Cass Operator

K8ssandra deploys Kubernetes Operator for Apache Cassandra® to support management tasks in Kubernetes.

Kubernetes Operator for Apache Cassandra®, also known as Cass Operator or cass-operator, is deployed by K8ssandra as part of its Helm chart.

If you haven’t already installed K8ssandra, see the install topics.


Cass Operator deploys a Cassandra instance to your Kubernetes cluster. Cass Operator then automates the process of managing Cassandra in Kubernetes. Cass Operator distills the user-supplied information down to the number of nodes and cluster name to manage the lifecycle of individual Kubernetes resources. Additional options are available, but for starters, that’s essentially all you’ll need to specify. Now the process of managing the distributed Cassandra or DSE data platform is turnkey and much easier, which means your team is free to focus on the application layer and its functionality.

Let’s start by looking at containers and the emergence of Kubernetes as the premier platform for application orchestration. Then we’ll look at the Cassandra architecture deployed by K8ssandra’s Cass Operator.

Optimizing data management in containers with Kubernetes

Containers are a popular technology used to accelerate today’s application development. Thanks to prevalent container platforms like Docker, you can package applications efficiently compared with virtual machines. With containers, apps and all of their dependencies are packaged together into a minimal deployable image. As a developer, you can use containers to move applications between environments and guarantee that your apps behave as expected. These goals led to the creation of container orchestration platforms. The leader in this space is Kubernetes.

Highlighting just a few of the Kubernetes advantages:

  • Kubernetes accepts definitions for services and handles the assignment of containers to servers and connecting them together.
  • Kubernetes dynamically tracks the health of the running containers. If a container goes down, Kubernetes handles restarting it, and can schedule its container replacement on other hardware.
  • By using Kubernetes to orchestrate containers, you can rapidly build microservice-powered applications and ensure they run as designed across any Kubernetes platform.

Cassandra managed by Cass Operator

Cassandra substantially simplify development. All nodes are equal, and each node is capable of handling read and write requests with no single point of failure. Data is automatically replicated between failure zones to prevent the loss of a single container taking down your application. With simple configuration options in Cass Operator, Cassandra databases can rapidly take advantage of Kubernetes orchestration and are well suited for the container-first approach in your enterprise.

Cassandra architecture

Apache Cassandra is an open-source, NoSQL database built from the foundation of geographically distributed and fault tolerant data replication. Given the ephemeral nature of containers, Cassandra is a logical fit as the cloud-native data plane for Kubernetes.

Operations with Cass Operator

K8ssandra delegates core Cassandra management to Cass Operator. It handles the provisioning of datacenters, scaling operations, rolling restarts, upgrades, and container failure remediation.

Anatomy of a Cassandra Cluster

Cassandra clusters are separated into a topology of logical datacenters, racks and nodes. We will cover each level of the topology along with its associated Kubernetes.

Logical Datacenters (Namespaces)

Apache Cassandra clusters are composed of one or more logical datacenters. Datacenters are usually aligned to cloud regions or geographical areas, but may reside within the same geography as other datacenters for workload isolation purposes.

Single DC, Cassandra Cluster on Kubernetes

1x Datacenter, 3x Rack, 6x node Cassandra Cluster

Here we have a single Cassandra datacenter occupying a cloud region. In this deployment there are three failure domains, or logical racks where six nodes are deployed.

Logical Racks (StatefulSets)

Each logical datacenter is composed of multiple logical racks (named this way because they previously represented physical racks in datacenters). Cassandra ensures that data is replicated across rack boundaries such that the loss of a single rack does not effect data availability. With K8ssandra, logical Cassandra racks are mapped to Kubernetes Stateful Sets. Thus a datacenter with three logical racks will be composed or three Stateful Sets. Stateful Sets allow for reliable and consistent identity and storage between instances of containers running.

Single Rack / Stateful Set

If the replication factor in use matches the number of racks being deployed across then each rack contains a single copy of the data. It is important to note that while an entire rack may be taken down and still support operations at local quorum sizing must take into account the additional query load on each of the remaining racks should one become unavailable.

Nodes (Pods)

The smallest unit within the topology of a Cassandra cluster is a single node. A Cassandra node is represented by a JVM process. It is possible to run multiple instances or nodes of Cassandra per physical host, but care should be that there are enough fault domains to keep multiple record copies off the same host.

Cassandra Pod

In Kubernetes, each Cassandra pod is composed of a number of containers. The first container run in any Cassandra pod is the server-config-init initContainer. It handles rendering out configurations on a per pod basis with input from the CassandraDatacenter custom resource. Then the main, application containers are started.

The Cassandra pod always includes two application containers - cassandra and server-system-logger. The cassandra container does not immediately launch Cassandra. Instead, the Management API for Apache Cassandra is started first. This boots a REST API for lifecycle and operations tasks to be requested by cass-operator.

For instance, all nodes in the cluster may be scheduled and start their management APIs before the operator starts triggering the bootstrap for nodes. The server-system-logger container’s sole purpose is to tail Cassandra’s logs at /var/log/cassandra/system.log.

Next steps

  • For information about using a superuser and secrets with Cassandra authentication, see Cassandra security.
  • For reference details, see the K8ssandra Helm chart.
  • Also see the topics covering other components deployed by K8ssandra.
  • For information on using other deployed components, see the Tasks topics.