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Open-source Apache Cassandra continues to be a database that goes beyond utility—it embodies a philosophy of openness and modernization that continually advances both the technology and enterprise applications that depend on it.
Below, we explore the core strengths of using Cassandra in its fully open-source version, run through the newest enterprise-ready features currently in general availability, and look at what Cassandra 5.0 (currently in open beta) have to offer.
Read below to understand why Cassandra is not just a database choice, but a strategic move that accelerates efficiency and innovation in the evolving digital landscape.
The Why: Fully open-source Cassandra is built for enterprise use cases
Up and down the data stack, enterprises are increasingly recognizing open-core for what it is—and understanding that the pure open-source versions of capable technologies like Cassandra are loaded with advantages. Proprietary open-core Cassandra features come with high costs, offer minimal benefits, and simply aren’t necessary. With technology budgets under ever-more scrutiny right now, many organizations have even introduced specific corporate mandates to stop paying for proprietary solutions when viable open-source alternatives are available.
That’s absolutely the case with open-source Cassandra. Here’s why.
Freedom from licensing constraints
One of the most significant benefits of 100% open-source Apache Cassandra is the freedom it provides from licensing constraints. Organizations leveraging the pure open-source version have unrestricted access to the source code—enabling them to continually customize and adapt the database to their unique requirements without proprietary limitations.
The strength of Apache Cassandra lies in its active community of developers and contributors. Adopting the 100% open-source version ensures that organizations can tap into, and engage with, the collective intelligence of that community. This fosters continuous innovation, with updates, improvements, and new features driven by a diverse and dynamic group of experts passionate about advancing the capabilities of 16-year-old database.
Cost-efficiency and sustainability
Unsurprisingly, opting for open-source Cassandra translates to cost efficiency. With no licensing fees or vendor lock-ins, organizations can allocate resources more effectively—directing budget towards optimizing their database infrastructure rather than navigating complex licensing models. This not only reduces costs but also enhances the sustainability of long-term database management strategies.
Transparent and trustworthy security
Security is paramount in the realm of databases and, like any database deployment, transparency is key. With open-source Cassandra, organizations can scrutinize the code, conduct security audits, and ensure that the database meets their specific security standards. This level of transparency builds trust and confidence, especially in mission-critical applications where data integrity and protection are non-negotiable.
No feature gating or premium add-ons
Commercialized open-core versions like feature gating, or premium add-ons, that limit access to certain functionalities unless additional fees are paid. With fully open-source Cassandra, there are no hidden costs or restrictions on features. Every capability is available to all users, ensuring a level playing field and encouraging widespread adoption of the latest advancements.
If there’s one misconception around open-source Cassandra in the enterprise, it’s that its benefits extend beyond cost savings. Open-source Cassandra is about embracing a philosophy of openness, collaboration, and community-driven progress that also better achieves enterprises’ business objectives. Open-source Cassandra unlocks the full potential of the database while always maintaining control, flexibility, and a commitment to the principles of open software development.
The Now: Cassandra 4.1 GA is packed with enterprise-ready features
Apache Cassandra 4.0 is the most stable “.0” release of the project (or any distributed database) ever. Its focus on stability, usability, and must-have enterprise features continues to be a huge boon to anyone currently running Cassandra in production.
Here are some of the capabilities that have made the current GA release—now Cassandra 4.1—so popular among enterprises across industries.
Cassandra’s stability goals have been realized. The GA released focused on improving Cassandra’s ability to replay and record workloads as they occur on the cluster, and by intelligently generating edge case tests synthetically.
Building on this core tenet of repeatability enhances testing and software development, enabling rapid testing to resolve even hard-to-reproduce bugs (as well as known bugs and edge cases). Cassandra operators now have several new testing frameworks at their disposal, from fuzzing to property-based testing to fault injection. Cassandra 4.1 makes it easier than ever to test workloads, improvements, and configuration changes, and to resolve any potential issues that crop up.
Cassandra 4.1 introduces new auditing capabilities that include full query logging and traffic replay. These enable operators to comprehensively audit all database user activities through configurable actions. Every read, write, login attempt, schema change, and other action is logged and available for analysis.
These features are especially inviting to enterprise Cassandra operators because audit logging and traffic replay tick crucial boxes when it comes to demonstrating compliance with SOX, PCI DSS, GDPR, and other regulatory requirements. The new release’s powerful high-level interface simplifies enterprise-grade auditing practices—whether they’re required or simply just prudent. Specifically, Cassandra’s auditlogviewer utility enables inspection of operator-configured audit logs tuned to specific users, keyspaces, or commands. The fqltool allows inspection of logs using full query logging. Audit logs feature configurable log rollover and are securely saved on the node outside the Cassandra database. These features empower operators with greater confidence in the compliance and security of their Cassandra deployments.
The high-performance Netty Transport Framework—previously used in a small set of areas of Cassandra—is now broadly adopted with Cassandra 4.1.
Netty provides asynchronous event-driven networking code that enables better intra-node communication. Whereas past Cassandra releases required N threads to be maintained per peer and a lot of performance-sapping context switching, Cassandra 4.1 now uses a single thread pool for all intra-node connections. Netty also brings the benefits of zero-copy streaming to SStables, enabling 5x faster streaming performance. This rebuild of Cassandra’s networking implementation provides further sizeable performance advantages, reducing P99 tail end read latency by over 40% in some use cases, while facilitating faster and easier scalability for large clusters and dramatically accelerating node recovery.
Virtual tables are included in the richer toolset for observability and monitoring that Cassandra 4.1 offers, all out-of-the-box. Previous releases required operators to establish JMX access to view key information such as metrics, running compactions, clients, and configuration details. Not so anymore. Virtual tables provided in Cassandra 4.1 offer read-only system tables that contain this information, and can be queried with CQL. In doing so, virtual tables simplify the monitoring of key metrics, and enable integrations for building valuable observability tools.
The Next: Cassandra 5.0 is now in beta
Cassandra 5.0 is in open beta, and it brings a slew of much-anticipated capabilities built to extend enterprises’ success with the database.
Here are just a few of the highlights to be excited about in Cassandra 5.0:
Vector support empowers AI/ML projects
Cassandra 5.0 introduces Vector Search, offering new CQL functions and a dedicated vector data type for embedding vectors. This addition facilitates the storage and retrieval of embeddings vectors—critical for AI/ML projects relying on similarity comparisons. By storing arrays of floating-point numbers, Cassandra 5.0 becomes an important component of enterprises’ AI applications by providing requisite functionality alongside the database’s hallmark high availability, scalability, and open-source benefits.
Storage-Attached Indexing (SAI) for enhanced efficiency and scalability
SAI optimizes the lifecycle of secondary indexes, improving efficiency and ease of use. SAI enables the creation of scalable, globally distributed column-level indexes, delivering unparalleled I/O throughput for search (including the aforementioned Vector Search). With modular extensibility, SAI captures semantics by indexing queries and content—making it a great solution for diverse indexing needs.
Trie Memtables and Trie-Indexed SSTables add performance boosts and memory optimization
Cassandra 5.0 introduces trie-based Memtables and SSTables, which unlock substantial performance improvements and memory optimization. Utilizing trie and byte-comparable representations of database keys, these storage formats enhance Cassandra’s read and modification operations. The reduction in memory management overhead and garbage collection burdens simplifies data management for high-scale organizations, making Cassandra a particularly efficient choice for performance-driven applications.
New aggregation and math functions: expanding functionality
Organizations testing out Cassandra 5.0 get access to new native CQL functions and the ability to create custom user-defined functions. This addition broadens the speed and flexibility with which users can achieve their goals with Cassandra. The introduction of new aggregation and math functions enhances the platform’s versatility, providing users with powerful tools to streamline and customize their interactions with Cassandra.
There’s no better time to embrace, and scale, open-source Cassandra
Enterprises should think of Apache Cassandra as not just a database, but as a catalyst for innovation and efficiency. The fully open-source version of Cassandra amplifies freedom, community-driven innovation, cost-efficiency, security, and unrestricted access to features. The stability and enterprise-grade features of the Cassandra 4.1 GA set a new standard for performance, auditability, and scalability. Looking ahead, Cassandra 5.0 beckons with Vector Support, Storage-Attached Indexing, Trie Memtables, and more—an invitation for enterprises to embrace the future of data management with complete control, flexibility, and a commitment to open software principles.
The fully open-source version of Apache Cassandra amplifies freedom, community-driven innovation, cost-efficiency, security, and unrestricted access to features.
Anil Inamdar is the VP and Head of Data Solutions at Instaclustr, part of Spot by NetApp, which provides a managed platform around open source data technologies. Anil has 20+ years of experience in data and analytics roles. He regularly writes and speaks on Kafka and real-time data topics, including at All Things Open, DeveloperWeek, and DataCon, among others. Prior to Instaclustr, he held data and analytics leadership roles at Dell EMC, Accenture, and Visa, among others. Anil lives and works in the Bay Area.