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Solr 4 has a subset of features that allow it be run as a distributed fault-tolerant cluster, referred to as “SolrCloud”. Installing and configuring Solr on a multi-node cluster can seem daunting when you’re a developer who just wants to give the latest release a try. The wiki page is long and complex, and configuring nodes manually is laborious and error-prone. And while your OS has ZooKeeper/Solr packages, they are probably outdated. But it doesn’t have to be a lot of work: in this post I will show you how to deploy and test a Solr 4 cluster using just a few commands, using mechanisms you can easily adjust for your own deployments.

I am using a cluster consisting of a virtual machines running Ubuntu 12.04 64bit and I am controlling them from my MacBook Pro. The Solr configuration will mimic the Two shard cluster with shard replicas and zookeeper ensemble example from the wiki.

You can run this on AWS EC2, but some special considerations apply, see the footnote.

We’ll use Fabric, a light-weight deployment tool that is basically a Python library to easily execute commands on remote nodes over ssh. Compared to Chef/Puppet it is simpler to learn and use, and because it’s an imperative approach it makes sequential orchestration of dependencies more explicit. Most importantly, it does not require a separate server or separate node-side software installation.

DISCLAIMER: these instructions and associated scripts are released under the Apache License; use at your own risk.

I strongly recommend you use disposable virtual machines to experiment with.

Getting Started

First, if you’ve not already got Fabric installed, follow these Fabric installation instructions.

To make things easier, I’ve prepared a small repository with example config and scripts. Download that first:

git clone
cd solr-fabric

The main script here is the Open this with an editor, and edit the host definition to replace the hostname configuration with your own hostnames:

    'zookeeper': [ 'vm110', 'vm111', 'vm112' ],
    'solr': [ 'vm110', 'vm111', 'vm112', 'vm113' ],

These hostnames need to be resolvable from the system running fabric, and the remote nodes themselves. In this example I run the ZooKeeper cluster and the Solr cluster on the same machines, but you can use different machines if you like. You do need different machines for each of the nodes in the ZooKeeper and Solr cluster though.

The contains various Python methods that represent tasks that will get executed on the remote nodes. It is easy to read, so do refer to the code as you run these commands to see what they do behind the scenes.

The target nodes are fresh Ubuntu 12.04 installations; dependencies will get installed as we go along.

To test your configuration, run:

fab test_ssh

which executes a simple “hostname” command on all your nodes. Next, test you can ping all the machines in your roles from all nodes:

fab test_ping

If that works, you should be good to go.

To stop fabric prompting for passwords, you want to use password-less ssh. You can do that manually if you prefer, or use this task (adjust the location of your desired public key):

fab copy_ssh_key_ssh_pub_key=~/.ssh/

After this, a fab test_ssh should work without prompting for passwords.

Note that the scripts here will run some commands as root:

  • to install Java and other dependencies with apt
  • to install Ubuntu Upstart scripts in /etc/init/ and invoke them

Fabric will prompt for the root password. If you prefer to use passwordless sudo, run:

fab setup_sudoers

By the way, if you want to run some random command on all nodes, you can do it like this:

fab --roles all -- ps -efl

Installing Java

Solr requires Java. If you already have that installed in your VMs (you should!), skip this section.

We recommend the latest Oracle Java. Installing that on Ubuntu is a bit of pain, because you have to manually accept the Oracle licensing. Here we see how scripting with fabric is a help:

fab install_oracle_java
fab java_version

That first command installs java on all your nodes, dealing with the licensing accepting on your behalf, and that second command prints the java version on all nodes so you can verify it worked. That was easy, right?

Downloading ZooKeeper and Solr

Download the ZooKeeper and Solr distributions to your local computer:

fab download

Installing ZooKeeper

Next, install zookeeper:

fab install_zookeeper
fab wait_for_zookeeper

This uploads the ZooKeeper distribution file to your nodes, configures each of the nodes, starts them up, and waits for the cluster to elect a leader.

Installing Solr

And then, install Solr:

fab install_solr
fab wait_for_solr

This uploads the Solr distribution file to your nodes, configures each of the nodes, starts them up, and waits for the cluster to become ready.

You can inspect the Solr Admin user interface on e.g. http://vm110.lan:8983/solr/#/~cloud (adjust for your hostname)

Loading data

We’ll load the Solr exampledocs/books.json data, which defines 4 documents:

(fabric)mak@crab$ fab sample_data
[vm110] Executing task 'sample_data'
[vm110] run: curl -sS 'http://vm110:8983/solr/update/json?commit=true' --data-binary @books.json -H 'Content-type:application/json'
[vm110] out: {"responseHeader":{"status":0,"QTime":175}}
[vm110] out:
Disconnecting from vm110... done.

query it for the word “monsters”, which finds one match:

(fabric)mak@crab$ $ fab sample_query
[vm110] Executing task 'sample_query'
[localhost] local: curl  -sS 'http://vm110:8983/solr/select?q=name:monsters&wt=json&indent=true'
        "name":"The Sea of Monsters",
        "author":"Rick Riordan",
        "author_s":"Rick Riordan",
        "series_t":"Percy Jackson and the Olympians",


and fab sample_query_all returns all docs.

You can display status of each of the cores with:

fab display_status

Removing It all

To remove the installation from the remote machines:

fab stop_solr
fab stop_zookeeper
fab uninstall

And if you want to remove your Fabric install locally:

rm -fr $HOME/fabric

Next Steps

I hope this post has inspired you to try out SolrCloud, and has made you appreciate the power of Fabric for automating remote administration. You can use this approach for trying out new features in Solr, do nightly automated testing from your CI systems, or to get familiar with Solr deployments prior to planning your production deployment.

For production use there are many other considerations that this fabfile does not address:

  • you may not want installs in a home directory, and you won’t want to run out of the example directory
  • your ZooKeeper nodes will want a special configuration for disk layout, log management and memory. See the ZooKeeper Administrator’s Guide. And you probably want to run them on separate hosts.
  • similar considerations apply to Solr. See the Apache Solr Reference Guide recently donated by Lucidworks.
  • you need to consider your collections and sharding
  • you need to consider host-based firewall rules: open ports such that Solr nodes can communicate with eachother and ZooKeeper, and ZooKeeper can communicate between its nodes.
  • you need to consider integration in your Ops team monitoring and alerting
  • you need to consider nodes leaving/joining the cluster



EC2 Considerations

You can run this on AWS EC2, but note:

  • You must create security groups such that the ZooKeeper nodes can talk TCP to each other on ports 2181/2888/3888, Solr nodes can talk to ZooKeeper on 2181, and Solr nodes can talk to each other on 8983. And allow TCP port 22 (ssh) access to all nodes from your IP address.
  • Solr registers its nodes by IP address, which change when you stop/start your instances. You can avoid this by using a VPC. See also SOLR-4078.
  • You won’t have a password to login, instead you will use your keypair. Use ssh-add to add the key to your ssh agent, or configure your ~/.ssh/config to contain Host entries for your instances and specify the key there. You can skip the fab copy_ssh_key step.
  • Make sure you configure your hosts’ domain name in the roledefs, not the public IP address.