SharePoint Search and Deadlocks in SQL Server

Deadlocks reported in the Search databases, particularly the Crawl Store database (which manages the state of each crawled item and by is very I/O intensive), are not abnormal and can occur based on the concurrent and asynchronous nature of the Crawl processing (For additional information on the crawling process, see my previous post here). Below, I provide additional context for Search related deadlocks and considerations for both SharePoint 2013 and 2010... and hopefully explain why you probably don't need to worry about them.

Life of a Crawled Item 

Over time, each URL that has been discovered gets tracked in the MSSCrawlUrl table (commonly called the "Links History" table) in the Crawl Store database where each row contains a unique URL, gets identified by the DocID column (in the Crawl Log UI, the ID is labeled as the "Item ID"), and the most recent crawl status for this URL. As the Crawler enumerates the items-to-be-crawled from the content source (e.g. WFE), a row is created for each URL to-be-crawled in the MSSCrawlQueue table (in the same Crawl Store), which uses the corresponding DocID to identify the row in this Crawl Queue (In other words, a URL in the MSSCrawlQueue will have the same DocID as the corresponding URL in the MSSCrawlUrl table).

In SharePoint 2010, URLs were first temporarily placed in the MSSTranTempTable0 table (in the Crawl Store DB) and after some light processing, each URL was then flushed into the MSSCrawlQueue table. However, the MSSTranTempTable0 no longer exists in SharePoint 2013.


During a crawl, each Crawl Component involved with the crawl will continually pull a sub-set of URLs from the MSSCrawlQueue (e.g. a "batch") using the stored procedure proc_MSS_GetNextCrawlBatch (in the Crawl Store DB) and then fetch each item in this current batch from the WFE (It's worth noting these batches pulled from the MSSCrawlQueue are a different concept than the feeding batches used by the FAST Content Plug-in. In other words, these two uses of "batch" are completely unrelated and an unfortunate use of the same word in different contexts) and attempt to retrieve each item in this set from the WFE (e.g. the gathering process).

As each batch gets pulled, the BatchID column for the related items in the MSSCrawlQueue table will be updated with a new value – if the batch fails (e.g. someone recycled the mssearch.exe process for the crawl component before the batch completes), then all items in this batch will remain in the MSSCrawlQueue where they can be picked up again by a subsequent batch.

As each URL is retrieved from the WFE, sent to the Content Processing component for processing, and then written to the index, the Content Plug-in (in the Crawl Component) receives a callback that indicates the processing status for each URL. As each callback returns, each URL is updated (in Search-speak: "committed") in the MSSCrawlUrl by the proc_MSS_CommitTransactions stored procedure and because this URL has now been crawled/processed, the applicable row for this URL in the MSSCrawlQueue can now be removed.

When deadlocks occur within Search databases…

Typically, these occur when updating the crawl state for an item in the MSSCrawlUrl table while concurrently deleting the corresponding item from MSSCrawlQueue. However, Search is resilient to deadlocks (particularly in the Crawl Store) and handles scenarios where processes are chosen as the deadlock victim – the item will just remain in the MSSCrawlQueue and be picked up again by a subsequent batch. Being said, if you experience tens-of-thousands deadlocks per day, this is probably worth investigating – if you only experience ten per day, then these can likely be ignored.

If the deadlocks occur in a non-Search databases (e.g. one or more of the Content DBs), then the deadlock is not directly related to Search because Search does not "reach-in" to other databases. In other words, Search does not directly access the Content databases – Search enumerates Content databases by interfacing with the Site Data Web service on the applicable WFE or by browsing the content (e.g. documents) using HTTP GET. Meaning, Search cannot directly lock any objects in a non-Search database.  

If Content databases happen to incur a higher level of deadlocking during a crawl, then this is most likely related to the additional load related to the gathering process (e.g. browsing) and would therefore tend to expect this to occur under a heavy user load as well.


Specifically, the most common occurrences that I have encountered with deadlocks and Search databases involve some combination of the following:

  • An attempt to update an item in the MSSCrawlQueue with the applicable Batch# (e.g. proc_MSS_GetNextCrawlBatch)
  • Attempting to delete the item from MSSCrawlQueue after the item has been committed
  • Attempting to update the item in MSSCrawlUrl as committed (e.g. proc_MSS_CommitTransactions)

In SQL Server, the deadlock may look something like the following:

Spid 123 is waiting for an Exclusive keylock on index IX_MSSCrawlQueue_ComponentID. Spid 111 holds a conflicting Update lock.

Spid 111 is waiting for an Update keylock on index IX_MSSCrawlQueue_ComponentID. Spid 123 is holding a conflicting Exclusive lock.

Other observations and considerations should deadlocks occur

  • Adding more crawl components would lead to more processes grabbing batches from the Crawl Queue (e.g. via proc_MSS_GetNextCrawlBatch), which could increase the change of deadlocks
  • Where possible, attempt to minimize any overlapping crawls and determine if the number of deadlocks decrease
    • If there are multiple content sources, attempt to schedule these serially rather than concurrently where possible. Alternatively, consolidate content sources
    • During a crawl, each Crawl Component will be heavily reading/writing to its applicable Crawl Store DB (e.g. writing items to the Crawl Queue, reading items from the Queue, flushing items from the Queue, and updating items in the MSSCrawlUrl table)
      • Increasing the number of Crawl Components in a single Crawl Store will increase the load on that lone Crawl Store (e.g. each of these Crawl Components will be concurrently processing batches of items from the same Crawl Store)
      • If concurrent crawls are started (e.g. full crawls for ContentSource1 and ContentSource2), then the same Crawl Components will be utilized for both crawls
        • For example, if there are 2 Crawl Components, 1 Crawl Store DB, and 2 concurrent crawls, then both Crawl Components would be leveraged to concurrently crawl both Content Sources. This would mean there are 4 instantiated Crawl processes ([2 crawls] x [2 Crawl Components]) concurrently hitting the single Crawl Store DB
        • If there are 2 Crawl Components, 1 Crawl Store DB, and 10 concurrent crawls,then there would be 20 crawl processes hitting the single Crawl Store
      • Consolidating content sources would lower the number of concurrent crawl processes hitting the Crawl Store(s)
        • For example, combining multiple URLs into a single Content Source would allow these to all be crawled together without starting additional crawl processes to do so (which would decrease the number of concurrent crawl store processes reaching into the Crawl Store DB)
  • Although I don't see a documented maximum size in terms of bytes for the Crawl Store, it's worth nothing that the cases I've worked relating to deadlocks in the Crawl Store tended to involve customers with Crawl Stores at 200GB or larger (potentially this was just coincidental correlation)
    • For comparison sake and point of reference, the max size of a Content database is 200GB (*unless it's using RBS or the content is largely read-only)
    • The situation may see more benefit by creating an additional Crawl Store database to lower the contention on these MSSCrawlQueue and MSSCrawlUrl tables
  • For SharePoint 2010, with the one-to-many relationship between Crawl Components and Crawl Stores, adding additional Crawl Store DBs would lower the number of concurrent crawl processes per Crawl Store. However, this would require adding additional Crawl Components for each new Crawl Store database
    • Because the SharePoint 2010 Crawl Component can be resource intensive (CPU, memory, disk, network), you may need to scale-out (e.g. add more servers for hosting the additional Crawl Components) or scale-up to handle the increased load
  • If the WFE's can handle the increased load (e.g. of content being "browsed"/gathered by the crawl), increasing the number of Crawl Components may allow the crawl to gather content from these sources at a faster rate (assuming the Crawl Store DBs, system resources on the Crawl Components, and Query Components are not the bottleneck)
    • However, if the WFE cannot handle the additional load, multiple crawls may significantly impact the performance of that WFE