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Astra DB - Understanding Cassandra in the Cloud

What is Astra DB?

Astra DB is a fully managed, Cassandra in the Cloud service, provided by DataStax. This is DataStax’ serverless offering to the ever-growing world of cloud storage and computing.. DataStax touts Astra DB as 'Cassandra made easy in the cloud’. It is cloud-native and built using Kubernetes, allowing an Astra DB database to be deployed on AWS, Azure or GCP while still maintaining support and compatibility with open-source Apache Cassandra.

Datastax has spent over 3 years investing in making it easy to run Cassandra on Kubernetes through K8ssandra. Astra DB is a managed service built on top of this investment.

Why Astra DB?

The goal of Astra DB is to allow organizations to begin development sooner. Traditionally, it is very difficult and time consuming to create a new Cassandra in the Cloud database. It often requires collaboration between developers, devops and infrastructure teams to provision new clusters and databases. There are often VPC pairing configurations, specialized connection parameters, and a host of other networking obstacles that must be overcome before your database is even spun up and you can start development.

Thanks to Astra DB’s driver endpoint service, much of this process is taken care of automatically. This endpoint takes the Cassandra wire protocol, translates it, and passes it back to the appropriate instances behind the scenes. To mitigate security risks, Astra DB uses mTLS connection, which provides a secure connection bundle to connect with. This connection is set up between your application and Astra DB with as little as 2 lines of code.

Cassandra in the Cloud in 5 minutes

Where a normal DataStax Cassandra instance may take hours or days to set up, an Astra DB database can be set up in as little as 5 minutes and you can start accessing your new database almost immediately.

Another advantage that Astra DB has is scalability. Cassandra is natively powerful and can scale nearly infinitely if it has adequate CPU, memory and storage. The problem is that when you provision more resources, it is not usually elastic. Elasticity is hard with the open-source version of Cassandra because it takes more time for data to replicate and redistribute when scaling up or down. Because of the serverless nature of Astra DB, new clusters are easily provisioned and decommissioned as needed. Astra DB’s cloud-native features gives the best of both cost and technology –costs for network, compute, and storage are broken down and separated from one another. Switching an existing Cassandra workload to Astra DB can reduce the cost of ownership by up to 50% !

How does Astra DB work?

1. Capacity Units

When a new Astra DB database is created, a 3-node cluster is automatically provisioned. If additional resources are needed, Astra DB provisions them in sets of 3 database containers. This set of containers is called a capacity unit, each providing 500 GB of data storage. Every node has an auto replication factor of 3 to further ensure that the data exists and is available across all 3 nodes. Finally, each of these capacity units is replicated across 3 availability zones, thus maintaining high availability even in the unlikely event of loss of a full availability zone.

2. Guardrails

To further improve overhead and database management, Astra DB uses guardrails. Guardrails are a set of pre-configured default parameters that prevent users and developers from performing actions that could potentially destabilize the database. These parameters include a 200 table limit per database, table column size limitations to 5 MB, and partition size restrictions. These guidelines help to ensure and maintain an efficient database by keeping it in a healthy state at all times, improving performance and avoiding the pitfalls that exist with Cassandra and managing it across different environments and workloads.

Astra DB Management

Traditional Cassandra and DataStax Enterprise (DSE) both require significant, regular maintenance. This includes backups, snapshots, ensuring regular completion of repair/nodesyncand other tasks to scale clusters based on demand and configure replication and failover. With Astra DB, all system administration tasks are taken care of by DataStax experts and we can focus on our use cases and applications.


Astra DB provides all the power and scalability that Cassandra is known for, but without all the fuss and maintenance, changing the way people think about deploying Cassandra in the Cloud. With Astra DB, the overhead of installing, operating, and scaling is greatly reduced. You no longer have to worry about over-provisioning, thanks to the elasticity that the cloud has to offer, and you only pay for what you use. This results in a faster and more streamlined development lifecycle, reduced manpower for maintenance, and reduced cost.

With streaming and change data capture capabilities coming to Astra DB in the future, it’s no wonder that more and more companies are making the migration from Cassandra to Astra.

Data Aces has the knowledge and expertise in migrating on-prem Cassandra applications to Astra DB. Contact us today for a consultation on how you can move forward and into the future with Astra.

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