Vespa Newsletter, January 2023 | Vespa Blog

Kristian Aune

Kristian Aune

Head of Customer Success, Vespa

It’s a busy winter at the Vespa HQ. We are working on some major new features,
which will be announced soon, but we’re also finding the time to make smaller improvements – see below!

Interested in search ranking? Don’t miss these blog posts

We have done some deep diving into using machine learning to improve ranking in search applications lately,
and of course, we’re blogging and open-sourcing all the details to make it easy for you to build on what we are doing.
See these recent blog posts:

New Vespa improvements

In the previous update,
we mentioned ANN pre-filter performance, parent field hit estimates,
model training notebooks, and Vespa Cloud GCP Support.
This time, we have the following improvements:

Simpler tensor JSON format

Since Vespa 8.111, Vespa allows tensor field values to be written in JSON
without the intermediate map containing “blocks”, “cells” or “values”.
The tensor type will then dictate the format of the tensor content.
Tensors can also be returned in this format in
and model evaluation
by requesting the format short-value –
see the tensor format documentation.

Supplying values for missing fields during indexing

Vespa allows you to add fields outside the “document” section in the schema configuration
that get their values from fields in the document.
For example, you can add a vector embedding of a title and description field like this:

field myEmbedding type tensor(x[128]) {
    indexing: input title . " " . input description | embed | attribute

But what if descriptions are sometimes missing?
Then Vespa won’t produce an embedding value at all, which may not be what you want.
From 8.116, you can specify an alternative value for expressions that don’t produce a value
using the || syntax:

field myEmbedding type tensor(x[128]) {
    indexing: input title . " " . (input description || "") | embed | attribute

Since January 31, it is possible to set up private connectivity between a customer’s VPC
and their Vespa Cloud application using AWS PrivateLink.
This provides clients safe, non-public access to their applications
using private IPs accessible from within their own VPCs –
read more.

Content node performance

Vespa content nodes store the data written to Vespa, maintain indexes over it, and run matching and ranking.
Most applications spend the majority of their hardware resources on content nodes.

  • Improving query performance is made easier with new match phase profiling
    since Vespa 8.114. This gives insight into what’s most costly in matching your queries (ranking was already supported).
    Read more at phased-ranking.html.
  • Since Vespa 8.116, Vespa requires minimum
    Haswell microarchitecture.
    A more recent optimization target enables better optimizations and, in some cases, gives 10-15% better ranking performance.
    It is still possible to run on older microarchitectures, but then you must compile from source;
    see #25693.

Vespa start and stop script improvements

Vespa runs in many environments, from various self-hosted technology stacks to Vespa Cloud –
see multinode-systems
and basic-search-on-gke.
To support running as a non-root user inside containers with better debug support,
the vespa start/stop-scripts are now refactored and simplified –
this will also make Vespa start/stop snappier in some cases.

Container Performance and Security

With Vespa 8.111, Vespa upgraded its embedded Jetty server from version 9.x to 11.0.13.
The upgrade increases performance in some use cases, mainly when using HTTP/2,
and also includes several security fixes provided with the Jetty upgrade.

Log settings in services.xml

During debugging, it is useful to be able to tune which messages end up in the log,
especially when developing custom components.
This can be done with the vespa-logctl tool on each node.
Since Vespa 8.100, you can also control log settings in services.xml –
see logging.
This is also very convenient when deploying on Vespa Cloud.

Vespa Cloud: Autoscaling with multiple groups

When allocating resources on Vespa Cloud
you can specify both the number of nodes and node groups you want in content clusters
(each group has one or more complete copies of all the data and can handle a query independently):

<nodes count="20" groups="2">

If you want the system to automatically find the best values for the given load, you can configure ranges:

<nodes count="[10, 30]" groups="[1, 3]">

This might lead to groups of sizes from 4 to 30, which may be fine,
but sometimes you want to control the size of groups instead?
From 8.116, you can configure group size instead (or in addition to) the number of groups:

<nodes count="[10, 30]" group-size="10">

Like the other values, group-size can also be ranges.
See the documentation.

In addition to choosing resources, a content cluster must also be configured with a redundancy –
the number of copies to keep of each piece of data in each group.
With variable groups this may cause you to have more copies than you strictly need to avoid data loss,
so since 8.116, you can instead configure the minimum redundancy:


The system will then ensure you have at least this many copies of the data,
but not make more copies than necessary in each group.

Vespa Cloud: Separate read/write data plane access control

When configuring the client certificate to use for your incoming requests (data plane) on Vespa Cloud,
you can now specify whether each certificate should have read- or write-access or both.
This allows you to e.g., use one certificate for clients with read access while having another –
perhaps less distributed – certificate for write access.
See the Security Guide
for more details on how to configure it.

Thanks for reading! Try out Vespa on Vespa Cloud
or grab the latest release at and run it yourself! 😀