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Thank you very much for your kind words, I really appreciate them!
I believe this might be something you are interested in: Documentation – Fine tuning the search performance
It covers most possibilities to improve the overall performance, by reducing the number of queries made to the database one way or another.
There is no ajax call made individually, unless the auto populate feature is enabled. The queries are either actualy live searches, or the users arrive on non-cached pages or pages with expried cache (?), or perhaps the search results page, which is usually not cached entirely. With 400-500 active users at times, I can imagine the combination of these.
The 'SHOW TABLES LIKE wp_ajaxsearchpro' query is executed during the initialization process to check if the table exists before getting the instance data. The table name is correct, there is only one table for search instances shared across the multisite. The instance data is not stored in the options table for better performance, as it is faster to query the information from smaller tables – and the wp_options table can grow very fast to a big size.
I will take a look at the instance initialization class, as I believe there might be a possible optimization I could make for the upcoming update. Currently it fetches the instances even if the search shortcode is not present on the page during the initialization. I believe I can refactor it, simply to get the instances on-demand only (if possible). It won't affect the performance much, especially in cases where the search shortcode is present on most pages, but it's something I can do.Best,
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