How to Prevent Data Corruption in Elasticsearch When Using Kafka Connect Elasticsearch Sink Connector

Kafka Connect Elasticsearch Sink


When the Elasticsearch indexer is highly concurrent, Kafka record keys are used as Elasticsearch document IDs, and indexer is set to delete records on null values, then Kafka Connect Elasticsearch Sink Connector might corrupt your data: documents that should not be deleted end up being deleted, or documents that should be deleted end up still being present in the index. The fix is to use external versioning for deletes in bulk requests as it is proposed in this Github Pull Request.

The problem

NOTE: as of version 6.0.0 of the Confluent Platform (last checked on 2020-10-02) the bug that might lead to data corruption is still present.

Let’s focus on a use case where Kafka record key is used as an Elasticsearch document ID1. I would consider this to be a proper practice when the documents represent a catalog of things.

Elasticsearch uses optimistic concurrency control. The job of this concurrency mechanism is to ensure that older version of the document doesn’t override a newer version. By default, order of arrival of the operation is applied, but the behaviour can be overriden in several ways depending on the version of Elasticsearch. In this post we focus on concurrent bulk requests, and with a concurrency that involves a network, requests will sometimes arrive out of order.

To help Elasticsearch resolve the out-of-order indexing requests Kafka Connect Elasticsearch Sink Connector (from here on Kafka Connect for short) leverages the external document versioning2. Using external versions in Kafka Connect makes sense because we already have versioning in place: Kafka topic partition offsets. If Kafka Connect applies changes to Elasticsearch indices in order of the topic offset, then any update ordering problems would be problems in the upstream system. This is a good guarantee to have.

Let’s add to the mix delete operations. Kafka Connect supports a setting BEHAVIOR_ON_NULL_VALUES_CONFIG to "delete". This setting instructs the Kafka Connect that a document in Elasticsearch with an ID of the kafka record key with null value (a tombstone message) is going to be deleted. But for some strange reason the deletes does not use external versioning! The line responsible for the described behaviour3 can be found here. This means that for deletes the order-of-arrival wins. Let’s increase the concurrency of bulk requests with the param MAX_IN_FLIGHT_REQUESTS_CONFIG to a largish number, and the data consistency problems is just round the corner for data that has some largish update ratio.

The issue is even more pronounced when you re-index data into Elasticsearch and you want to do it as fast as possible, which means doing the indexing concurrently.

The Example

The code that demonstrated the faulty behaviour can be found in this Pull Request.

The test case is for testing the case when document should be present in Elasticsearch gets deleted.

Let’s have a little walk over the code snippet:

Collection<SinkRecord> records = new ArrayList<>();
for (int i = 0; i < numOfRecords - 1 ; i++) {
  if (i % 2 == 0) {
    SinkRecord sinkRecord = new SinkRecord(TOPIC, PARTITION, Schema.STRING_SCHEMA, key, schema, null, i);
  } else {
    record.put("message", Integer.toString(i));
    SinkRecord sinkRecord = new SinkRecord(TOPIC, PARTITION, Schema.STRING_SCHEMA, key, schema, record, i);
record.put("message", Integer.toString(numOfRecords));
SinkRecord sinkRecord = new SinkRecord(TOPIC, PARTITION, Schema.STRING_SCHEMA, key, schema, record, numOfRecords);


Here we send numOfRecords (which larger than 2) to a Kafka topic. Every second record has null body (delete operation), and the rest of the records have a sequence number as a message value. The very last record is always a non-null record with a message value of numOfRecords.

Let’s setup a connector:

MAX_IN_FLIGHT_REQUESTS_CONFIG = Integer.toString(numOfRecords)

Here we set a connector to use Kafka record key as id KEY_IGNORE_CONFIG = "false", set the indexer concurrency to the numOfRecords; set the indexing batch size to 1 (this creates as many requests to Elasticsearch as there are records in the Kafka topic); set indexer to send requests immediately with LINGER_MS_CONFIG = "1"; and record with a null value represents a delete operation.

With this setup after the indexing is done we expect that in the index we have a document with ID and whose message value is numOfRecords. But when ordering of bulk requests is out-of-order then at the end we might have a situation where there is no document in the index at all: the bulk index request with message = numOfRecords arrived before one of the bulk requests with a delete operation!

The situation might seem to be a bit far-fetched but for applications like e-commerce where you have a catalog that is frequently updated (e.g. the catalog item should be available in search or not) and updates are modelled as document deletes it happens a bit more often than it might be expected.

The fix

The fix is simple: use the same external versioning that is already being used by the indexing requests also for delete requests:

if (record.version != null) {
    req.setParameter("version_type", "external").setParameter("version", record.version);

The full code can be found here. Let’s hope that Confluent developers will find some time to merge that PR.


Thank you for reading and leave your feedback here.


Of course, this is not the only situation when data can get corrupted, e.g. changing the number of partitions; when you delete the topic, repopulate it with up-to-date data (also, you skip deletes) then restarting the indexing might pretty much nothing, because all the versions are earlier external version because offsets are smaller.

  1. When Kafka Record keys are not used as Elasticsearch document IDs versioning is not a problem because every Elasticsearch ID is constructed as {topic}+{partition}+{offset} which creates a new document for every Kafka record, i.e. no versioning is needed. ↩︎

  2. Elasticsearch 7 supports the external versioning. ↩︎

  3. Yes, it is a comment, and it means that the developers were not sure whether to use external versioning for delete operations. ↩︎