need to access the raw DOM to complete a query.

Performance of queries can also depend on actions like storing, replacing, or updating data. Some operations synchronize on the collection cache, which blocks other operations. Overcoming write-related performance problems can require changes to an application's design.

Performance can change when an application moves from single to multiple concurrent users. In a concurrent situation, queries which need to traverse the DOM or scan through large index entries can become a bottleneck even though they run quickly when a single user runs the query.

The bottom line: Performance depends on many factors, but developers of eXist-db are eager to eliminate all known bottlenecks and factors that lead to poor performance. If you have performance concerns, send a message to the exist-open mailing list. Depending on the nature your issue, you may be asked to send information about your operating system or memory settings, sample data and queries, a thread dump captured while the query is running, or information about memory consumption (using jconsole or other tools) to see how memory is used during times of low and high load. Very often the cause of a slowdown is a single query which just consumes too many resources, and if such a query coincides with other operations, performance can degrade. Identifying bottlenecks is the first step to overcoming performance problems.

How scalable is eXist-db?

Scalability is a complex topic, and there are numerous areas that an application might want to be able to scale. To date, eXist-db has typically run as a single server. In a single server model, the means for scaling involves increasing memory and adding faster storage. However, eXist-db also has data replication abilities, allowing applications to span multiple servers. Built on JMS, eXist-db's replication involves designating one server as the master, and one or more other servers as slaves. Changes on the master are automatically replicated to the slaves. This replication facility should not be confused with a system for sharding data or distributing queries across multiple servers.

As the scalability requirements of eXist-db users grow, the eXist-db developers aim to rise to the challenge.