Cassandra ColumnFamily metrics

Last time we looked at Cassandra’s ClientRequest metrics. However they only take you so far as they are for all keyspaces and tables. Once you have identified a problem it is them time to zero in on a particular table. Assuming of course your issue is with Cassandra and not say the network connectivity between Cassandra nodes.

For this the metrics we want to look are are:

o.a.c.m.ColumnFamily.[keyspace name].[table name].{WriteLatency, ReadLatency, SSTablesPerReadHistogram, EstimatedPartitionSizeHistogram}

You can find all these metrics with the above pattern using jconsole and graphite using the techniques described in the previous post however this post will stick to nodetool.

Remember the simplified three layers of Cassandra:

  • Client APIs (Thrift, Native protocol for CQL)
  • Dynamo
  • Storage

The ColumnFamily metrics are in the Storage layer in the o.a.c.db pacakge. They do not include any network time associated with meeting your consistency level.

The output from nodetool cfhistograms looks similar to proxyhistograms but also includes SSTables, Partition Size and Cell Count

Percentile  SSTables     Write Latency      Read Latency    Partition Size        Cell Count
                              (micros)          (micros)           (bytes)                  
50%             1.00             11.86             61.21               258                 5
75%             1.00             14.24             73.46               258                 5
95%             2.00             17.08            126.93               258                 5
98%             2.00             20.50            263.21               258                 5
99%             2.00             24.60           1131.75               258                 5
Min             0.00              2.30             14.24               180                 5
Max             3.00         464228.84          74975.55               258                 5

Read and Write latency

The Write Latency and Read Latency are what you’d expect. On this node 99% of writes took less than 24.60 microseconds and 99% of reads took less than 1131.75 microseconds. These are very good figures and are from a high end SSD running cassandra-stress. Remember the end to end operations take much longer than the above figures.

This is just the storage layer of Cassandra and many of these reads won’t even have required disk access as it is all in the OS’s page cache.

To see where these are updated in the C* code take a look at o.a.c.db.ReadCommand for reads and o.a.c.db.ColumnFamilyStore for writes.

Spending time looking at the output from nodetool cfhistograms I started to wonder why writes were always quicker than reads on Cassandra nodes that had enough RAM for all SSTables to be in page cache. Well digging into the code here is the snippet for the write latency point:

 * Insert/Update the column family for this key.
 * Caller is responsible for acquiring Keyspace.switchLock
 * param @ lock - lock that needs to be used.
 * param @ key - key for update/insert
 * param @ columnFamily - columnFamily changes
public void apply(PartitionUpdate update, UpdateTransaction indexer, OpOrder.Group opGroup, ReplayPosition replayPosition)
    long start = System.nanoTime();
    Memtable mt = data.getMemtableFor(opGroup, replayPosition);
    long timeDelta = mt.put(update, indexer, opGroup);
    DecoratedKey key = update.partitionKey();
    metric.samplers.get(Sampler.WRITES).addSample(key.getKey(), key.hashCode(), 1);
    metric.writeLatency.addNano(System.nanoTime() - start);
    if(timeDelta < Long.MAX_VALUE)

It is the call to metric.writeLatncy.addNano that appears to be in the output from cfhistograms and that only covers the write to the memtable. The comment even suggests that the time to get the appropriate lock is not included in the timing.

I don’t see much value in the Write figures so I use cfhisograms purely for tuning reads.


The SSTables column indicates the number of SSTables that had to be read from disk to satisfy a read. Unsurprisingly you want this to be as low as possible. In the above sample 99% of reads were satisfied by accessing 2 SSTables. This is a good result. If compaction gets behind then this number will rise and your reads will get slower.

This is a great thing to monitor and if it starts to rise you can be proactive and look at why nodes are getting behind in compaction or if you need to change your data model.

Partition Size

This is an estimate of the partition sizes. In the above output it says that 99% of partitions for this table on this node are under 258 bytes.

This is useful to monitor to see if your partitions are too large.

Cell Count

Cell is the historic name for a key/value pair in Cassandra. In CQL terms you can think of it as a column. This is an estimate of the number of partitions have X number of columns for a given table. It appears to only include columns in SSTables as it is the total of the estimated column count for each SSTable (from

combineHistograms(cfs.getSSTables(SSTableSet.CANONICAL), new GetHistogram()
  public EstimatedHistogram getHistogram(SSTableReader reader)
    return reader.getEstimatedColumnCount();

This is another metric useful for tuning datamodels as you don’t want your partitions to contain too many cells. It is useful to check that you don’t have any unbounded growrth. However I tend to look more at the size of a cell in bytes rather than cells.

CF Stats

As well as nodetool cfhistograms you can also get useful information using nodetool cfstats. It will get all tables in all keyspaces by default by default so typically you want to add in a fully qualified table name e.g keyspace1.standard1.

Keyspace: keyspace1
        Read Count: 219
        Read Latency: 1.6680365296803652 ms.
        Write Count: 355554
        Write Latency: 0.030735232904143955 ms.
        Pending Flushes: 0
                Table: standard1
                SSTable count: 2
                Space used (live): 84950548
                Space used (total): 84950548
                Space used by snapshots (total): 0
                Off heap memory used (total): 397564
                SSTable Compression Ratio: 0.0
                Number of keys (estimate): 279495
                Memtable cell count: 210655
                Memtable data size: 9607920
                Memtable off heap memory used: 0
                Memtable switch count: 5
                Local read count: 219
                Local read latency: 1.669 ms
                Local write count: 355768
                Local write latency: 0.031 ms
                Pending flushes: 0
                Bloom filter false positives: 0
                Bloom filter false ratio: 0.00000
                Bloom filter space used: 349928
                Bloom filter off heap memory used: 349912
                Index summary off heap memory used: 47652
                Compression metadata off heap memory used: 0
                Compacted partition minimum bytes: 259
                Compacted partition maximum bytes: 310
                Compacted partition mean bytes: 310
                Average live cells per slice (last five minutes): 0.0
                Maximum live cells per slice (last five minutes): 0.0
                Average tombstones per slice (last five minutes): 0.0
                Maximum tombstones per slice (last five minutes): 0.0

These metrics are stored per o.a.c.db.ColumnFamilyStore in a field of type o.a.c.metrics.TableMetrics if you’re looking at branch older than Cassandra 3 then it used to be called o.a.c.metrics.ColumnFamilyMetrics. Ever so slowly it appears that Cassandra class names are beginning to catch up with the current terminology.

TIL when looking at the code for these metrics they typically include the figure not just for the table but all indexes on that table as well. Cassandra’s current secondary indexes are stored as internal Cassandra tables albeit with a different replication strategy.

allMemtablesLiveDataSize = createTableGauge("AllMemtablesLiveDataSize", new Gauge<Long>()
   public Long getValue()
      long size = 0;
      for (ColumnFamilyStore cfs2 : cfs.concatWithIndexes())
          size += cfs2.getTracker().getView().getCurrentMemtable().getLiveDataSize();
      return size;