Can someone explain Magentos Indexing feature in detail?

I kind of get how the indexing in Magento works, but I haven’t seen any good documentation on this. I would kind of like to know the following.

  • How it works
  • What is its purpose
  • Why is it important
  • What are the details everyone should know about it
  • Anything else that can help someone fully understand what indexing is and how it is used in Magento

I think having this information will be of great use for others in my boat that don’t fully get the indexing process.

After the comment on my question and Ankur’s answer, I am thinking I am missing something in my knowledge of just normal Database Indexing. So is this just Magento’s version of handling indexing and is it better for me to get my answer in terms of Database indexing in general, such as this link here How does database indexing work?

3 thoughts on “Can someone explain Magentos Indexing feature in detail?”

  1. Magento’s indexing is only similar to database-level indexing in spirit. As Anton states, it is a process of denormalization to allow faster operation of a site. Let me try to explain some of the thoughts behind the Magento database structure and why it makes indexing necessary to operate at speed.

    In a more “typical” MySQL database, a table for storing catalog products would be structured something like this:

        product_id INT
        sku        VARCHAR
        name       VARCHAR
        size       VARCHAR
        longdesc   VARCHAR
        shortdesc  VARCHAR
        ... etc ...

    This is fast for retrieval, but it leaves a fundamental problem for a piece of eCommerce software: what do you do when you want to add more attributes? What if you sell toys, and rather than a size column, you need age_range? Well, you could add another column, but it should be clear that in a large store (think Walmart, for instance), this would result in rows that are 90% empty and attempting to maintenance new attributes is nigh impossible.

    To combat this problem, Magento splits tables into smaller units. I don’t want to recreate the entire EAV system in this answer, so please accept this simplified model:

        product_id INT
        sku        VARCHAR
        product_id   INT
        attribute_id INT
        value        MISC

    Now it’s possible to add attributes at will by entering new values into product_attributes and then putting adjoining records into product_attribute_values. This is basically what Magento does (with a little more respect for datatypes than I’ve displayed here). In fact, now there’s no reason for two products to have identical fields at all, so we can create entire product types with different sets of attributes!

    However, this flexibility comes at a cost. If I want to find the color of a shirt in my system (a trivial example), I need to find:

    1. The product_id of the item (in the product table)
    2. The attribute_id for color (in the attribute table)
    3. Finally, the actual value (in the attribute_values table)

    Magento used to work like this, but it was dead slow. So, to allow better performance, they made a compromise: once the shop owner has defined the attributes they want, go ahead and generate the big table from the beginning. When something changes, nuke it from space and generate it over again. That way, data is stored primarily in our nice flexible format, but queried from a single table.

    These resulting lookup tables are the Magento “indexes”. When you re-index, you are blowing up the old table and generating it again.

    Hope that clarifies things a bit!


  2. Magento indexing is not similar to normal database indexing and is more like database denormalization ( process. In most cases it takes the EAV structure and makes it available for flat table structure which is by no doubt faster to access and search through.

    If your normal EAV query would be 200 left joins to get all the products in catalog and data over their attributes and layered navigation values then after “indexing” this data is available through denormalized data structure for faster querying/access

  3. Magento indexing is somehow similar to normal database indexing, but the differece is that you need to do it manually in some case.

    when you do indexing, for example the catalog indexing then it make entry of your catalog product in the separate table for the different type of sorting, A small example is store, suppose you have a product and different detail for the different store, then first it will fetch the record from the complex joins in the separate table(when you will perform indexing)

    Other best example is layered navigation indexing: if you will run the layered navigation indexing then it will check in the product database for the all shop by filter attribute then on every attribute how may product are available it will also store that value.

    Mainly such type of indexing are required if you are doing some direct database changes or though your own custom code

    Please let me know if you have other query on indexing

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