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From William Ashley <>
Subject Data Modeling Conundrum
Date Sat, 08 May 2010 03:31:50 GMT
I have a case where visitors to a site are tracked via a persistent cookie containing a guid.
This cookie is created and set when missing. Some of these visitors are logged in, meaning
a userId may also be available. What I’m looking to do is have a way to associate each userId
with all of the guids that it has been seen with. Conceptually, this would identify the unique
(device, browser) pairs for each userId. The catch is that I want to be able to retrieve the
most-recently-seen N guids for a userId.

One possible solution to this problem in SQL looks like this (made up on the fly):
# Table schema
CREATE TABLE UserGuid ( userId INT, guid VARCHAR, when TIMESTAMP, PRIMARY KEY( userId, guid
), INDEX( userId, when ) ); 

# For each request with guid G and userId U at time T
INSERT INTO UserGuid ( userId, guid, when ) VALUES ( U, G, T ) ON DUPLICATE KEY UPDATE SET
when = T;

# To get most recent N guids for userId U

Hopefully I’ve sufficiently explained what I’m trying to do. Now on to solving this problem
in Cassandra. I’ve been trying to find a way that allows both of the above operations to
be performed efficiently. Updates are a breeze with a structure like this:

// Row key is userId
12345 : {
  // Column name is guid
  ‘256fb890-5a4b-11df-a08a-0800200c9a66’ : {
    // Column timestamp is last time guid was seen
    timestamp : 387587235233

but getting the last N recently seen guids requires pulling all columns and sorting by timestamp.
Retrievals can be done efficiently with a structure taking advantage of column sorting:

// Row key is userId
12345 : {
  // Column name is last time guid was seen
  387587235233 : {
    // Column value is guid
    value: ‘256fb890-5a4b-11df-a08a-0800200c9a66’

where we use a slice get on the row with limit N (and reverse order). However, updates involve
pulling all columns to de-duplicate guid values. Neither solution is ideal, and so I present
this to you fine gentlemen who have more experience modeling data in Cassandra than I.

I would much prefer to avoid any solutions that require pulling an indeterminate amount of
data for either operation. For the time being I am using the first method and only pulling
the first M columns, sorting, and taking the top N (M >= N).

One thing I was thinking would be nice (if possible), is to have a column family where columns
are either sorted by their timestamp, or by the time the column was created/updated (which
may be equivalent to not sorting at all, but I have not looked at the implementation).

I appreciate any feedback or suggestions you might have.
- William

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