Service administration for Azure Search in the Azure portal

Azure Search is a fully managed, cloud-based search service used for building a rich search experience into custom apps. This article covers the service administration tasks that you can perform in the Azure portal for a search service that you've already provisioned. Service administration is lightweight by design, limited to the following tasks:

  • Manage and secure access to the api-keys used for read or write access to your service.
  • Adjust service capacity by changing the allocation of partitions and replicas.
  • Monitor resource usage, relative to maximum limits of your service tier.

Notice that upgrade is not listed as an administrative task. Because resources are allocated when the service is provisioned, moving to a different tier requires a new service. For details, see Create an Azure Search service.


Looking for help on how to analyze search traffic or query performance? Gain insights into query volume, which terms people search for, and how successful search results are in guiding customers to specific documents in your index. For guidance, see Search Traffic Analytics for Azure Search, Monitor usage and query metrics, and Performance and optimization.

Administrator rights

Provisioning or decommissioning the service itself can be done by an Azure subscription administrator or co-administrator.

Within a service, anyone with access to the service URL and an admin api-key has read-write access to the service. Read-write access provides the ability to add, delete, or modify server objects, including api-keys, indexes, indexers, data sources, schedules, and role assignments as implemented through RBAC-defined roles.

All user interaction with Azure Search falls within one of these modes: read-write access to the service (administrator rights), or read-only access to the service (query rights). For more information, see Manage the api-keys.

Set RBAC roles for administrative access

Azure provides a global role-based authorization model for all services managed through the portal or Resource Manager APIs. Owner, Contributor, and Reader roles determine the level of service administration for Active Directory users, groups, and security principals assigned to each role.

For Azure Search, RBAC permissions determine the following administrative tasks:

Role Task
Owner Create or delete the service or any object on the service, including api-keys, indexes, indexers, indexer data sources, and indexer schedules.

View service status, including counts and storage size.

Add or delete role membership (only an Owner can manage role membership).

Subscription administrators and service owners have automatic membership in the Owners role.

Contributor Same level of access as Owner, minus RBAC role management. For example, a Contributor can view and regenerate api-key, but cannot modify role memberships.
Reader View service status and query keys. Members of this role cannot change service configuration, nor can they view admin keys.

Roles do not grant access rights to the service endpoint. Search service operations, such as index management, index population, and queries on search data, are controlled through api-keys, not roles. For more information, see "Authorization for management versus data operations" in What is Role-based access control.

Logging and system information

Azure Search does not expose log files for an individual service either through the portal or programmatic interfaces. At the Basic tier and above, Microsoft monitors all Azure Search services for 99.9% availability per service level agreements (SLA). If the service is slow or request throughput falls below SLA thresholds, support teams review the log files available to them and address the issue.

In terms of general information about your service, you can obtain information in the following ways:

Manage api-keys

All requests to a search service need an api-key that was generated specifically for your service. This api-key is the sole mechanism for authenticating access to your search service endpoint.

An api-key is a string composed of randomly generated numbers and letters. Through RBAC permissions, you can delete or read the keys, but you can't replace a key with a user-defined password.

Two types of keys are used to access your search service:

  • Admin (valid for any read-write operation against the service)
  • Query (valid for read-only operations such as queries against an index)

An admin api-key is created when the service is provisioned. There are two admin keys, designated as primary and secondary to keep them straight, but in fact they are interchangeable. Each service has two admin keys so that you can roll one over without losing access to your service. You can regenerate either admin key, but you cannot add to the total admin key count. There is a maximum of two admin keys per search service.

Query keys are designed for client applications that call Search directly. You can create up to 50 query keys. In application code, you specify the search URL and a query api-key to allow read-only access to the service. Your application code also specifies the index used by your application. Together, the endpoint, an api-key for read-only access, and a target index define the scope and access level of the connection from your client application.

To get or regenerate api-keys, open the service dashboard. Click KEYS to slide open the key management page. Commands for regenerating or creating keys are at the top of the page. By default, only admin keys are created. Query api-keys must be created manually.

Secure api-keys

Key security is ensured by restricting access via the portal or Resource Manager interfaces (PowerShell or command-line interface). As noted, subscription administrators can view and regenerate all api-keys. As a precaution, review role assignments to understand who has access to the admin keys.

  1. In the service dashboard, click the Access icon to slide open the Users blade.
  2. In Users, review existing role assignments. As expected, Subscription admins already have full access to the service via the Owner role.
  3. To drill further, click Subscription admins and then expand the role assignment list to see who has co-administration rights on your search service.

Another way to view access permissions is to click Roles on the Users blade. Doing so displays available roles and the number of users or groups assigned to each role.

Monitor resource usage

In the dashboard, resource monitoring is limited to the information shown in the service dashboard and a few metrics that you can obtain by querying the service. On the service dashboard, in the Usage section, you can quickly determine whether partition resource levels are adequate for your application.

Using the Search Service REST API, you can get a count on documents and indexes programmatically:

Disaster recovery and service outages

Although we can salvage your data, Azure Search does not provide instant failover of the service if there is an outage at the cluster or data center level. If a cluster fails in the data center, the operations team will detect and work to restore service. You will experience downtime during service restoration. You can request service credits to compensate for service unavailability per the Service Level Agreement (SLA).

If continuous service is required in the event of catastrophic failures outside of Microsoft’s control, you could provision an additional service in a different region and implement a geo-replication strategy to ensure indexes are fully redundant across all services.

Customers who use indexers to populate and refresh indexes can handle disaster recovery through geo-specific indexers leveraging the same data source. Two services in different regions, each running an indexer, could index from the same data source to achieve geo-redundancy. If you are indexing from data sources that are also geo-redundant, be aware that Azure Search indexers can only perform incremental indexing from primary replicas. In a failover event, be sure to re-point the indexer to the new primary replica.

If you do not use indexers, you would use your application code to push objects and data to different search services in parallel. For more information, see Performance and optimization in Azure Search.

Backup and restore

Because Azure Search is not a primary data storage solution, we do not provide a formal mechanism for self-service backup and restore. Your application code used for creating and populating an index is the de facto restore option if you delete an index by mistake.

To rebuild an index, you would delete it (assuming it exists), recreate the index in the service, and reload by retrieving data from your primary data store. Alternatively, you can reach out to customer support to salvage indexes if there is a regional outage.

Scale up or down

Every search service starts with a minimum of one replica and one partition. If you signed up for a tier that provides dedicated resources, click the SCALE tile in the service dashboard to adjust resource usage.

When you add capacity through either resource, the service uses them automatically. No further action is required on your part, but there is a slight delay before the impact of the new resource is realized. It can take 15 minutes or more to provision additional resources.

Add replicas

Increasing queries per second (QPS) or achieving high availability is done by adding replicas. Each replica has one copy of an index, so adding one more replica translates to one more index available for handling service query requests. A minimum of 3 replicas are required for high availability (see Capacity Planning for details).

A search service having more replicas can load balance query requests over a larger number of indexes. Given a level of query volume, query throughput is going to be faster when there are more copies of the index available to service the request. If you are experiencing query latency, you can expect a positive impact on performance once the additional replicas are online.

Although query throughput goes up as you add replicas, it does not precisely double or triple as you add replicas to your service. All search applications are subject to external factors that can impinge on query performance. Complex queries and network latency are two factors that contribute to variations in query response times.

Add partitions

Most service applications have a built-in need for more replicas rather than partitions. For those cases where an increased document count is required, you can add partitions if you signed up for Standard service. Basic tier does not provide for additional partitions.

At the Standard tier, partitions are added in multiples of 12 (specifically, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, or 12). This is an artifact of sharding. An index is created in 12 shards, which can all be stored on 1 partition or equally divided into 2, 3, 4, 6, or 12 partitions (one shard per partition).

Remove replicas

After periods of high query volumes, you can reduce replicas after search query loads have normalized (for example, after holiday sales are over).

To do this, move the replica slider back to a lower number. There are no further steps required on your part. Lowering the replica count relinquishes virtual machines in the data center. Your query and data ingestion operations will now run on fewer VMs than before. The minimum limit is one replica.

Remove partitions

In contrast with removing replicas, which requires no extra effort on your part, you might have some work to do if you are using more storage than can be reduced. For example, if your solution is using three partitions, downsizing to one or two partitions will generate an error if the new storage space is less than required. As you might expect, your choices are to delete indexes or documents within an associated index to free up space, or keep the current configuration.

There is no detection method that tells you which index shards are stored on specific partitions. Each partition provides approximately 25 GB in storage, so you will need to reduce storage to a size that can be accommodated by the number of partitions you have. If you want to revert to one partition, all 12 shards will need to fit.

To help with future planning, you might want to check storage (using Get Index Statistics) to see how much you actually used.

Best practices on scale and deployment

This 30-minute video reviews best practices for advanced deployment scenarios, including geo-distributed workloads. You can also see Performance and optimization in Azure Search for help pages that cover the same points.

Next steps

Once you understand the concepts behind service administration, consider using PowerShell to automate tasks.

We also recommend reviewing the performance and optimization article.

Another recommendation is to watch the video noted in the previous section. It provides deeper coverage of the techniques mentioned in this section.