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From Dustin Wenz <>
Subject Practical node size limits
Date Mon, 30 Jul 2012 02:40:14 GMT
I'm trying to determine if there are any practical limits on the amount of data that a single
node can handle efficiently, and if so, whether I've hit that limit or not.

We've just set up a new 7-node cluster with Cassandra 1.1.2 running under OpenJDK6. Each node
is 12-core Xeon with 24GB of RAM and is connected to a stripe of 10 3TB disk mirrors (a total
of 20 spindles each) and connected via dual SATA-3 interconnects. I can read and write around
900MB/s sequentially on the arrays. I started out with Cassandra tuned with all-default values,
with the exception of the compaction throughput which was increased from 16MB/s to 100MB/s.
These defaults will set the heap size to 6GB.

Our schema is pretty simple; only 4 column families and each has one secondary index. The
replication factor was set to four, and compression disabled. Our access patterns are intended
to be about equal numbers of inserts and selects, with no updates, and the occasional delete.

The first thing we did was begin to load data into the cluster. We could perform about 3000
inserts per second, which stayed mostly flat. Things started to go wrong around the time the
nodes exceeded 800GB. Cassandra began to generate a lot of "mutations messages dropped" warnings,
and was complaining that the heap was over 75% capacity.

At that point, we stopped all activity on the cluster and attempted a repair. We did this
so we could be sure that the data was fully consistent before continuing. Our mistake was
probably trying to repair all of the nodes simultaneously - within an hour, Java terminated
on one of the nodes with a heap out-of-memory message. I then increased all of the heap sizes
to 8GB, and reduced the heap_newsize to 800MB. All of the nodes were restarted, and there
was no no outside activity on the cluster. I then began a repair on a single node. Within
a few hours, it OOMed again and exited. I then increased the heap to 12GB, and attempted the
same thing. This time, the repair ran for about 7 hours before exiting from an OOM condition.

By now, the repair had increased the amount of data on some of the nodes to over 1.2TB. There
is no going back to a 6GB heap size - Cassandra now exits with an OOM during startup unless
the heap is set higher. It's at 16GB now, and a single node has been repairing for a couple
of days. Though I have no personal experience with this, I've been told that Java's garbage
collector doesn't perform well with heaps above 8GB. I'm wary of setting it higher, but I
can add up to 192GB of RAM to each node if necessary.

How much heap does cassandra need for this amount of data with only four CFs? Am I scaling
this cluster in completely the wrong direction? Is there a magic garbage collection setting
that I need to add in cassandra-env that isn't there by default?


  - .Dustin

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