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Chris Goffinet


Came in a little late because the other session was full. I think I missed their column family definitions. Sounds like Twitter really contributes a lot to Cassandra. This guy is Twitter's performance guy. He measures and assess their ops for performance and has a ton of tools for doing it automatedly.

Data Storage

  • Compression
    • Twitter NEEDED compression. The implemented it in Cassandra.
    • Saw a 7x storage saving
  • Index Promotion
    • Didn't say WTF this is.
    • Normalize narrow and wide rows.
    • Allows you to not do a double pass on compaction?
  • Latency & Throughput
    • Lots of possible culprits of slowness.
    • Compaction was the big one, was running alllllll the time.
    • Predictable Performance == Better Planning
    • Compaction was single threaded. Twitter made it multi threaded.
      • Twitter also made compaction throttled so it ran constantly.


  • On heap, off heap caching both suck. Built interface to memcache via the pluggable caching thinger.
    • Interesting: They were using URL as primary key for their tweet button tweets. Variable key size sucked (didn't say why) so they started hashing. This is relevant to our interest!
    • Memcache stored data better than on the JVM (On-heap: 80+ GB of data, Off-heap: 67+ GB of data, 48 GB for Memcache)
    • Long story short: Cassandra might not be an awesome cache.
    • Using cassandra to back the cache, though, doesn't require priming a cache.


Plugged their real-time visualization stuff. Looks cool, they use it as part of monitoring their network.

  • Threw around some big numbers. "We have 3.9 GB/s going through our network! We generate 500GB of data an hour!"

Case study for Cassandra

GC was killing Cuckoo. GC fragmented the heap which degraded performance. Created a "slab allocator" == create fixed-size slabs of memory, copy data from the columns in to the slabs, let the GC do its thing, sync off the slabs.

Pluggable Compaction in Cuckoo

Custom TTL implementation, it's built in to the always-running compaction instead of requiring another thread to run it.

Operational Efficiency

  • Rack awareness is awesome for them.
  • Grow their DCs by racks, not by machine, so Cassandra's consistency is awesome for that.
  • Fault Tolerance at Disk Level
    • Wrote a patch for Cassandra to detect when soft raid fails. Cass will eject it self from the cluster. Pretty cool.
  • To test: Made ops start ripping out disks from production clusters.
    • While gossip and thrift were going down, reads were still being served out of Cassandra's cache!
  • HOLY CRAP: 300 node cluster managed by 6 people. Fully automated.
  • Weird shit they've seen
    • Memory corruption (i.e. bad memory) causes bad stuff in Cassandra
    • Rack switch failures. Everything kept working because of rack awareness.
    • "If you have any other processes running on you Cassandra machines, I strongly recommend you use mlockall in for GC."


  • Cap
  • Hudson
  • Git
  • Murder (something twitter made...something about BT data transfer)
  • Deploy takes 20 seconds (after tests). Hundreds of nodes per cluster.

How it Works

  • Stop gossip on node
  • Check ring on all nodes to ensure "Down" state
  • Drain
  • Restart Cassandra

Capacity Planning

  • Built an in-house capacity planning tool. Must be nice...
  • Takes a JSON blob including what throughput should be for reads and writes, sustained traffic, number of servers, etc.
  • Kind of hand-wavy about capacity planning.


  • Built a cool distributed testing harness
  • Custom internal build of YCSB for performance benchmarking


  • Understand hardware and OS. It's more than just a Java app on the machine
  • Capacity planning with math, not guesses.
  • Invest in storage technology.
  • Automate everything!
  • Expect failure.