About this guide

This guide explains more complex Key/Value operations, such as

  • Inserting values
  • Tuning consistency/availability
  • Timestampls and TTL
  • Prepared Statements
  • Collection Types
  • Counter Columns
  • Range queries
  • Pagination
  • Filtering
  • Ordering

This guide relies on things that are also mentioned in Advanced Client Options guide.

Every example will start with Clojure code followed by corresponding CQL statement.

Inserting values

Let's create users table where we'll insert the values:

(create-table :users
              (column-definitions {:name :varchar
                                   :age  :int
                                   :city :varchar
                                   :primary-key [:name]}))
  (age int,
   name varchar,
   city varchar,
   PRIMARY KEY (name));

Now, let's insert some values into this table:

(insert :users {:name "Alex" :city "Munich" :age (int 19)})
INSERT INTO users (name, city, age) VALUES ('Alex', 'Munich', 19);

That one's easy, right? When you query database, you'll see that the inserted value:

(select :users)
SELECT * FROM users;
|  name |  age |   city |
|  Alex |   19 | Munich |

Tuning consistency

With Cassaforte, it is possible to tune Consistency on a per-query basis. In order to do that, wrap your database call into clojurewerkz.cassaforte.client/with-consistency-level.

Available Consistency options are:

  • :any: write must be written to at least one node. :any will succeed even if all replica nodes are down and hinted handoff write was made. Although in that case write will not become readable until replica nodex for the given key recover.
  • :one: write must be written to commit log and memory table of at least one replica node.
  • :two: write must be written to commit log and memory table of at least two replica nodes.
  • :three: write must be written to commit log and memory table of at least three replica nodes.
  • :quorum: write must be written to commit log and memory table to quorum of replica nodes.
  • :local-quorum: write must be written to commit log and memory table to quorum of replica nodes located in the same datacenter as coordinator node.
  • :each-quorum: write must be written to commit log and memory table to quorum of replica nodes in all datacenters.
  • :all: write must be written to commit log and memory table of all replica nodes for given key.

It is clear that :all has strongest Consistency, but weakest Availability guarantees, because all the nodes should be up during the write, whereas :one has strongest Availability but weakest Consistency guarantees, because if the node went down before replicating data to other nodes, it won't be possible to read it until the node is back up.

Quorum is calculated as (replication-factor / 2) + 1, so for replication factor of 3, quorum would be 2, which means that it will tolerate when 1 node is down. For replication factor of 6, quorum is 4, which tolerates 2 nodes are down.

It is hard to say which values should be taken for your application. If the write is made with consistency level of :one, it doesn't mean that data won't be replicated to all the nodes in replica set, it only means that write is acknowledged without making sure it's replicated. You can reduce latency and increase Availability by using lower Consistency Level, but you should always keep in mind what you're trading off.

Following operation will be performed with consistenct level of :one:

(client/with-consistency-level (client/consistency-level :one
  (insert :users {:name "Alex" :city "Munich" :age (int 19)}))

Timestamp and TTL

When performing writes, you can specify Timestamp for the written columns. Even if you do not specify Timestamp manually, it is set by Cassandra internally. You can check it by using cassandra-cli, which is coming together with Cassandra package. You can learn more about this tool in Troubleshooting guide.

> cassandra-cli
> list users;
RowKey: Alex
=> (column=, value=, timestamp=1369947837808000)
=> (column=age, value=00000013, timestamp=1369947837808000)
=> (column=city, value=4d756e696368, timestamp=1369947837808000)

You can see timestamp set by Cassandra for the write we've made. In order to make a write with manually set timestamp, you should use (using :timestamp) clause in your query:

(insert :users {:name "Alex" :city "Munich" :age (int 19)}
        (using :timestamp (.getTime (java.util.Date.))))
INSERT INTO users (name, city, age) VALUES ('Alex', 'Munich', 19) USING TIMESTAMP 1369948317602;

And you'll see the timestamp you've set in cassandra-cli:

> cassandra-cli
> list users;
RowKey: Alex
=> (column=, value=, timestamp=1369948761376)
=> (column=age, value=00000013, timestamp=1369948761376)
=> (column=city, value=4d756e696368, timestamp=1369948761376)

Clocks on all the clients (and Cassandra servers, too) should be in sync.

Timestamps are used for conflict resolution. Column with has higher timestamp will win over the record with lower timestamp in case of conflict, and will be replicated. You can use arbitrary numbers for timestamps, but microseconds since Unix Epoch (1970) are used as a convention.

You can also specify optional TTL (Time To Live) for the column. If you do so, column will expire after specified amount of time.

(insert :users {:name "Alex" :city "Munich" :age (int 19)}
        (using :ttl 60))
INSERT INTO users (name, city, age) VALUES ('Alex', 'Munich', 19) USING TTL 60;

You can run select query after 60 seconds and make sure that your column is gone now.

When using TTL, you should remember that if you update record with (using :ttl) clause, column livespan will be reset, and counted from the moment of insert. You can figure you exact time when column will be deleted by finding out it's timestamp and adding TTL to it.

Prepared Statements

Prepared statements have same meaning as in relational databases. Server pases query once, and assigns a unique identifier, which is cached by clients for future references. Each time query is executed, only values are passed between client and server. This reduces an overhead of parsing query each time and amount of data sent over the network.

For example, a simple query to insert values to the table would be:

INSERT INTO users (name, city, age) VALUES ('Alex', 'Munich', 19);

Prepared query would keep ? placeholders instead of values:

INSERT INTO users (name, city, age) VALUES (?, ?, ?);

In order to execute a prepared query, you can use client/execute function:

 (client/as-prepared "INSERT INTO users (name, city, age) VALUES (?, ?, ?);"
                     "Alex" "Munich" (int 19))
 :prepared true)

Internally, execute will prepare query or get cached identifier and execute prepared statement against the cluster. However, we provide a higher-level API for working with prepared statements. You can wrap any query from cql namespace into client/prepared, which will execute query as prepared one:

 (insert :users {:name "Alex" :city "Munich" :age (int 19)}))

If you want to run all queries generated by cql or multi.cql namespaces as prepared, you can use force-prepared-queries connection option.


Cassandra has a powerful concept, Distributed Counters. Counter columns provide an efficient way to count or sum anything you need. It is achieved by using atomic increment/decrement operations on values.

Counter is a special column type, whose value is a 64-bit (signed) interger. On write, new value is added (or substracted) to previous counter value. It should be noted that usual consistency/availability tradeoffs apply to counter operations. Also, because of the nature of counters, it is required to perform a read before write in a background, therefore updates on counters are slightly slower than usual updates. Counter reads have same performace as regular column reads.

For example, you can create a new table (user_counters) with counter column, and name key for counting user-specific operations, such as amount of operations performed by the user:

(create-table :user_counters
              (column-definitions {:name :varchar
                                   :user_count  :counter
                                   :primary-key [:name]}))
CREATE TABLE user_counters
  (name varchar,
   user_count counter,
   PRIMARY KEY (name));

In order to modify (increment or decrement) counter, you can use the following syntax:

(update :user_counters
        {:user_count (increment-by 5)}
        (where :name "user1"))

(update :user_counters
        {:user_count (decrement-by 5)}
        (where :name "user1"))

Which will execute following CQL queries, correspondingly:

UPDATE user_counters SET user_count = user_count + 5 WHERE name = 'asd';
UPDATE user_counters SET user_count = user_count - 5 WHERE name = 'asd';


You get good query possibilities in Cassandra, but you have to model your data to be able to build flexible queries against your dataset. It is important to pick your parition key wisely, since it's the core of all the queries. To learn more about data modelling practices, refer to Data Modelling guide. There you can learn more about picking a partition key, using compound keys and other useful things.

Paginating through results

One of the first questions I usually get is wether it is possible to paginate through results in Cassandra. Short answer: yes, although not exactly the same way you may be used, if you've been using SQL data store for long enough.

There're several ways to do that without creating additional index tables for storing ranges, but they're used in different circumstances.

If you want to paginate through the complete table, which is sometimes called iterate-world in NoSQL terms, you want to use tokens for that. Because different nodes store your results, each key gets a token attached to it, therefore you can't say "ok, give me the all the keys that are larger than the given one". What you have to do, though, is to get first page of results: SELECT * FROM users LIMIT 10, get the key of last result, use token() function to determine an internal storage key.

Let's create a users table for that:

(create-table :users
              (column-definitions {:name :varchar
                                   :age  :int
                                   :city :varchar
                                   :primary-key [:name]}))
CREATE TABLE users (age int, name varchar, city varchar, PRIMARY KEY (name));

And populate 100 entries to it:

(dotimes [i 100]
  (insert :users {:name (str "name_" i) :city (str "city" i) :age (int i)}))

Now, let's get a first page:

(select :users (limit 10))

This will return us first 10 users, although in rather random order. This happens because ordering is only possible when partition key is restricted by one of the equality operators.

Now, you should get the name (which is a partition key value in that case) of the last user in the resulting collection. Let's say it was name_53. In order to get the next page, you should use token function:

(select :users
  (where (token :name) [> (token "name_53")])
  (limit 10))
SELECT * FROM users WHERE token(name) > token('name_53') LIMIT 10;

This will return next chunk of entries for you. There's a convenience function built into Cassaforte, which is using lazy sequences underneath. If you want to iterate over users collection, using name as a partition key, and get 10 results per page, you can use:

(iterate-world :users :name 10)

Which will do all forementioned things for you.

Range queries

In case you use compound keys, you have more flexibility. Here, you can lock your partition key using IN or equality operator = and perform range queries on the results. It is possible, because Cassandra stores all entries with same partition key on same node, which guarantees good performance when retrieving records.

For that example, let's model tv_series table, which will use a compound key. Partition key will be series_title (I like Futurama, yay!), second part of compound key will be episode_id. Rest of columns will store some information about series.

(create-table :tv_series
              (column-definitions {:series_title  :varchar
                                   :episode_id    :int
                                   :episode_title :text
                                   :primary-key [:series_title :episode_id]}))
CREATE TABLE tv_series (episode_title text,
                        series_title varchar,
                        episode_id int,
                        PRIMARY KEY (series_title, episode_id));

Now, let's insert some episode data into the table:

(dotimes [i 20]
  (insert :tv_series {:series_title "Futurama" :episode_id i :episode_title (str "Futurama Title " i)})
  (insert :tv_series {:series_title "Simpsons" :episode_id i :episode_title (str "Simpsons Title " i)}))

If you lock partition key by using equality WHERE series_title = 'Futurama' or IN operator: WHERE series_title IN ('Futurama', 'Simpsons'), you can perform range queries on episode_id (which is a second part of compound key).

(select :tv_series
        (where :series_title [:in ["Futurama" "Simpsons"]]
               :episode_id [> 10]))
SELECT * FROM tv_series WHERE series_title IN ('Futurama', 'Simpsons') AND episode_id > 10;

In the same manner, you can use >=, >, < and <= operators for performing range queries. In addition, you can query for a closed range (__from__ .. to):

(select :tv_series
        (where :series_title "Futurama"
               :episode_id [> 10]
               :episode_id [<= 15]))
SELECT * FROM tv_series WHERE series_title = 'Futurama' AND episode_id > 10 AND episode_id <= 15;

Ordering results

When partition key is locked, you can also run queries with ORDER BY clause, which will order results by any part of the key except for partition key:

(select :tv_series
        (where :series_title "Futurama")
        (order-by [:episode_id]))
SELECT * FROM tv_series
  WHERE series_title = 'Futurama'
  ORDER BY episode_id;


By default, Cassandra disallows potentially expensive queries, that involve data filtering on the server side. That is done to run queries with predictable performance, which is proportional to the amount of data returned from server.

It's required to say that, depending on a dataset size, allowing filtering may hurt performance.

For this example, let's use beforementioned users table, and add index on age and city to it:

  (age int,
   name varchar,
   city varchar,
   PRIMARY KEY (name));
(create-index :users :age)
(create-index :users :city)
CREATE INDEX ON users (age);
CREATE INDEX ON users (city);

Now, it is possible to query for all users of certain age living in a certain city using ALLOW FILTERING clause:

(select :users
        (where :city "Munich"
               :age [> (int 5)])
        (allow-filtering true))
SELECT * FROM users WHERE city = 'Munich' AND age > 5 ALLOW FILTERING;

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