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Methods to consider a vector database

Methods to consider a vector database


In in the present day’s data-driven world, the exponential development of unstructured information is a phenomenon that calls for our consideration. The rise of generative AI and massive language fashions (LLMs) has added much more gasoline to this information explosion, directing our focus towards a groundbreaking expertise: vector databases. As an important infrastructure within the age of AI, vector databases are highly effective instruments for storing, indexing, and looking unstructured information.

With the world’s consideration firmly fastened on vector databases, a urgent query arises: How do you choose the precise one for your online business wants? What are the important thing elements to think about when evaluating and evaluating vector databases? This publish will delve into these questions and supply insights from scalability, performance, and efficiency views, serving to you make knowledgeable choices on this dynamic panorama.

What’s a vector database?

Standard relational database programs handle information in structured tables with predefined codecs, they usually excel at executing exact search operations. In distinction, vector databases specialise in storing and retrieving unstructured information, comparable to photos, audio, movies, and textual content, via high-dimensional numerical representations referred to as vector embeddings.

Vector databases are well-known for similarity searches, using strategies just like the approximate nearest neighbor (ANN) algorithm. The ANN algorithm arranges information in accordance with spatial relationships and rapidly identifies the closest information level to a given question inside intensive datasets.

Builders use vector databases in constructing recommender programs, chatbots, and purposes for looking comparable photos, movies, and audio. With the rise of ChatGPT, vector databases have grow to be helpful in addressing the hallucination points of enormous language fashions.

Vector databases vs. different vector search applied sciences

Varied applied sciences can be found for vector looking past vector databases. In 2017, Meta open-sourced FAISS, considerably decreasing the prices and limitations related to vector looking. In 2019, Zilliz launched Milvus, a purpose-built open-source vector database main the best way within the business. Since then, many different vector databases have emerged. The pattern of vector databases took off in 2022 with the entry of many conventional search merchandise comparable to Elasticsearch and Redis and the widespread use of LLMs like GPT.

What are the similarities and variations amongst all of those vector search merchandise? I roughly categorize them into the next sorts:

  • Vector search libraries. These are collections of algorithms with out fundamental database functionalities like insert, delete, replace, question, information persistence, and scalability. FAISS is a main instance.
  • Light-weight vector databases. These are constructed on vector search libraries, making them light-weight in deployment however with poor scalability and efficiency. Chroma is one such instance.
  • Vector search plugins. These are vector search add-ons that depend on conventional databases. Nevertheless, their structure is for standard workloads, which may negatively influence their efficiency and scalability. Elasticsearch and Pgvector are main examples.
  • Function-built vector databases. These databases are purpose-built for vector looking and supply important benefits over different vector-searching applied sciences. For instance, devoted vector databases present options comparable to distributed computing and storage, catastrophe restoration, and information persistence. Milvus is a main instance.

Methods to consider a vector database?

When assessing a vector database, scalability, performance, and efficiency are the highest three most vital metrics.


Scalability is crucial for figuring out whether or not a vector database can deal with exponentially rising information successfully. When evaluating scalability, we should think about horizontal vs. vertical scalability, load balancing, and a number of replications.

Horizontal vs. vertical scalability

Totally different vector databases make use of numerous scaling strategies to accommodate enterprise development calls for. As an example, Pinecone and Qdrant go for vertical scaling, whereas Milvus adopts horizontal scaling. Horizontal scalability gives better flexibility and efficiency than vertical scaling, with fewer higher limits.

Load balancing

Scheduling is essential for a distributed system. Its velocity, granularity, and precision straight affect load administration and system efficiency, decreasing scalability if not accurately optimized.

A number of reproduction help

A number of replicas allow differential responses to numerous queries, enhancing the system’s velocity (measured in queries per second, QPS) and total scalability.

Totally different vector databases cater to several types of customers, so their scalability methods differ. For instance, Milvus concentrates on situations with quickly rising information volumes and makes use of a horizontally scalable structure with storage-compute separation. Pinecone and Qdrant are designed for customers with extra reasonable information quantity and scaling calls for. LanceDB and Chroma prioritize light-weight deployments over scalability.


I classify the performance of vector databases into two primary classes, database-oriented options and vector-oriented options.

Vector-oriented options

Vector databases profit many use instances, comparable to retrieval-augmented technology (RAG), recommender programs, and semantic similarity search utilizing varied indexes. Subsequently, the flexibility to help a number of index sorts is a essential consider evaluating a vector database.

At present, most vector databases help HNSW (hierarchical navigable small world) indexes, with some additionally accommodating IVF (inverted file) indexes. These indexes are appropriate for in-memory operations and finest fitted to environments with ample sources. Nevertheless, some vector databases select mmap-based options for conditions with restricted {hardware} sources. Whereas simpler to implement, the mmap-based options come at the price of efficiency.

Milvus, one of many longest-standing vector databases, helps 11 index sorts together with disk-based and GPU-based indexes. This method ensures adaptability to a variety of software situations.

Database-oriented options

Many options helpful for conventional databases additionally apply to vector databases, comparable to change information seize (CDC), multi-tenancy help, useful resource teams, and role-based entry management (RBAC). Milvus and some conventional databases geared up with vector plugins successfully help these database-oriented options.


Efficiency is essentially the most essential metric for assessing a vector database. In contrast to standard databases, vector databases conduct approximate searches, that means the highest okay outcomes retrieved can’t assure 100% accuracy. Subsequently, along with conventional metrics comparable to queries per second (QPS) and latency, “recall price” is one other important efficiency metric for vector databases that quantifies retrieval accuracy.

I like to recommend two well-recognized open-source benchmarking instruments to guage totally different metrics: ANN-Benchmark and VectorDBBench. Full disclosure: VectorDBBench was created by Zilliz, as described under.


Vector indexing is a essential and resource-intensive facet of a vector database. Its efficiency straight impacts the general database efficiency. ANN-Benchmark is a number one benchmarking instrument developed by Martin Aumueller, Erik Bernhardsson, Alec Faitfull, and several other different contributors for evaluating the efficiency of numerous vector index algorithms throughout a variety of actual datasets.

ANN-Benchmark means that you can graph the outcomes of testing recall/queries per second of assorted algorithms primarily based on any of numerous precomputed datasets. It plots the recall price on the x-axis in opposition to QPS on the y-axis, illustrating every algorithm’s efficiency at totally different ranges of retrieval accuracy.

For benchmarking outcomes, see the ANN-Benchmark web site.


Though the ANN-Benchmark is extremely helpful for choosing and evaluating totally different vector looking algorithms, it doesn’t present a complete overview of vector databases. We should additionally think about elements like useful resource consumption, information loading capability, and system stability. Furthermore, ANN-Benchmark misses many widespread situations, comparable to filtered vector looking.

VectorDBBench is an open-source benchmarking instrument we created at Zilliz that may deal with the above-mentioned limitations. It’s designed for open-source vector databases like Milvus and Weaviate and fully-managed companies like Zilliz Cloud and Pinecone. As a result of many absolutely managed vector search companies don’t expose their parameters for consumer tuning, VectorDBBench shows QPS and recall charges individually.

For benchmarking outcomes, see the VectorDBBench web site.

Within the dynamic realm of vector databases, quite a few merchandise exhibit distinctive emphases and strengths. There isn’t any common “finest” vector database; the selection relies on your wants. Subsequently, evaluating a vector database’s scalability, performance, efficiency, and compatibility together with your specific use instances, is significant. 

Li Liu is the principal engineer at Zilliz, main vector search analysis and improvement. Earlier than becoming a member of Zilliz, Liu was a senior engineer at Meta, designing and shaping quite a few promoting stream information frameworks. With a Grasp’s diploma from Carnegie Mellon College, he boasts intensive expertise in databases and massive information. Li Liu’s experience in expertise and innovation continues to drive developments in vector looking, leaving a long-lasting influence on the sector.

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