January 29th, 2014

My Start with Cassandra DB blog posting was created by Rebecca Mills. To view more postings by Rebecca, check out her blog on her journey into computer science here.

Genetic code was always my first passion. Nothing was more exciting then though tiny nucleotide bases and the magic that evolved from their individual sequences. Once I finished my degree, after years of PCR, gel electrophoresis, and other very useful but archaic laboratory practices, I pondered over the career choices available to me. Feeling a little dead ended with the direction my career was taking, I thought of how I might build onto my current skill set to give me more alternatives. I was bored. I wanted something new, exciting, and cutting edge, and I pondered the use of programming and database technology in biomedical research. Being a big fan of ‘code’, I was intrigued by computer programming. I wondered how I might combine my educational background with emerging technologies: bioinformatics, genomics, as well as the big data challenges that accompany them. I enrolled in a couple computer science courses at my local university and I was hooked. I had some limited exposure to relational databases through school and out of my own curiosity dabbling, and I like many students, my database experience started and ended with MySQL and Oracle.

As a big friday-night fan of Netflix, I started following their tech blog, reading up on how things were done behind the scenes. It was through Netflix that I was first introduced to Cassandra, a high performance, almost infinitely scalable database. I investigated it further and found a lot of people raving about it. I realized that no one had been talking about how ‘great’ relational databases were, and decided I had to try Cassandra out for myself. With the help of the DataStax documentation, I was able to setup a 3 node cluster with relative ease. Before long, I had expanded it to a 6 node cluster, spanning two machines, to mimic a multi-datacenter cluster. I focused on learning the operations and file system, compression, making backups, decommissioning and commissioning nodes. I did this countless times, to the point where I’m sure I could edit a .yaml file in my sleep. Then through watching various webinars and presentations on Planet C*, I began to learn the in’s and out’s of CQL3 and the importance of mindful data modelling with Cassandra. The more I learned, the more fascinated I became. Recently, I completed the DataStax Virtual Training course on Java Development with Apache Cassandra, and I was able to put some of my recently aquired java programming skills to use in combination with running Cassandra.

 Today, I am still learning, experimenting, and speaking to others about programming and Cassandra. I’ve tried other DBMSs such as MongoDB, and still find myself coming back to Cassandra for it’s versatility and ease of use. I believe that no matter where you are with your education or career path, if you have an interest in technology, there’s no time like the present to delve in. I think that as Big Data grows bigger and bigger, NoSQL databases like Cassandra are more likely to become the way of the future. Therefore, if you are interested in doing something that will surely be relevant to a broad range of industries and disciplines, Cassandra might be a something to look into. I hope that others will join me in my learning journey.

  I would encourage students or anybody new to databases or computer science in general to give Cassandra a try. In my opinion its easy to learn, easy to use, and resistant to breakage, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly your skills will develop. The DataStax Documentation has a wealth of knowledge that can guide you through setting up and operating your very own Cassandra instance/cluster. Twitter is also a great resource, there are many people on there who are more than happy to help if you have any questions.There is also a virtual training course, Java Development with Apache Cassandra, for those who would might like to learn how to develop a web application using Java and Cassandra. I urge you all to explore, have fun, and maybe you’ll learn something along the way. To quote Richard P. Feynman, “Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.”

Learn more or register for training at DataStax Academy