Cassandra documentation from DataStax

DataStax's latest Cassandra documentation covers topics from installation to troubleshooting. Documentation for older releases is also available.


This document aims to provide a few easy to follow steps to take the first-time user from installation, to running single node Cassandra, and overview to configure multinode cluster. Cassandra is meant to run on a cluster of nodes, but will run equally well on a single machine. This is a handy way of getting familiar with the software while avoiding the complexities of a larger system.

Step 0: Prerequisites and connection to the community

Cassandra requires the most stable version of Java 1.6 you can deploy. For Sun's jvm, this means at least u19; u21 is better. Cassandra also runs on the IBM jvm, and should run on jrockit as well.

The best way to ensure you always have up to date information on the project, releases, stability, bugs, and features is to subscribe to the users mailing list (subscription required) and participate in the #cassandra channel on IRC.

Step 1: Download Cassandra Kit

For more details about misc builds, please refer to Cassandra versions and builds page.

Step 2: Edit configuration files

Step 2.1: Edit cassandra.yaml

The distribution's sample configuration conf/cassandra.yaml contains reasonable defaults for single node operation, but you will need to make sure that the paths exist for data_file_directories, commitlog_directory, and saved_caches_directory.

Verify storage_port and rpc_port are not conflict with other service on your computer. By default, Cassandra uses 7000 for storage_port, and 9160 for rpc_port. The storage_port must be identical between Cassandra nodes in a cluster. Cassandra client applications will use rpc_port to connect to Cassandra.

It will be a good idea to change cluster_name to avoid unnecessary conflict with existing clusters.

initial_token. You can leave it blank, but I recommend you to set it to 0 if you are configuring your first node.

Step 2.2: Edit

conf/ contains a path for the log file. Edit the line if you need.

# Edit the next line to point to your logs directory

Step 2.3: Edit

Cassandra has JMX (Java Management Extensions) interface, and the JMX_PORT is defined in conf/ Edit following line if you need.

# Specifies the default port over which Cassandra will be available for
# JMX connections.

By default, Cassandra will allocate memory based on physical memory your system has. For example it will allocate 1GB heap on 2GB system, and 2GB heap on 8GB system. If you want to specify Cassandra heap size, remove leading pound sign(#) on the following lines and specify memory size for them.


If you are not familiar with Java GC, 1/4 of MAX_HEAP_SIZE may be a good start point for HEAP_NEWSIZE.

Cassandra will need more than few GB heap for production use, but you can run it with smaller footprint for test drive. If you want to assign 96MB as max, edit the lines as following.


If you face OutOfMemory exceptions or massive GCs with this configuration, increase these values. Don't start your production service with such tiny heap configuration!

Step 3: Start up Cassandra

And now for the moment of truth, start up Cassandra by invoking bin/cassandra -f from the command line1. The service should start in the foreground and log gratuitously to standard-out. Assuming you don't see messages with scary words like "error", or "fatal", or anything that looks like a Java stack trace, then chances are you've succeeded.

Press "Control-C" to stop Cassandra.

If you start up Cassandra without "-f" option, it will run in background, so you need to kill the process to stop.

Step 4: Using cassandra-cli

bin/cassandra-cli is a interactive command line interface for Cassandra. You can define schema, store and fetch data with the tool. Run following command to connect to your Cassandra instance.

bin/cassandra-cli -h host -p rpc_port

% bin/cassandra-cli -h -p 9160

Then you will see following cassandra-cli prompt.

Connected to: "Test Cluster" on
Welcome to Cassandra CLI version 1.0.7

Type 'help;' or '?' for help.
Type 'quit;' or 'exit;' to quit.


You can access to the online help with 'help;' command. You need semicolon(;) at end to complete a command in cli.

[default@unknown] help;

First, create a keyspace for your test.

[default@unknown] create keyspace DEMO;  
Waiting for schema agreement...
... schemas agree across the cluster

Don't forget to add semicolon(;) at end of the command.

Second, authenticate you to use DEMO keyspace.

[default@unknown] use DEMO;
Authenticated to keyspace: DEMO

Third, create a column family Users, just for test.

[default@DEMO] create column family Users;
Waiting for schema agreement...
... schemas agree across the cluster

Now you can store data into Users column family.

[default@DEMO] set Users[utf8('1234')][utf8('name')] = utf8('scott');
Value inserted.
Elapsed time: 10 msec(s).
[default@DEMO] set Users[utf8('1234')][utf8('password')] = utf8('tiger');
Value inserted.
Elapsed time: 10 msec(s).

You have inserted a row to Users column family. The row key is '1234', and we set the 2 columns in the row: column named 'name', and 'password'. 'utf8()' means to treat the data as UTF8 string. Refer to 'help set;' for more details. Now let's try to fetch data you inserted.

[default@DEMO] get Users[utf8('1234')];
=> (column=6e616d65, value=73636f7474, timestamp=1330051295937000)
=> (column=70617373776f7264, value=7469676572, timestamp=1330051308368000)

Returned 2 results.
Elapsed time: 9 msec(s).

You may notice that the column name and value are not displayed as string. Use 'assume' command to let Cassandra to know the data type of the key, column name and value.

[default@DEMO] assume Users keys as utf8;
Assumption for column family 'Users' added successfully.
[default@DEMO] assume Users comparator as utf8;
Assumption for column family 'Users' added successfully.
[default@DEMO] assume Users validator as utf8;      
Assumption for column family 'Users' added successfully.
[default@DEMO] get Users['1234'];
=> (column=name, value=scott, timestamp=1330051295937000)
=> (column=password, value=tiger, timestamp=1330051308368000)

Returned 2 results.
Elapsed time: 9 msec(s).

Please note that we didn't use "utf8()" for the row key this time. You can define the data type as meta data of the column family. Check 'help update column family;' and 'help create column family;' for more details.

To be certain though, take some time to try out the examples in CassandraCli before moving on Also, if you run into problems, Don't Panic, calmly proceed to If Something Goes Wrong.

Configuring Multinode Cluster

Now you have single working Cassandra node. It is a Cassandra cluster which has only one node. By adding more nodes, you can make it a multi node cluster.

Setting up a Cassandra cluster is almost as simple as repeating the above procedures for each node in your cluster. There are a few minor exceptions though.

Cassandra nodes exchange information about one another using a mechanism called Gossip, but to get the ball rolling a newly started node needs to know of at least one other, this is called a Seed. It's customary to pick a small number of relatively stable nodes to serve as your seeds, but there is no hard-and-fast rule here. Do make sure that each seed also knows of at least one other, remember, the goal is to avoid a chicken-and-egg scenario and provide an avenue for all nodes in the cluster to discover one another.

In addition to seeds, you'll also need to configure the IP interface to listen on for Gossip and Thrift, (listen_address and rpc_address respectively). Use a 'listen_address that will be reachable from the listen_address used on all other nodes, and a rpc_address` that will be accessible to clients.

One other thing you need to care at multi node cluster is Token. Each node in the cluster owns a part of token range from 0 to 2^127-1. If the Nth node in the cluster has token value T(N), the node owns range from T(N-1)+1 to T(N). Cassandra decide nodes where a data should be stored based on the consistent mapping of the row key and token range (refer to RandomPartitioner, ByteOrderedPartitioner).

The token can be assigned to node by initial_token parameter in cassandra.yaml. The parameter is effective only at the first boot of the node. Once you boot a node, use 'nodetool move' command to change the assigned token. You need to specify appropriate initial_token for each node to balance data load across the nodes. Here is a python script to calculate balanced tokens.

# Number of nodes in the cluster
num_node = 4

for n in range(num_node):
    print int(2**127 / num_node * n)

Once everything is configured and the nodes are running, use the bin/nodetool ring utility to verify a properly connected cluster. For example:

eevans@achilles:‾$ bin/nodetool -host -p 7199 ring
Address       Status     Load          Range                                      Ring
                                       169048975998562660269742699624378098572  Up         0.02 GB     14183696824377310051808173385764689249     |<--|  Up         0.4 GB      28356863910078205288614550619314017621     |   ^  Up         0.13 GB     42530828068625072228863933889289238187     |-->|

Advanced cluster management is described in Operations.

If you don't yet have access to hardware for a Cassandra cluster you can try it out on EC2 with CloudConfig.

For more details about configuring multi node cluster, please refer to MultinodeCluster.

Write your application

The recommended way to communicate with Cassandra in your application is to use a higher-level client. These provide programming language specific API:s for talking to Cassandra in a variety of languages. The details will vary depending on programming language and client, but in general using a higher-level client will mean that you have to write less code and get several features for free that you would otherwise have to write yourself.

That said, it is useful to know that Cassandra uses Thrift for its external client-facing API. Cassandra's main API/RPC/Thrift port is 9160. Thrift supports a wide variety of languages so you can code your application to use Thrift directly if you so chose (but again we recommend a high-level client where available).

Important note: If you intend to use thrift directly, you need to install a version of thrift that matches the revision that your version of Cassandra uses. InstallThrift

Cassandra's main API/RPC/Thrift port is 9160 by default, which is defined as rpc_port in cassandra.yaml. It is a common mistake for API clients to connect to the JMX port instead.

Checking out a demo application like Twissandra (Python + Django) will also be useful.

If Something Goes Wrong

If you followed the steps in this guide and failed to get up and running, we'd love to help. Here's what we need.

  1. If you are running anything other than a stable release, please upgrade first and see if you can still reproduce the problem.
  2. Make sure debug logging is enabled (hint: conf/ and save a copy of the output.

  3. Search the mailing list archive and see if anyone has reported a similar problem and what, if any resolution they received.

  4. Ditto for the bug tracking system.

  5. See if you can put together a unit test, script, or application that reproduces the problem.

Finally, post a message with all relevant details to the list (subscription required), or hop onto IRC (network, channel #cassandra) and let us know.


  1. To learn more about controlling the behavior of startup scripts, see RunningCassandra. (1)

GettingStarted_draft (last edited 2012-02-24 02:55:45 by tok-nat)