How to adapt to Azure Cosmos DB for Apache Cassandra if you are coming from Apache Cassandra

APPLIES TO: Cassandra

The Azure Cosmos DB for Apache Cassandra provides wire protocol compatibility with existing Cassandra SDKs and tools. You can run applications that are designed to connect to Apache Cassandra by using the API for Cassandra with minimal changes.

When you use the API for Cassandra, it's important to be aware of differences between Apache Cassandra and Azure Cosmos DB. If you're familiar with native Apache Cassandra, this article can help you begin to use the Azure Cosmos DB for Apache Cassandra.

Feature support

The API for Cassandra supports a large number of Apache Cassandra features. Some features aren't supported or they have limitations. Before you migrate, be sure that the Azure Cosmos DB for Apache Cassandra features you need are supported.


When you plan for replication, it's important to look at both migration and consistency.

Although you can communicate with the API for Cassandra through the Cassandra Query Language (CQL) binary protocol v4 wire protocol, Azure Cosmos DB implements its own internal replication protocol. You can't use the Cassandra gossip protocol for live migration or replication. For more information, see Live-migrate from Apache Cassandra to the API for Cassandra by using dual writes.

For information about offline migration, see Migrate data from Cassandra to an Azure Cosmos DB for Apache Cassandra account by using Azure Databricks.

Although the approaches to replication consistency in Apache Cassandra and Azure Cosmos DB are similar, it's important to understand how they're different. A mapping document compares Apache Cassandra and Azure Cosmos DB approaches to replication consistency. However, we highly recommend that you specifically review Azure Cosmos DB consistency settings or watch a brief video guide to understanding consistency settings in the Azure Cosmos DB platform.

When you use the API for Cassandra, you don't need to make substantial code changes to existing applications that run Apache Cassandra. We recommend some approaches and configuration settings for the API for Cassandra in Azure Cosmos DB. Review the blog post API for Cassandra recommendations for Java.

Code samples

The API for Cassandra is designed to work with your existing application code. If you encounter connectivity-related errors, use the quickstart samples as a starting point to discover minor setup changes you might need to make in your existing code.

We also have more in-depth samples for Java v3 and Java v4 drivers. These code samples implement custom extensions, which in turn implement recommended client configurations.

You also can use samples for Java Spring Boot (v3 driver) and Java Spring Boot (v4 driver).


The API for Cassandra is backed by Azure Cosmos DB, which is a document-oriented NoSQL database engine. Azure Cosmos DB maintains metadata, which might result in a change in the amount of physical storage required for a specific workload.

The difference in storage requirements between native Apache Cassandra and Azure Cosmos DB is most noticeable in small row sizes. In some cases, the difference might be offset because Azure Cosmos DB doesn't implement compaction or tombstones. This factor depends significantly on the workload. If you're uncertain about storage requirements, we recommend that you first create a proof of concept.

Multi-region deployments

Native Apache Cassandra is a multi-master system by default. Apache Cassandra doesn't have an option for single-master with multi-region replication for reads only. The concept of application-level failover to another region for writes is redundant in Apache Cassandra. All nodes are independent, and there's no single point of failure. However, Azure Cosmos DB provides the out-of-box ability to configure either single-master or multi-master regions for writes.

An advantage of having a single-master region for writes is avoiding cross-region conflict scenarios. It gives you the option to maintain strong consistency across multiple regions while maintaining a level of high availability.


Strong consistency across regions and a Recovery Point Objective (RPO) of zero isn't possible for native Apache Cassandra because all nodes are capable of serving writes. You can configure Azure Cosmos DB for strong consistency across regions in a single write region configuration. However, like with native Apache Cassandra, you can't configure an Azure Cosmos DB account that's configured with multiple write regions for strong consistency. A distributed system can't provide an RPO of zero and a Recovery Time Objective (RTO) of zero.

For more information, see Load balancing policy in our API for Cassandra recommendations for Java blog. Also, see Failover scenarios in our official code sample for the Cassandra Java v4 driver.

Request units

One of the major differences between running a native Apache Cassandra cluster and provisioning an Azure Cosmos DB account is how database capacity is provisioned. In traditional databases, capacity is expressed in terms of CPU cores, RAM, and IOPS. Azure Cosmos DB is a multi-tenant platform-as-a-service database. Capacity is expressed by using a single normalized metric called request units. Every request sent to the database has a request unit cost (RU cost). Each request can be profiled to determine its cost.

The benefit of using request units as a metric is that database capacity can be provisioned deterministically for highly predictable performance and efficiency. After you profile the cost of each request, you can use request units to directly associate the number of requests sent to the database with the capacity you need to provision. The challenge with this way of provisioning capacity is that you need to have a solid understanding of the throughput characteristics of your workload.

We highly recommend that you profile your requests. Use that information to help you estimate the number of request units you'll need to provision. Here are some articles that might help you make the estimate:

Capacity provisioning models

In traditional database provisioning, a fixed capacity is provisioned up front to handle the anticipated throughput. Azure Cosmos DB offers a capacity-based model called provisioned throughput. As a multi-tenant service, Azure Cosmos DB also offers consumption-based models in autoscale mode and serverless mode. The extent to which a workload might benefit from either of these consumption-based provisioning models depends on the predictability of throughput for the workload.

In general, steady-state workloads that have predictable throughput benefit most from provisioned throughput. Workloads that have large periods of dormancy benefit from serverless mode. Workloads that have a continuous level of minimal throughput, but with unpredictable spikes, benefit most from autoscale mode. We recommend that you review the following articles for a clear understanding of the best capacity model for your throughput needs:


Partitioning in Azure Cosmos DB is similar to partitioning in Apache Cassandra. One of the main differences is that Azure Cosmos DB is more optimized for horizontal scale. In Azure Cosmos DB, limits are placed on the amount of vertical throughput capacity that's available in any physical partition. The effect of this optimization is most noticeable when an existing data model has significant throughput skew.

Take steps to ensure that your partition key design results in a relatively uniform distribution of requests. For more information about how logical and physical partitioning work and limits on throughput capacity per partition, see Partitioning in the Azure Cosmos DB for Apache Cassandra.


In native Apache Cassandra, increasing capacity and scale involves adding new nodes to a cluster and ensuring that the nodes are properly added to the Cassandra ring. In Azure Cosmos DB, adding nodes is transparent and automatic. Scaling is a function of how many request units are provisioned for your keyspace or table. Scaling in physical machines occurs when either physical storage or required throughput reaches limits allowed for a logical or a physical partition. For more information, see Partitioning in the Azure Cosmos DB for Apache Cassandra.

Rate limiting

A challenge of provisioning request units, particularly if you're using provisioned throughput, is rate limiting. Azure Cosmos DB returns rate-limited errors if clients consume more resources than the amount you provisioned. The API for Cassandra in Azure Cosmos DB translates these exceptions to overloaded errors on the Cassandra native protocol. For information about how to avoid rate limiting in your application, see Prevent rate-limiting errors for Azure Cosmos DB for Apache Cassandra operations.

Apache Spark connector

Many Apache Cassandra users use the Apache Spark Cassandra connector to query their data for analytical and data movement needs. You can connect to the API for Cassandra the same way and by using the same connector. Before you connect to the API for Cassandra, review Connect to the Azure Cosmos DB for Apache Cassandra from Spark. In particular, see the section Optimize Spark connector throughput configuration.

Troubleshoot common issues

For solutions to common issues, see Troubleshoot common issues in the Azure Cosmos DB for Apache Cassandra.

Next steps