How To Solve Issues Related to Log – PreIndex listener failed

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Updated: Jan-20

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Troubleshooting background

To troubleshoot Elasticsearch log “PreIndex listener failed” it’s important to understand common problems related to Elasticsearch concepts: index, indexing, shard. See detailed explanations below complete with common problems, examples and useful tips.

Index in Elasticsearch

What it is

In Elasticsearch, an index (indices in plural) can be thought of as a table inside a database that has a schema and can have one or more shards and replicas. An Elasticsearch index is divided into shards and each shard is an instance of a Lucene index.

Indices are used to store the documents in dedicated data structures corresponding to the data type of fields. For example, text fields are stored inside an inverted index whereas numeric and geo fields are stored inside BKD trees.

Create Index

The following example is based on Elasticsearch version 5.x onwards. An index with two shards, each having one replica will be created with the name test_index1

PUT /test_index1?pretty
    "settings" : {
        "number_of_shards" : 2,
        "number_of_replicas" : 1
    "mappings" : {
        "properties" : {
            "tags" : { "type" : "keyword" },
            "updated_at" : { "type" : "date" }
List Indices

All the index names and their basic information can be retrieved using the following command:

GET _cat/indices?v
Index a document

Let’s add a document in the index with below command:

PUT test_index1/_doc/1
  "tags": [
  "date": "01-01-2020"
Query an index
GET test_index1/_search
  "query": {
    "match_all": {}
Query Multiple Indices

It is possible to search multiple indices with a single request. If it is a raw HTTP request, Index names should be sent in comma-separated format, as shown in the example below, and in the case of a query via a programming language client such as python or Java, index names are to be sent in a list format.

GET test_index1,test_index2/_search
Delete Indices
DELETE test_index1
Common Problems
  • It is good practice to define the settings and mapping of an Index wherever possible because if this is not done, Elasticsearch tries to automatically guess the data type of fields at the time of indexing. This automatic process may have disadvantages, such as mapping conflicts, duplicate data and incorrect data types being set in the index. If the fields are not known in advance, it’s better to use dynamic index templates.
  • Elasticsearch supports wildcard patterns in Index names, which sometimes aids with querying multiple indices, but can also be very destructive too. For example, It is possible to delete all the indices in a single command using the following commands:

To disable this, you can add the following lines in the elasticsearch.yml:

action.destructive_requires_name: true

Elasticsearch Indexing

What it is

Indexing is the process of adding or updating new documents to an Elasticsearch index.


In its simplest form, you can index a document like this:

POST /test/_doc
  "message": "Opster Rocks Elasticsearch Management"

This will create the index “test” (if it doesn’t already exist) and add a document with the source equal to the body of the POST call.  In this case, the ID will be created automatically. If you repeat this command, a second document will be created with an identical source but a different ID.
Alternatively, you can do this: 

PUT /test/_doc/1
  "message": "Opster Elasticsearch Management and Troubleshooting"

This is almost the same, but in this case, the call sets the ID of the document to 1.  If you repeat the command modifying the message, you will modify the original document, replacing the previous source with the latest source.

However note that this is NOT the same as an UPDATE operation, which is a different API and allows us to modify certain fields of the document while leaving others unchanged.

Notes and good things to know

You can set your own ID if necessary (especially if you later need to update the same ID) but this comes at a performance penalty.  If you don’t need to update documents, then let Elasticsearch set its own ID automatically.

If you need to index many documents at once, it is much more efficient to use the BULK API to carry out these operations with a single call.

Indexing is not an immediate Automatic process.  Documents will not be available for search until the index has refreshed. Refresh time by default is 1 second. Increasing this time reduces the burden on the cluster of indexing, increasing indexing speed. It is possible to modify the refresh time in the index settings.  

You can apply version control by setting the version parameter (?version=3) and indicating version_type=external.  By doing this Elasticsearch will reject any index requests where the version specified is less than the current version.  This can be useful when running distributed processes and you cannot guarantee that updated documents arrive in the correct order.

PUT test/_doc/1?version=20&version_type=external
	"message" : "using external version the document will be modified only  if version is greater than previous!"
The process of indexing is as follows:

The index request is sent to the primary shard. Once the primary shard is updated, then the replication process request will be relayed to the replica shards. The command will not return until the primary shard (at least) has been updated. For greater resilience, you can specify a minimum number of shard replicas to be available before proceeding with the operation by using the parameter ?wait_for_active_shards=2

You can also specify which specific shard the index operation is sent to by using the “routing” command.  There are 2 reasons that this might be done:  

  • Certain Elasticsearch functions (parent-child documents) that require that the parent and child documents be held on the same shard.  
  • Secondly, it may be possible to increase search speeds and reduce load on elasticsearch by storing similar documents together on the same shard and then specifying the routing for both indexing and searching.  Although this can be done explicitly during indexing, it is not recommended. It would be preferable to set this up using the index mapping, so that the routing is determined by an ID value on the source document.

Shards in Elasticsearch

What it is

Data in an Elasticsearch index can grow to massive proportions. In order to keep it manageable, it is split into a number of shards. Each Elasticsearch shard is an Apache Lucene index, with each individual Lucene index containing a subset of the documents in the Elasticsearch index. Splitting indices in this way keeps resource usage under control. An Apache Lucene index has a limit of 2,147,483,519 documents.


It is when an index is created that the number of shards is set, and this cannot be changed later without reindexing the data. When creating an index, you can set the number of shards and replicas as properties of the index

PUT /sensor
    "settings" : {
        "index" : {
            "number_of_shards" : 6,
            "number_of_replicas" : 2

The ideal number of shards should be determined based on the amount of data in an index. Generally, an optimal shard should hold 30-50GB of data. For example, if you expect to accumulate around 300GB of application logs in a day, having around 10 shards in that index would be reasonable.

During their lifetime, shards can go through a number of states, including:

  • Initializing: An initial state before the shard can be used.
  • Started: A state in which the shard is active and can receive requests.
  • Relocating: A state that occurs when shards are in the process of being moved to a different node. This may be necessary under certain conditions, for example, when the node they are on is running out of disk space.
  • Unassigned: The state of a shard that has failed to be assigned. A reason is provided when this happens, for example, if the node hosting the shard is no longer in the cluster (NODE_LEFT) or due to restoring into a closed index (EXISTING_INDEX_RESTORED).

In order to view all shards, their states, and other metadata, use the following request:

GET _cat/shards

To view shards for a specific index, append the name of the index to the URL, for example

GET _cat/shards/sensor

This command produces output, such as in the following example. By default, the columns shown include the name of the index, the name (i.e. number) of the shard, whether it is a primary shard or a replica, its state, the number of documents, the size on disk, the IP address, and the node ID.

sensor 5 p STARTED    0  283b ziap
sensor 5 r UNASSIGNED                   
sensor 2 p STARTED    1 3.7kb ziap
sensor 2 r UNASSIGNED                   
sensor 3 p STARTED    3 7.2kb ziap
sensor 3 r UNASSIGNED                   
sensor 1 p STARTED    1 3.7kb ziap
sensor 1 r UNASSIGNED                   
sensor 4 p STARTED    2 3.8kb ziap
sensor 4 r UNASSIGNED                   
sensor 0 p STARTED    0  283b ziap
sensor 0 r UNASSIGNED
Notes and good things to know
  • Having shards that are too large is simply inefficient. Moving huge indices across machines is time- and labor-intensive process. First, the Lucene merges would take longer to complete and would require greater resources. Moreover, moving the shards across the nodes for rebalancing would also take longer and recovery time would be extended. Thus by splitting the data and spreading it across a number of machines, it can be kept in manageable chunks and minimize risks.
  • Having the right number of shards is important for performance. It is thus wise to plan in advance. When queries are run across different shards in parallel, they execute faster than an index composed of a single shard, but only if each shard is located on a different node and there are sufficient nodes in the cluster. At the same time, however, shards consume memory and disk space, both in terms of indexed data and cluster metadata. Having too many shards can slow down queries, indexing requests, and management operations, and so maintaining the right balance is critical.

Elasticsearch Reindex

What it is

Reindex is the concept of copying existing data from a source index to a destination index which can be inside the same or a different cluster. Elasticsearch has a dedicated endpoint _reindex for this purpose. A reindexing is mostly required for updating mapping or settings.


Reindex data from a source index to destination index in the same cluster

POST /_reindex?pretty
  "source": {
    "index": "news"
  "dest": {
    "index": "news_v2"

  • Reindex API does not copy settings and mappings from the source index to the destination index. You need to create the destination index with the desired settings and mappings before you begin the reindexing process.
  • The API exposes an extensive list of configuration options to fetch data from the source index. For example, query-based indexing and selecting multiple indices as the source index.
  • In some scenarios reindex API is not useful, where reindexing requires complex data processing and data modification based on application logic. In this case, you can write your custom script using Elasticsearch scroll API to fetch the data from source index and bulk API to index data into destination index.

To help troubleshoot related issues we have gathered selected Q&A from the community and issues from Github , please review the following for further information :

1 unable to percolate : org.elasticsearch.index.percolator.PercolatorException: [myindex] failed to parse query [myDesignatedQueryName] 0.52 K 

2 Github Issue Number 13202  

Github Issue Number 9025

Log Context

Log ”PreIndex listener [{}] failed” classname is
We have extracted the following from Elasticsearch source code to get an in-depth context :

             assert operation != null;
            for (IndexingOperationListener listener : listeners) {
                try {
                    listener.preIndex(shardId; operation);
                } catch (Exception e) {
                    logger.warn(() -> new ParameterizedMessage("preIndex listener [{}] failed"; listener); e);
            return operation;

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