Apache Solr and External (non-Drupal) Content

Posted by Lucas Hedding on October 25, 2012
Project Management
Strategy & Architecture

In a recent project, we had some non-Drupal content that needed to be indexed so we could expose that content to the apachesolr module for indexing with all the rest of Drupal created content. There are several options to do this, including crawling using nutch. However in our case, the content is grabbed as xml content from a web service. We already ha an xslt transform to convert it into html content to embed in the site. In effect, we already had the raw content and knew all the "entity ids" so we didn't need to crawl.

Our problem became, "What is the best way to take the title and body text of these documents and throw them in the direction of solr". Our solution involved using the ApacheSolrDocument class from apachesolr and a little but of drush magic. Since there are several thousand of these external content documents, you'll see attention to performance throughout.

This solution is very extensible. If we need to add a new content type, we just add two new function, 'example_entity_ids_new_entity_type' & 'example_retrieve_documents_new_entity_type'. The first function creates an array of entity_ids that need to be created and deleted from solr. The second function prepares a stdClass with all the required fields. The last function, 'example_document_prepare' transfers all the data from the stdClass array into the ApacheSolrDocument class.

 * @file
 * External indexing for non-drupal.

 * @return array() $entity_ids
 *   The list of documents that should be added/deleted from the solr index
function example_entity_ids_external_content($force = FALSE) {
  $entity_ids['delete_ids'] = array();
  $entity_ids['create_ids'] = array();

  // Retrieve the external_content entity ids using the SOAP veneer
  $cid = 'example_documentIds';
  $response = external_content_api('GetIDs', array(
    'localizationCode' => 'en-us'
  ), $cid);

  // Cache the entity ids
  cache_set($cid, $response, 'cache_external_content');

  // Grab only the entity ids
  $response_entity_ids = $response->GetIDsResult->string;

  // Check if there are any new entities to index in solr
  if ($force || $response_entity_ids != variable_get('example_external_content', array())) {
    // Calculate the ids that need to be deleted from the index
    $delete_entity_ids = variable_get('example_external_content', array());
    $entity_ids['delete_ids'] = array_diff($delete_entity_ids, $response_entity_ids);

    // Assign list of entity ids that need to be created in the index
    $entity_ids['create_ids'] = response_entity_ids;

    // Put away the new list of entity ids
    variable_set('example_external_content', $response_entity_ids);

  return $entity_ids;
 * This takes entity ids and returns a structured array of documents
 * The document object should contain:
 *   $document->entity_id (string or long)
 *   $document->entity_type (string)
 *   $document->title (string)
 *   $document->body (string>
 *   $document->path (string)
 *   $document->language (optional string)
 * @param string array $entity_ids
 *   The external_content entity ids to index in solr
 * @return array() $documents
 *   stdClass array of documents to index
function example_retrieve_documents_external_content($entity_ids = array()) {
  $documents = array();
  foreach ($entity_ids as $i => $entity_id) {
    $cid = $entity_id;
    $response = external_content_api('GetDocument', array(
      'ext_id' => $entity_id,
    ), $cid);
    cache_set($cid, $response, 'cache_external_content');
    $xml_document = new DOMDocument;
    $xml_document = external_content_transform($xml_document, 'content');
    $html_document = new DOMDocument();
    // DOMDocument complains about malformed html, get rid of these errors
    $xpath = new DOMXPath($html_document);

    $document = new stdClass();
    $document->entity_id = $entity_id;
    $document->entity_type = 'external_content';
    $document->title = $xpath->query('//h1[@id="ContentTitle"]')->item(0)->nodeValue;
    $document->body = $xpath->query('//div[contains(@class, "BodySection")]')->item(0)->nodeValue;
    $document->path = 'external_content/' . $entity_id;
    $documents[] = $document;

    // Helpful in dev environments where we don't really need to index every external_content document
    if ($i == variable_get('example_external_content_limit', 100)) {
  return $documents;

 * @param array $documents
 *   The stdClass array of documents to index
function example_document_prepare($documents = array()) {
  $solr_documents = array();

  foreach ($documents as $document) {
    // Since we can't use drupal's nid, make sure we get a mostly unique numeric entity id
    // Still a possible chance of clashes since we have to trim the number to 18 positions
    $entity_id_hash = substr(base_convert(sha1($document->entity_id), 16, 10), 0, 18);

    $solr_document = new ApacheSolrDocument();
    $solr_document->addField('id', apachesolr_document_id($entity_id_hash, $document->entity_type));
    $solr_document->addField('site', url(NULL, array(
      'absolute' => TRUE
    $solr_document->addField('hash', apachesolr_site_hash());

    $solr_document->addField('entity_id', $entity_id_hash);
    $solr_document->addField('entity_type', $document->entity_type);
    $solr_document->addField('bundle', $document->entity_type);
    $solr_document->addField('bundle_name', ucwords($document->entity_type));
    $solr_document->addField('path', $document->path);
    $solr_document->addField('url', url($document->path, array(
      'absolute' => TRUE
    $solr_document->addField('language', $document->language ? $document->language : LANGUAGE_NONE);
    $solr_document->addField('label', apachesolr_clean_text($document->title));
    $content = apachesolr_clean_text($document->body);
    $solr_document->addField('content', $content);
    $solr_document->addField('teaser', truncate_utf8($content, 300, TRUE));
    $solr_documents[$entity_id_hash] = $solr_document;
  return $solr_documents;

The final step is to drive everything with a drush script. Its a pretty strait forward script. The only thing special about it is a means to "force" a re-index of all content.


 * @file
 *   example drush commands.

 * Implementation of hook_drush_command().
 * @return
 *   An associative array describing your command(s).
function example_drush_command() {
  $items = array();

  $items['example-solr-index'] = array(
    'callback' => 'drush_example_index',
    'description' => dt('Indexes specified content.'),
    'arguments' => array(
      'types' => dt('A space delimited list of entity types to be re-indexed.'),
    'options' => array(
      'force' => dt('Optional. Re-indexes all content of specified entity type.')
    'examples' => array(
      'drush example-solr-index external-content' => dt('Indexes all un-indexed external-content entities.'),
      'drush example-solr-index --force external-content' => dt('Re-indexes all external-content entities.'),
    'aliases' => array(

  return $items;

 * Implements hook_drush_help().
 * This function is called whenever a drush user calls
 * 'drush help <name-of-your-command>'
 * @param string $section
 *   A string with the help section (prepend with 'drush:')
 * @return string
 *   A string with the help text for your command.
function example_drush_help($section) {
  switch ($section) {
    case 'drush:example-solr-index':
      return dt("Indexes specified content. If you want to re-index all content, specify --force.");

 * Selectively (re)-index content from the solr index.
 * Each argument is a filter on what to (re)-index .
 * They are of the form entity (to (re)-index all content of that
 * entity).
function drush_example_index() {
  module_load_include('inc', 'apachesolr', 'apachesolr.index');
  module_load_include('inc', 'example', 'example_external_index');

  $args = func_get_args();
  $force = drush_get_option('force', FALSE);
  $env_id = apachesolr_default_environment();

  if (count($args) > 0) {
    foreach ($args as $entity_type) {
      // Retrieve the entity ids
      $function_name = _example_function_name('example_entity_ids_', $entity_type);
      $entity_ids = call_user_func($function_name, $force);

      // Delete documents from index
      foreach ($entity_ids['delete_ids'] as $entity_id) {
        apachesolr_index_delete_entity_from_index($env_id, $entity_type, $entity_id);

      // Retrieve the new documents
      $function_name = _example_function_name('example_retrieve_documents_', $entity_type);
      $documents = call_user_func($function_name, $entity_ids['create_ids']);

      // Prepare the new documents
      $documents = example_document_prepare($documents);

      // Force replacement of all index entries
      if ($force) {
        $docs_chunk = array_chunk($documents, 20, TRUE);
        foreach ($docs_chunk as $docs) {
          foreach ($docs as $entity_id => $doc) {
            apachesolr_index_delete_entity_from_index($env_id, $entity_type, $entity_id);
          apachesolr_index_send_to_solr($env_id, $docs);
        // Create the new index entries
      else {
        apachesolr_index_send_to_solr($env_id, $documents);
  else {
    drush_set_error('An entity type must be specified');

  drush_print(t('Done (re)-indexing : ' . implode(' ', $args)));

function _example_function_name($prefix, $suffix) {
  $function_name = $prefix . $suffix;
  if (!is_callable($function_name)) {
    throw new ErrorException(ucwords($suffix) . ' not implemented correctly.  Function missing: ' . $function_name,
  return $function_name;


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Apache Solr and External (non-Drupal) Content