CRUD Operations in Jina

In this section, you will get an overview of how Jina implements CRUD: Create, Read, Update, Delete


CRUD abbreviates the four actions Create, Read, Update, and Delete. All together they form the basis of a database management system (DBMS). While Jina itself is not a DBMS, it does provide these methods of interacting with the data stored in its indexes. Jina uses the following terms for this:

CRUD Term Jina Term
Create Index
Read Query
Update Update
Delete Delete

We hope that the table above will help to avoid any possible confusion regarding the terms that are in use. We discuss the four actions in more detail below.

Availability in Jina

Before version 1.0, Jina only supported indexing (creating) and querying (reading) Documents. In order to update or delete a Document, you had to edit your dataset first, and then rebuild both the Flow and the corresponding indexes. Needless to say, this could create problems if you had large datasets.

With the release of version 1.0 we are introducing update and delete operations. These are implemented across our Executors and Drivers, and allow you to update and delete Documents by their ids. With this, the full CRUD functionality is established and available for you in Jina.

CRUD actions in Jina

What do the four CRUD actions mean, and do in Jina in particular:

  • Index: read a new Document, and add it to the search index.

  • Query: retrieve indexed Documents based on given search criteria.

  • Update: update an existing Document by re-indexing it. Requires the index id of the Document to be updated.

  • Delete: remove an existing Document from the search index. Requires the index id of the Document to be deleted from the search index.

Before you start

Before you start indexing documents with Jina and searching through the database, we recommend you to study the basics as explained here.



As explained above, indexing means reading a document, and adding it to the search index. The example code below defines four documents, and indexes them.

# import required python modules
import numpy as np
from jina import Document, Flow

# define the four documents
docs = [
           embedding=np.array([0, 0]),
           tags={'guardian': 'Azure Dragon', 'position': 'East'}
           embedding=np.array([1, 0]),
           tags={'guardian': 'Vermilion Bird', 'position': 'South'}
           embedding=np.array([0, 1]),
           tags={'guardian': 'Black Tortoise', 'position': 'North'}
           embedding=np.array([1, 1]),
           tags={'guardian': 'White Tiger', 'position': 'West'}

# build a Flow with a simple indexer
f = Flow().add(uses='_index')

# save four docs (both embedding and structured info) into storage
with f:
    f.index(docs, on_done=print)


The next step is retrieving the indexed Documents. This can be done with just two lines of code, and will output the top-3 neighbours of 🐲, which are 🐲🐦🐢 with a score of 0, 1, 1 respectively.

with f:[0], top_k=3, on_done=lambda x: print([0].matches))

The output is as follows in JSON style:

{"id": "🐲", "tags": {"guardian": "Azure Dragon", "position": "East"}, "embedding": {"dense": {"buffer": "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA==", "shape": [2], "dtype": "<i8"}}, "score": {"opName": "NumpyIndexer", "refId": "🐲"}, "adjacency": 1}
{"id": "🐦", "tags": {"position": "South", "guardian": "Vermilion Bird"}, "embedding": {"dense": {"buffer": "AQAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA==", "shape": [2], "dtype": "<i8"}}, "score": {"value": 1.0, "opName": "NumpyIndexer", "refId": "🐲"}, "adjacency": 1}
{"id": "🐢", "tags": {"guardian": "Black Tortoise", "position": "North"}, "embedding": {"dense": {"buffer": "AAAAAAAAAAABAAAAAAAAAA==", "shape": [2], "dtype": "<i8"}}, "score": {"value": 1.0, "opName": "NumpyIndexer", "refId": "🐲"}, "adjacency": 1}

Deleting and updating

The previous two examples already demonstrated the capabilities of the Flow class. It supports delete and update methods too, with a signature similar to index.

The source code below extends the previous example, and demonstrates how to update an existing document. The position of the Azure Dragon changes from East to North East.

# define document to be updated
update_docs = [
           embedding=np.array([0, 0]),
           tags={'guardian': 'Azure Dragon', 'position': 'North East'}

with f:

Deleting a document from a search index can be done similarly. From the search index, The document referring to the Vermilion Bird will be deleted.

# define document to be deleted
delete_docs = [
           embedding=np.array([1, 0]),
           tags={'guardian': 'Vermilion Bird', 'position': 'South'}

# extract the document ids from the delete_docs list, and remove them
# from the search index
doc_ids = [ for d in delete_docs]

with f:
    delete_ids = [ for d in doc_ids]

The code above is written in such a way that the corresponding list of documents to be either updated or deleted can be easily extended without the need to change the existing Python code.

Expanding size

The update and delete operations use a masking underneath. This is done to maintain high performance overall. However, this means that old data will not be deleted, but will simply be masked as being deleted. Thus the size of the indexer on disk (and in memory) will grow over time the more update or delete operations you perform. We recommend setting the delete_on_dump parameter of the NumpyIndexer to True. When the Flow is shut down, the data that has been marked as deleted will be permanently deleted before being saved to disk. By default the parameter is set to False, as setting it to True will make the shut down process slower.

Runable example

You can run all the above code snippets on a hosted Jupyter Notebook by clicking here


Unfortunately there are some limitations to what Jina can do for the moment. These were trade-offs we needed to implement to keep Jina performant, robust, and easy to use. Some of these will be addressed in future versions, while some are intrinsic to Jina’s architecture.

  1. Partial update For the moment we do not support partial updates. So if you want to update a document, you need to send the entire document. This is due to Jina’s architecture: the document is sent as one piece through the Flow.

  2. Update flows In the context of Flows with segmenters and chunks, a Document may end up being split into chunks. Currently, the Update request will not work for these. You will need to manually remove the chunks by their ids. Then you can remove the parent document as well, by its id. Finally, you can index the new document, with its new contents (and thus new, different child chunks).

  3. Sharding When sharding data in indexers, the data will be split across these. This is achieved due to the polling: any configuration. During a query, you will need to set polling: all. However, this will lead to some shards getting a query request with a key that does not exist. In this case, warnings will be emitted by the indexer. You can ignore these within this context. The warnings are there for the situations when missing keys are not expected.

  4. Indexing while querying The index, update, and delete operations cannot be executed within the same context as the query operation. This is due to the way flushing to disk works within the Flow and Executor context lifecycle. This is applicable across all VectorIndexers. Thus, you need to exit the Flow context when you want to switch from one set of operations to the other.

    You can see this in the code listing at the beginning of this chapter.

  5. Compound Indexer

While using a !CompoundIndexer, it is not possible to return embeddings to the next Driver in the Flow. This is because the !CompoundIndexer has an !ExcludeQL for all the embeddings during IndexRequest and UpdateRequest

          - embedding

This is done because otherwise the embeddings would be stored in the BaseVectorIndexer but also in the BaseKVIndexer. If you want to be able to access the embeddings anyway, you can can overwrite it in your own index.yml and query.yml files removing the !ExcludeQL directive.