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Cassandra Schema Migration for Spring-Boot Projects

06 Oct 2018 » java, spring-boot

What is Schema Migration?

Typically if you are developing backend web application or REST APIs there may be need for data storage. There are numerous options on database choice ranging from typical RDBMS systems to NoSQL databases. As you develop and iterate on your application there might be changes to database schema and you would want to migrate these database changes across your environments in automated way. Database schema migration solutions do provide such support, for RDBMS Flyway, Liquibase and MyBatis are proven solutions. In this article we are going to focus on how to manage schema migration for Cassandra.

Why to use Schema Migration?

Idea behind Schema Migration is that you are can automatically apply schema changes across all your environments in consistent fashion. Such solution rules out any inadvertent human error with applying manual changes and it also makes rebuilding any environment breeze.

How does Schema Migration work?

Schema migration can be done either as a standalone solution which resides outside of application or service. You can execute those migration before your related application changes are deployed. Alternative approach is to embedded schema migration into your application and it gets executed as part of application startup. There are several pros and cons around both approaches but I personally prefer the later as it fits better with CI/CD model.

Schema migration frameworks generally work by creating tracking table which keeps tab on which schema migration script has been applied on that particular environment. All the schema migration scripts are given unique version number or primary identifier to keep track of the progress of migration. Additionally, in some frameworks a locking table is used to make sure multiple instances of application does not execute same migration. Since RDBMS systems are strongly consistent it guarantees that other application instances see the status of migration and schema changes.

Challenges with Schema Migration on Cassandra

Inherently Cassandra does not support strong consistency but uses eventual consistency model. Migration frameworks rely on JDBC drivers and transaction support to guarantee schema migration consistency. This makes it very challenging for the typical schema migration frameworks to work with Cassandra. There have been several attempts to write JDBC wrappers around Cassandra driver but they haven’t been very successful.

Spring Boot and Cassandra Support

spring-boot makes is very easy to integrate Cassandra support into your applications. If you have used spring-data module for RDBMS support, then replacing it to use Cassandra support will be breeze. spring-data provides easy to use Repository pattern which can be easily changed to work with RDMBS or Cassandra very easily. spring-data-cassandra module provides great flexibility in its approach with 3 different ways to interact with Cassandra - repository pattern for domain based interaction, CassandraTemplate for better control over queries using domain objects and CqlTemplate for low level cql like interactions.

As it is very common with spring modules, spring-data-cassandra is developed with lot of extensibility and great thoughts around development lifecycle. Unfortunately, spring-data-cassandra provides very rudimentary support for Cassandra Schema migration.

spring-data-cassandra provides support to specify keyspace creation and other data migration scripts. Spring can also introspect domain objects or entity classes and create Cassandra table specifications for those.

Generally, speaking I like greater control over generated schema hence I prefer explicitly creating data migration scripts for schema changes instead of using entity based auto-generation of scripts. This approach makes it easy to enforce any conventions you might have around database changes. spring-data-cassandra also provides script based approach but lacks versioning, metadata information and tracking as you would expect from schema migration solutions.

There are couple of good frameworks that make it easy to support schema migration for Cassandra and provide very similar behavior/functionality as their RDBMS counterpart. We are going to go into more detail into one of such solution that I have been using for sometime - smartcat labs cassandra migration tool


  • Schema migrations can be versioned
  • Schema migrations can be migrated with the application changes
  • Cassandra is eventually consistent so there should be significant guarantee that there was agreement with-in cluster nodes
  • For local development in-memory Cassandra would be used so schema migration should work with that setup as well


Simple spring-boot web application with spring-data-cassandra setup. Smartcat lab’s migration framework to implement schema migration.

Generally, spring provides great setup for local development by bootstrapping in-memory database. But spring lacks such support when it comes to Cassandra. You can add in-memory Cassandra support by using cassandra-unit.

As spring does generally, it provides different ways to modify Cassandra auto-configuration so that we can modify auto configured components.

I have used Java 8, Spring-Boot 2.0.1 for snippets but this also works for Spring-Boot 1.x services.

In-Memory Cassandra Support

To start, you can add cassandra-unit to add embedded cassandra server to your project.


Spring’s auto-configuration does most of the heavy lifting like instantiating cassandra driver, providing necessary defaults for driver and creating beans for Session, CqlTemplate, CassandraTemplate and proxy classes for Repository objects.

Add below configuration so that embedded cassandra server is started as part of your application start. Adding @Profile(“default”) ensures that embedded cassandra is only started when starting the application on local machine.

public class LocalDevConfig extends AbstractCassandraConfiguration {

    private static final Logger LOGGER = LoggerFactory.getLogger(LocalDevConfig.class);

    private String keyspace;

    private int port;

    public void startEmbeddedCassandra() throws InterruptedException, IOException, TTransportException {
        EmbeddedCassandraServerHelper.startEmbeddedCassandra();"Started Embedded Cassandra Cluster");

    public void stopEmbeddedCassandra(){
        EmbeddedCassandraServerHelper.cleanEmbeddedCassandra();"Disposed Embedded Cassandra Cluster");

    protected List<CreateKeyspaceSpecification> getKeyspaceCreations() {
        return Collections.singletonList(CreateKeyspaceSpecification.createKeyspace(keyspace)
                .with(KeyspaceOption.DURABLE_WRITES, true)

    protected String getKeyspaceName() {
        return keyspace;

    protected int getPort() {
        return port;

Extending AbstractCassandraConfiguration allows you to hook keyspace creation as part of application start. But before keySpace is created you also need to make sure that embedded cassandra server is started. This can be achieved by specifying that as part of @PostConstruct on the configuration itself. This helps with local development setup.

I am sure there are different ways to achieve similar configuration but this was one that worked out for me.

Integrate Smartcat Lab’s Migration Manager

Next I wanted to add data migration support which works similar way across both local and deployed environment and it works in same way without any special handling between embedded cassandra vs deployed cassandra.

Add below dependency for smartcat lab’s migration manager component -


Once you have this dependency you can start adding database migration scripts. These scripts are simple java classes that extend SchemaMigration class. Version number field is used to order the migration of scripts.

public class AddBooksTable extends SchemaMigration {

    public AddBooksTable(final int version) {

    public String getDescription() {
        return "Add Books Table";

    public void execute() throws MigrationException {
        final String createTable = SchemaBuilder
                .addPartitionKey("id", text())
                .addClusteringColumn("author", text())
                .addColumn("description", text())
                .addColumn("createtime", timestamp())
                .comment("Books table created")

        executeWithSchemaAgreement(new SimpleStatement(createTable));

Important thing to note is that these scripts are executed using special clause executeWithSchemaAgreement which ensures that all the nodes in the cluster have agreed on schema change. In absence of transaction support and eventual consistency model this clause guarantees that schema change has been committed.

I added below configuration to support data migration scripts so that migration scripts are executed as part of application startup. I would like to further enhance this such that migration scripts are auto discovered and there is not need to add scripts in the list when new one is created.

public class MigrationManager {

    private static final Logger LOGGER = LoggerFactory.getLogger(MigrationManager.class);

    private String keyspace;

    private Session session;

    public void doMigration(){
        Assert.notNull(session, "Session object is null");
        Assert.hasText(keyspace, "Keyspace cannot be null or empty");

    private void migrateSchema(final Session session) {"Executing schema migrations");

        final MigrationResources resources = findMigrationResources();

        MigrationEngine.withSession(session).migrate(resources);"Done with schema migrations");

    private MigrationResources findMigrationResources(){
        MigrationResources resources = new MigrationResources();
        resources.addMigration(new InitializeSchema(1));
        resources.addMigration(new AddBooksTable(2));
        return resources;

    private void printMetadata(final Session session) {
        final Metadata metadata = session.getCluster().getMetadata();"Connected to cluster = {}", metadata.getClusterName());

        for (final Host host : metadata.getAllHosts()) {
  "Datacenter = {} host = {}", host.getDatacenter(), host.getAddress());

    public void setup(){

One problem that I ran into with this setup was that order of creation of various cassandra configuration classes is non-deterministic and it would result in startup failure. After investigation I found that sometimes migration scripts will get executed before cassandra session got created. I tried using @DependsOn to force creation of session before script execution but I did not find good solution.

After digging through some of the Cassandra related auto-configuration I found this gem - AbstractDependsOnBeanFactoryPostProcessor. So I added below configuration and that worked out perfectly.

public class MigrationConfig {

    public static class CassandraDriverDependsOnBeanFactoryPostProcessor
            extends AbstractDependsOnBeanFactoryPostProcessor {

        public CassandraDriverDependsOnBeanFactoryPostProcessor() {
            super(CqlTemplate.class, CassandraCqlTemplateFactoryBean.class, "migrationManager");

This configuration basically says that instances CqlTemplate and CassandraCqlTemplateFactoryBean should be created before migrationManager is created. Which in turn results in Cassandra Session bean getting created as it is needed to initialize CqlTemplate.

With little bit of configuration above it makes it easy to setup database migration for cassandra which works in consistent way across all your environments. Although, it is small and easy setup, I wished spring had provided such configuration to make it easy for developers to support cassandra development.