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From "Jonathan Ellis (JIRA)" <>
Subject [jira] Created: (CASSANDRA-33) Bugs in tombstone handling in remove code
Date Wed, 01 Apr 2009 13:49:14 GMT
Bugs in tombstone handling in remove code

                 Key: CASSANDRA-33
             Project: Cassandra
          Issue Type: Bug
            Reporter: Jonathan Ellis
            Assignee: Jonathan Ellis

[copied from dev list]

Avinash pointed out two bugs in my remove code.  One is easy to fix,
the other is tougher.

The easy one is that my code removes tombstones (deletion markers) at
the ColumnFamilyStore level, so when CassandraServer does read repair
it will not know about the tombstones and they will not be replicated
correctly.  This can be fixed by simply moving the removeDeleted call
up to just before CassandraServer's final return-to-client.

The hard one is that tombstones are problematic on GC (that is, major
compaction of SSTables, to use the Bigtable paper terminology).

One failure scenario: Node A, B, and C replicate some data.  C goes
down.  The data is deleted.  A and B delete it and later GC it.  C
comes back up.  C now has the only copy of the data so on read repair
the stale data will be sent to A and B.

A solution: pick a number N such that we are confident that no node
will be down (and catch up on hinted handoffs) for longer than N days.
 (Default value: 10?)  Then, no node may GC tombstones before N days
have elapsed.  Also, after N days, tombstones will no longer be read
repaired.  (This prevents a node which has not yet GC'd from sending a
new tombstone copy to a node that has already GC'd.)

Implementation detail: we'll need to add a 32-bit "time of tombstone"
to ColumnFamily and SuperColumn.  (For Column we can stick it in the
byte[] value, since we already have an unambiguous way to know if the
Column is in a deleted state.)  We only need 32 bits since the time
frame here is sufficiently granular that we don't need ms.  Also, we
will use the system clock for these values, not the client timestamp,
since we don't know what the source of the client timestamps is.

Admittedly this is suboptimal compared to being able to GC immediately
but it has the virtue of being (a) easily implemented, (b) with no
extra components such as a coordination protocol, and (c) better than
not GCing tombstones at all (the other easy way to ensure

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