Cassandra Storage Engine Overview

CassandraSE is no longer actively being developed and has been removed in MariaDB 10.6. See MDEV-23024.


MariaDB starting with 10.0.1

Cassandra storage engine is a part of MariaDB 10.0, starting from MariaDB 10.0.1.

The Cassandra storage engine is included but is not installed/activated by default.

If using the YUM repositories on Fedora, Red Hat, or CentOS, first install the Cassandra storage engine package with:

yum install MariaDB-cassandra-engine

If using the Debian or Ubuntu repositories, the Cassandra plugin is in the main MariaDB server package.

To install/activate the storage engine into MariaDB, issue the following command:

install soname ''; 

You can also activate the storage engine by using the --plugin-load command on server startup.

MariaDB 5.5.27

There was also a preview release based on MariaDB 5.5 with a source tarball and x86_64 binaries for Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin. It is available from here:

The Cassandra storage engine is not included in any regular MariaDB 5.5 release.


The Cassandra Storage Engine allows access to data in a Cassandra cluster from MariaDB. The overall architecture is shown in the picture below and is similar to that of the NDB cluster storage engine.


You can access the same Cassandra cluster from multiple MariaDB instances, provided each of them runs the Cassandra Storage Engine:


The primary goal of Cassandra SE (Storage Engine) is data integration between the SQL and NoSQL worlds. Have you ever needed to:

  • grab some of Cassandra's data from your web frontend, or SQL query?
  • insert a few records into Cassandra from some part of your app?

Now, this is easily possible. Cassandra SE makes Cassandra's column family appear as a table in MariaDB that you can insert to, update, and select from. You can write joins against this table, it is possible to join data that's stored in MariaDB with data that's stored in Cassandra.

Versions in MariaDB

Cassandra SE VersionIntroducedMaturity
Cassandra SE 1.8MariaDB 10.0.1Experimental

What about CQL?

The Cassandra Query Language (CQL) is the best way to work with Cassandra. It resembles SQL on first glance, however the resemblance is very shallow. CQL queries are tightly bound to the way Cassandra accesses its data internally. For example, you can't have even the smallest join. In fact, adding a mere ... AND non_indexed_column=1 into a WHERE clause is already invalid CQL.

Our goal is to let one work in SQL instead of having to move between CQL and SQL all the time.

Does this make Cassandra an SQL database?

No. Cassandra SE is not suitable for running analytics-type queries that sift through huge amounts of data in a Cassandra cluster. That task is better handled by Hadoop-based tools like Apache Pig or Apache Hive. Cassandra SE is rather a "window" from an SQL environment into NoSQL.

Data mapping

Let's get specific. In order to access Cassandra's data from MariaDB, one needs to create a table with engine=cassandra. The table will represent a view of a Column Family in Cassandra and its definition will look like so:

set cassandra_default_thrift_host='' -- Cassandra's address. It can also
                                                 -- be specified as startup parameter
                                                 -- or on per-table basis

create table cassandra_tbl      -- table name can be chosen at will
  rowkey  type PRIMARY KEY,     -- represents Column Family's rowkey. Primary key
                                -- must be defined over this column.

  column1 type,                 -- Cassandra's static columns can be mapped to 
  column2 type,                 -- regular SQL columns.

  dynamic_cols blob DYNAMIC_COLUMN_STORAGE=yes -- If you need to access Cassandra's
                                               -- dynamic columns, you can define
                                               -- a blob which will receive all of 
                                               -- them, packed as MariaDB's dynamic
                                               -- columns.
) engine=cassandra
  keyspace= 'cassandra_key_space'        -- Cassandra's keyspace.columnFamily we  
  column_family='column_family_name';    -- are accessing.

The name of the table can be arbitrary. However, primary key, column names, and types must "match" those of Cassandra.

Cassandra's rowkey

The table must define a column that corresponds to the Column Family's rowkey.

  • If Cassandra's rowkey has an alias (or name), then MariaDB's column must have the same name.
    • Otherwise, it must be named "rowkey".
  • The type of MariaDB's column must match the validation_class of Cassandra's rowkey (datatype matching is covered in more detail below).

Note: Multi-column primary keys are currently not supported. Support may be added in a future version, depending on whether there is a demand for it.

Cassandra's static columns

Cassandra allows one to define a "static column family", where column metadata is defined in the Column Family header and is obeyed by all records.

These "static" columns can be mapped to regular columns in MariaDB. A static column named 'foo' in Cassandra should have a counterpart named 'foo' in MariaDB. The types must also match, they are covered below.

Cassandra's dynamic columns

Cassandra also allows individual rows to have their own sets of columns. In other words, each row can have its own unique columns.

These columns can be accessed through MariaDB's Dynamic Columns feature. To do so, one must define a column:

  • with an arbitrary name
  • of type blob
  • with the DYNAMIC_COLUMN_STORAGE=yes attribute

Here is an example:

dynamic_cols blob DYNAMIC_COLUMN_STORAGE=yes

Once define, one can access individual columns with the new variant of the Dynamic Column functions, which now support string names (they used to support integers only).

Super columns

Cassandra's SuperColumns are not supported, there are currently no plans to support them.


There is no direct 1-to-1 mapping between Cassandra's datatypes and MySQL/MariaDB datatypes. Also, Cassandra's size limitations are often more relaxed than MySQL/MariaDB's. For example, Cassandra's limit on rowkey length is about 2G, while MySQL limits unique key length to about 1.5Kb.

The types must be mapped as follows:

asciiBLOB, VARCHAR(n), use charset=latin1
textBLOB, VARCHAR(n), use charset=utf8
bigintBIGINT, TINY, SHORT (pick the one that will fit the real data)
uuidCHAR(36), the UUID will be represented in text form on the MariaDB side
timestampTIMESTAMP (second precision), TIMESTAMP(6) (microsecond precision), BIGINT (gets verbatim Cassandra's 64-bit milliseconds-since-epoch)
counterBIGINT, only reading is supported

For types like "VARBINARY(n)", n should be chosen sufficiently large to accommodate all the data that is encountered in the table.

Command mapping


Cassandra doesn't provide any practical way to make INSERT different from UPDATE. Therefore, INSERT works as INSERT-or-UPDATE, it will overwrite the data, if necessary.

INSERT ... SELECT and multi-line INSERT will try to write data in batches. Batch size is controlled by the cassandra_insert_batch_size system variable, which specifies the max. batch size in columns.

The status variables Cassandra_row_inserts and Cassandra_row_insert_batches allow one to see whether inserts are actually batched.


UPDATE works like one would expect SQL's UPDATE command to work (i.e. changing a primary key value will result in the old record being deleted and a new record being inserted)


  • DELETE FROM cassandra_table maps to the truncate(column_family) call.
  • The DELETE with WHERE clause will do per-row deletions.


Generally, all SELECT statements work like one expects SQL to work. Conditions in the form primary_key=... allow the server to construct query plans which access Cassandra's rows with key lookups.

Full table scan

Full table scans are performed in a memory-efficient way. Cassandra SE performs a full table scan as a series of batches, each of which reads not more than cassandra_rnd_batch_size records.

Batched Key Access support

Cassandra supports Batched Key Access in no-association mode. This means that it requires the SQL layer to do hashing, which means the following settings are required:

  • optimizer_switch='join_cache_hashed=on'
  • join_cache_level=7|8

Cassandra SE is currently unable to make use of space in the join buffer (the one whose size is controlled by #join_buffer_size). Instead, it will limit read batches to reading not more than cassandra_multiget_batch_size at a time, and memory will be allocated on the heap.

Note that the #join_buffer_size buffer is still needed by the SQL layer, so its value should still be increased if you want to read in big batches.

It is possible to track the number of read batches, how many keys were looked-up, and how many results were produced with these status variables:

System and status variables

The following system variables are available:

Variable nameDescription
cassandra_default_thrift_hostHost to connect to, if not specified on per-table basis
cassandra_failure_retriesNumber of times to retry on timeout/unavailable failures
cassandra_insert_batch_sizeINSERT batch size
cassandra_multiget_batch_sizeBatched Key Access batch size
cassandra_rnd_batch_sizeFull table scan batch size
cassandra_read_consistencyConsistency to use for reading
cassandra_write_consistencyConsistency to use for writing

The following status variables are available:

Variable nameDescription
Cassandra_row_insertsNumber of rows inserted
Cassandra_row_insert_batchesNumber of insert batches performed
Cassandra_multiget_readsNumber of read operations
Cassandra_multiget_keys_scannedNumber of keys we've made lookups for
Cassandra_multiget_rows_readNumber of rows actually read
Cassandra_timeout_exceptionsNumber of Timeout exceptions we got from Cassandra
Cassandra_unavailable_exceptionsNumber of Unavailable exceptions we got from Cassandra

A note about Cassandra 1.2

Cassandra 1.2 has slightly changed its data model, as described at This has caused some of Thrift-based clients to no longer work (for example, here's a problem experienced by Pig: CASSANDRA-5234).

Currently, Cassandra SE is only able to access Cassandra 1.2's column families that were defined WITH COMPACT STORAGE attribute.

See also


Comments loading...
Content reproduced on this site is the property of its respective owners, and this content is not reviewed in advance by MariaDB. The views, information and opinions expressed by this content do not necessarily represent those of MariaDB or any other party.