Wednesday, November 13, 2013

An Evening's Evangelism

Last night was spent playing hookey from the Geeky Book club. But only because a particularly special speaker was in town. Patrick McFadin, chief Evangelist for Apache Cassandra was speaking at DreamWorks in Glendale.

So, TheHackerCIO slogged through an hour and a half of LA traffic to get out to Glendale in time to see the talk. Not to mention hearing it.

Patrick is a good presenter, so the talk was well organized and interesting. His purpose was to convince us that C* [the semi-official abbreviation for Cassandra] was the best persistence tier for your application.

He predicated this on the tunable consistency available in C*; pointing out that if you were willing to specify ALL, and take the performance hit, you could construct the most consistent distributed database system possible. One where every node had to acknowledge before an operation completed.

The talk was too long to go too in-depth, but I was particularly interested by the architecture of writing all files out immutably. Even compaction is accomplished by reading in the fragmented files and writing a new compressed one. So, in theory, you could always recover -- even from programmatic database corruption. Ideally, you use a snapshot to do point-in-time recovery, followed by writing a script to extract "post-point-in-time" updates from the files and apply it where required.  

He mentioned that the joke among C* cognoscenti is that CQL has a UPSERT statement, because update and insert are so very similar. If a row doesn't exist, update will insert it and if it exists insert will replace the data in it! UPSERT is a fun way to remember this similarity of statements.

Patrick also pointed out that Netflix -- the poster boy for C* -- has just released the Chaos Monkey for C*! He challenged the Mainframe person attending to introduce the Chaos Monkey to the Mainframe systems, and see how they compare in terms of failover and availability.  If you don't know about the Chaos monkey, tomorrow I'll fill you in on it. Because it's important.

To summarize his talk, I liked his zinger the best: Use Oracle to count your money; Use Cassandra to make it.

I Remain,


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