A Cheat Sheet For Understanding Cassandra Databases

For years, the tech industry has used SQL databases — or relational databases — as their digital architecture. These databases host some of the most well-known applications, from organisations including NASA, Airbnb, and YouTube. And while SQL databases have formed the bedrock of many amazing technological products, these databases can certainly have their limitations — limitations which can be dangerously restrictive in the fast-moving and innovative tech industry.

Enter Apache Cassandra, a NoSQL database.

NoSQL databases — or non-relational databases — differ from their traditional counterparts because they don’t involve the Structured Query Language, meaning they store and retrieve data in a different way. While relational databases are structured like phone books that store phone numbers and addresses, non-relational databases are document-oriented. They store like file folders on a computer, holding anything from an address to their Instagram likes.

Apache Cassandra’s non-relational approach is more intuitive for storing non-structured data such as articles, social media stats, videos, or photos. It also offers crucial advantages to today’s tech industry startups. With greater scalability, better resilience to failure, greater flexibility, and lower costs, Cassandra databases are an appealing alternative for many newer companies looking to integrate in Big Data. These databases can be game changers for new enterprises aiming to compete with the big players.


For burgeoning tech companies wishing to compete with the top players in the field, database resilience is of vital importance. With Apache Cassandra, the peer-to-peer arrangement means data is shared among peers, which eliminates single points-of-failure threats. Cassandra also allows distribution of cluster servers across cloud provider failure zones. This means servers are grouped within clusters where the likelihood of a failure is correlated, and that if a group of servers fail, the entire infrastructure doesn’t.

Cassandra’s unique peer-to-peer architecture also improves upon the traditional master-slave format, in which all requests are made to the master server. This traditional format is vulnerable to failure because if the master server is affected, then the slave servers can also be affected.

Storing Data

One of the main differences between Cassandra databases and more traditional databases is how they each store data. In SQL databases, data is stored in a relational model, with rows and columns. Apache Cassandra uses column families instead of tables, which are containers for rows. A great advantage of Cassandra database sets is that there is no limit on the types of data you can store together, meaning you can store data in one place without having to define the type of data in advance.

This feature makes Cassandra databases ideal for managing enormous amounts of unstructured data, which is why data-heavy apps including Instagram and Spotify make such good use of them. An added bonus is that Cassandra’s use of clusters differs from traditional databases, which usually rely on expensive servers and storage systems. This means that Cassandra has a much lower cost per gigabyte and a cheaper transaction speed, allowing you to process and store more data for less. AWS Cassandra (that is, Cassandra run on the cloud-based platform Amazon Web Services), is a popular option for new tech companies that need to be able to handle Big Data in an economical way, this is an attractive aspect.

Cassandra doesn’t need complex configurations to manage stored data (all data is in a cluster where nodes are equal), so data management is simplified immensely. It can be worth engaging an experienced service provider if you’re looking at migrating data into Apache Cassandra.

Time to Grow

Because Apache Cassandra offers rapid scalability, is it ideal for new companies looking to compete with big players. The Cassandra peer-to-peer format has equal nodes, meaning nodes can request or share data at any time. This means nodes can be replaced or added within a cluster with no interruption to the service, and that the application can be rapidly scaled up.

This rapid scalability by adding, removing or editing nodes also allows for simple maintenance once the database is being widely used.

Get on Board!

Every new business, regardless of the industry, is looking for ways to save resources and improve efficiency. As Cassandra is an open source project, it is free to use and there is a substantial online community of other users who offer support and advice. This, combined with the database’s scalability, resilience and revolutionary data storage, make it an ideal base for a tech company to use as their new digital architecture.

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