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From Ritesh Tijoriwala <>
Subject Re: New Chain for : Does Cassandra use vector clocks
Date Thu, 24 Feb 2011 18:50:10 GMT
Thanks all for good detail and clarification. I just wanted to get things
clear and understand correctly what is the expected behavior when working
with Cassandra against various failure conditions so that application can be
designed accordingly and provide proper locking/synchronization if required.


On Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 10:25 AM, Anthony John <>wrote:

> I see the point - apologies for putting everyone through this!
> It was just militating against my mental model.
> In summary, here is my take away - simple stuff but - IMO - important to
> conclude this thread (I hope):-
> 1. I was splitting hair over a failed ( partial ) Q Write. Such an event
> should be immediately followed by the same write going to a connection on to
> another node ( potentially using connection caches of client implementations
> ) or a Read at CL of All. Because a write could have partially gone through.
> 2. Timestamps are used in determining the latest version ( correcting the
> false impression I was propagating)
> Finally, wrt "W + R > N for Q CL statement" holds, but could be broken in
> case of a failed write as it is unsure whether the new value got written on
>  any server or not. Is that a fair characterization ?
> Bottom line - unlike traditional DBMS, errors do not ensure automatic
> cleanup and revert back, app code has to follow up if  immediate - and not
> eventual -  consistency is desired. I made that leap in almost all cases - I
> think - but the case of a failed write.
> My bad and I can live with this!
> Regards,
> -JA
> On Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 11:50 AM, Sylvain Lebresne <>wrote:
>> On Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 6:33 PM, Anthony John <>wrote:
>>> Completely understand!
>>> All that I am quibbling over is whether a CL of quorum guarantees
>>> consistency or not. That is what the documentation says - right. IF for a CL
>>> of Q read - it depends on which node returns read first to determine the
>>> actual returned result or other more convoluted conditions , then a Quorum
>>> read/write is not consistent, by any definition.
>> But that's the point. The definition of consistency we are talking about
>> has no meaning if you consider only a quorum read. The definition (which is
>> the de facto definition of consistency in 'eventually consistent') make
>> sense if we talk about a write followed by a read. And it is
>> considering succeeding write followed by succeeding read.
>> And that is the statement the wiki is making.
>> Honestly, we could debate forever on the definition of consistency and
>> whatnot. Cassandra guaranties that if you do a (succeeding) write on W
>> replica and then a (succeeding) read on R replica and if R+W>N, then it is
>> guaranteed that the read will see the preceding write. And this is what is
>> called consistency in the context of eventual consistency (which is not the
>> context of ACID).
>> If this is not the definition of consistency you had in mind then by all
>> mean, Cassandra probably don't guarantee this definition. But given that the
>> paragraph preceding what you pasted state clearly we are not talking about
>> ACID consistency, but eventual consistency, I don't think the wiki is making
>> any unfair statement.
>> That being said, the wiki may not be always as clear as it could. But it's
>> an editable wiki :)
>> --
>> Sylvain
>>> I can still use Cassandra, and will use it, luv it!!! But let us not make
>>> this statement on the Wiki architecture section:-
>>> -------------------------------------------------------------
>>> More specifically: R=read replica count W=write replica count N=replication
>>> factor Q=*QUORUM* (Q = N / 2 + 1)
>>>    -
>>>    If W + R > N, you will have consistency
>>>    - W=1, R=N
>>>    - W=N, R=1
>>>    - W=Q, R=Q where Q = N / 2 + 1
>>> Cassandra provides consistency when R + W > N (read replica count + write
>>> replica count > replication factor).
>>> ----------------------------------------------------
>>> .
>>> On Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 11:22 AM, Sylvain Lebresne <
>>> > wrote:
>>>> On Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 6:01 PM, Anthony John <>wrote:
>>>>> If you are correct and you are probably closer to the code - then CL
>>>>> Quorum does not guarantee a consistency.
>>>> If the operation succeed, it does (for some definition of consistency
>>>> which is, following reads at Quorum will be guaranteed to see the new value
>>>> of a update at quorum). If it fails, then no, it does not guarantee
>>>> consistency.
>>>> It is important to note that the word consistency has multiple meaning.
>>>> In particular, when we are talking of consistency in Cassandra, we are not
>>>> talking of the same definition as the C in ACID (see:
>>>>> On Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 10:54 AM, Sylvain Lebresne <
>>>>>> wrote:
>>>>>> On Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 5:34 PM, Anthony John <>wrote:
>>>>>>>  >>Time stamps are not used for conflict resolution - unless
is is
>>>>>>>> part of the application logic!!!
>>>>>>> >>What is you definition of conflict resolution ? Because
if you
>>>>>>> update twice the same column (which
>>>>>>> >>I'll call a conflict), then the timestamps are used to
decide which
>>>>>>> update wins (which I'll call a resolution).
>>>>>>> I understand what you are saying, and yes semantics is very important
>>>>>>> here. And yes we are responding to the immediate questions without
>>>>>>> all questions in the thread.
>>>>>>> The point being made here is that the timestamp of the column
is not
>>>>>>> used by Cassandra to figure out what data to return.
>>>>>> Not quite true.
>>>>>>> E.g. - Quorum is 2 nodes - and RF of 3 over N1/2/3
>>>>>>> A Quorum  Write comes and add/updates the time stamp (TS2) of
>>>>>>> particular data element. It succeeds on N1 - fails on N2/3. So
the write is
>>>>>>> returned as failed - right ?
>>>>>>> Now Quorum read comes in for exactly the same piece of data that
>>>>>>> write failed for.
>>>>>>> So N1 has TS2 but both N2/3 have the old TS (say TS1)
>>>>>>> And the read succeeds - Will it return TS1 or TS2.
>>>>>>> I submit it will return TS1 - the old TS.
>>>>>> It all depends on which (first 2) nodes respond to the read (since
>>>>>> RF=3, that can any two of N1/N2/N3). If N1 is part of the two that
makes the
>>>>>> quorum, then TS2 will be returned, because cassandra will compare
>>>>>> timestamp and decide what to return based on this. If N2/N3 responds
>>>>>> however, both timestamp will be TS1 and so, after timestamp resolution,
>>>>>> will stil be TS1 that will be returned.
>>>>>> So yes timestamp is used for conflict resolution.
>>>>>> In your example, you could get TS1 back because a failed write can
>>>>>> you cluster in an inconsistent state. You'd have to retry the quorum
>>>>>> only when it succeeds can you be guaranteed that quorum read will
>>>>>> return TS2.
>>>>>> This is because when a write fails, Cassandra doesn't guarantee that
>>>>>> the write did not made it in (there is no revert).
>>>>>>> Are we on the same page with this interpretation ?
>>>>>>> Regards,
>>>>>>> -JA
>>>>>>> On Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 10:12 AM, Sylvain Lebresne <
>>>>>>>> wrote:
>>>>>>>> On Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 4:52 PM, Anthony John <
>>>>>>>>> wrote:
>>>>>>>>> Sylvan,
>>>>>>>>> Time stamps are not used for conflict resolution - unless
is is
>>>>>>>>> part of the application logic!!!
>>>>>>>> What is you definition of conflict resolution ? Because if
>>>>>>>> update twice the same column (which
>>>>>>>> I'll call a conflict), then the timestamps are used to decide
>>>>>>>> update wins (which I'll call a resolution).
>>>>>>>>> You can have "lost updates" w/Cassandra. You need to
to use 3rd
>>>>>>>>> products - cages for e.g. - to get ACID type consistency.
>>>>>>>> Then again, you'll have to define what you are calling "lost
>>>>>>>> updates". Provided you use a reasonable consistency level,
>>>>>>>> provides fairly strong durability guarantee, so for some
definition you
>>>>>>>> don't "lose updates".
>>>>>>>> That being said, I never pretended that Cassandra provided
any ACID
>>>>>>>> guarantee. ACID relates to transaction, which Cassandra doesn't
support. If
>>>>>>>> we're talking about the guarantees of transaction, then by
all means,
>>>>>>>> cassandra won't provide it. And yes you can use cages or
the like to get
>>>>>>>> transaction. But that was not the point of the thread, was
it ? The thread
>>>>>>>> is about vector clocks, and that has nothing to do with transaction
>>>>>>>> clocks certainly don't give you transactions).
>>>>>>>> Sorry if I wasn't clear in my mail, but I was only responding
to why
>>>>>>>> so far I don't think vector clocks would really provide much
for Cassandra.
>>>>>>>> --
>>>>>>>> Sylvain
>>>>>>>>> -JA
>>>>>>>>> On Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 7:41 AM, Sylvain Lebresne <
>>>>>>>>>> wrote:
>>>>>>>>>> On Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 3:22 AM, Anthony John <
>>>>>>>>>>> wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>> Apologies : For some reason my response on the
original mail
>>>>>>>>>>> keeps bouncing back, thus this new one!
>>>>>>>>>>> > From the other hand, the same article says:
>>>>>>>>>>> > "For conditional writes to work, the condition
must be
>>>>>>>>>>> evaluated at all update
>>>>>>>>>>> > sites before the write can be allowed to
>>>>>>>>>>> >
>>>>>>>>>>> > This means, that when doing such an update
CL=ALL must be used
>>>>>>>>>>> Sorry, but I am confused by that entire thread!
>>>>>>>>>>> Questions:-
>>>>>>>>>>> 1. Does Cassandra implement any kind of data
locking - at any
>>>>>>>>>>> granularity whether it be row/colF/Col ?
>>>>>>>>>> No locking, no.
>>>>>>>>>>> 2. If the answer to 1 above is NO! - how does
CL ALL prevent
>>>>>>>>>>> conflicts. Concurrent updates on exactly the
same piece of data on different
>>>>>>>>>>> nodes can still mess each other up, right ?
>>>>>>>>>> Not sure why you are taking CL.ALL specifically.
But in any CL,
>>>>>>>>>> updating the same piece of data means the same column
value. In that case,
>>>>>>>>>> the resolution rules are the following:
>>>>>>>>>>    - If the updates have a different timestamp, keep
the one with
>>>>>>>>>> the higher timestamp. That is, the more recent of
two updates win.
>>>>>>>>>>   - It the timestamps are the same, then it compares
the values
>>>>>>>>>> (byte comparison) and keep the highest value. This
is just to break ties in
>>>>>>>>>> a consistent manner.
>>>>>>>>>> So if you do two truly concurrent updates (that is
from two place
>>>>>>>>>> at the same instant), then you'll end with one of
the update. This is the
>>>>>>>>>> column level.
>>>>>>>>>> However, if that simple conflict detection/resolution
mechanism is
>>>>>>>>>> not good enough for some of your use case and you
need to keep two
>>>>>>>>>> concurrent updates, it is easy enough. Just make
sure that the update don't
>>>>>>>>>> end up in the same column. This is easily achieved
by appending some unique
>>>>>>>>>> identifier to the column name for instance. And when
reading, do a slice and
>>>>>>>>>> reconcile whatever you get back with whatever logic
make sense. If you do
>>>>>>>>>> that, congrats, you've roughly emulated what vector
clocks would do. Btw, no
>>>>>>>>>> locking or anything needed.
>>>>>>>>>> In my experience, for most things the timestamp resolution
>>>>>>>>>> enough. If the same user update twice it's profile
picture on you web site
>>>>>>>>>> at the same microsecond, it's usually fine to end
up with one of the two
>>>>>>>>>> pictures. In the rare case where you need something
more specific, using the
>>>>>>>>>> cassandra data model usually solves the problem easily.
The reason for not
>>>>>>>>>> having vector clocks in Cassandra is that so far,
we haven't really found
>>>>>>>>>> much example where it is no the case.
>>>>>>>>>> --
>>>>>>>>>> Sylvain

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