Cassandra NoSQL Data Model Design

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Blog posts


Blog posts

We at Instaclustr recently published a blog post on the most common data modelling mistakes that we see with Cassandra. This post was very popular and led me to think about what advice we could provide on how to approach designing your Cassandra data model so as to come up with a quality design that avoids the traps.

There are a number of good articles around that with rules and patterns to fit your data model into: 6 Step Guide to Apache Cassandra Data Modelling and Data Modelling Recommended Practices.

However, we haven’t found a step by step guide to analysing your data to determine how to fit in these rules and patterns. This white paper is a quick attempt at filling that gap.

Phase 1: Understand the data

This phase has two distinct steps that are both designed to gain a good understanding of the data that you are modelling and the access patterns required.

Define the data domain

The first step is to get a good understanding of your data domain. As someone very familiar with relation data modelling, I tend to sketch (or at least think) ER diagrams to understand the entities, their keys and relationships. However, if you’re familiar with another notation then it would likely work just as well. The key things you need to understand at a logical level are:

• What are the entities (or objects) in your data model?
• What are the primary key attributes of the entities?
• What are the relationships between the entities (i.e. references from one to the other)?
• What is the relative cardinality of the relationships (i.e. if you have a one to many is it one to 10 or one to 10,000 on average)?

Basically, these are the same things you’d expect in from logical ER model (although we probably don’t need a complete picture of all the attributes) along with a complete understanding of the cardinality of relationships that you’d normally need for a relational model. An understanding of the demographics of key attributes (cardinality, distribution) will also be useful in finalising your Cassandra model. Also, understand which key attributes are fixed and which change over the life of a record.

Define the required access patterns