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Last updated: 6 Sep 2023

search-api-v2: ADR 001: Consume `search-api-v2` directly from Finder Frontend; read from MQ



We are building a new API (search-api-v2, in this repository) to supplement the existing search-api. Initially, this will only serve the specific use case of "site search" (specifically the /search/all finder as used by finder-frontend) and provide a simplified strict subset of the existing API.

Both the existing and new APIs should be able to be queried by downstream "consumers" (for example, finder-frontend) within the GOV.UK technology landscape and need to ingest content from upstream "producers" (for example, whitehall).

Currently this happens in the following way:

  • finder-frontend currently exclusively queries the existing search-api as its backend and doesn't discriminate between different finders
  • Content ingestion into the existing search-api from upstream content platforms happens in two ways with opposite directions, and only the latter can easily be adapted to have multiple consumers:
    • a "legacy" REST API (push-based from the upstream platform) used by Whitehall
    • a message queue (pull-based from search-api or arbitrary other consumers) used by all other publishing applications

However, as of the recent decomissioning of all frontend functionality in Whitehall, the publishing message queue does receive updates for all content (content types on the message queue that are pushed over the legacy API are ignored by the existing search-api to avoid duplicate content).

Considered options

For the interaction with upstream producers, we only considered adapting the existing message queue exchange into a fanout exchange that can serve multiple listeners (including both the existing search-api and the new search-api-v2), as this option is simple, architecturally reasonable and readily available to us.

For the interaction with downstream consumers, we considered the following options:

  • Modify finder-frontend to talk to either API depending on which finder is in use
  • Deploy a separate version of finder-frontend exclusively for use with search-api-v2, and route the finders that should use the new API to this application instead
  • Build a unified adapter API that sits between finder-frontend and both search APIs, and route traffic to the appropriate API based on search parameters
  • Add the ability for either the old or the new API to call out to the respective other one based on search parameters, and make it the "primary" API finder-frontend talks to

Decision drivers

  • There is a readily available seam in the form of finder-frontend's Search::Query service object, which has access to the finder currently in use and the running AB tests, which is all the information needed to make a routing decision between the two APIs in a couple of lines of code in a single place
  • If desired in the future, this approach would still allow us to add information about which API to use into the content item schema for finders and use that as a migration pattern instead of hardcoding a finder path
  • Having a separate frontend would still require code changes in, or worse, a semi-permanent branching/forking of, finder-frontend
  • Building an adapter API would add another semi-permanent deployable unit to the technology landscape, and the API would immediately need to handle all search traffic, bringing with it a high risk of failure and increasing time to MVP
  • Making either API call out to the other one would add coupling between them, making future migration and decomissioning more complicated and possibly adding a dependency on a brittle legacy service


We will modify finder-frontend to talk to either API depending on which finder is in use, initially by checking for the path of the finder and AB test values, leaving open the option of making the decision "smarter" in the future, for example by adding a API version field to the finder schema.