I am looking for advice from others that are further along in deploying 
Cassandra in production environments than we are.  I want to know what you are 
finding your bottlenecks to be.  I would feel silly purchasing dual processor 
quad core 2.93ghz Nehalem machines with 192 gigs of RAM just to find out that 
the two local SATA disks kept all that CPU and RAM from being useful (clearly 
that example would be a dumb).

I need to spec out hardware for an "optimal" Cassandra node (though our 
read/write characteristics are not yet fully defined so let's go with an 
"average" configuration).

My main concern is finding the right balance of:

*         Available CPU

*         RAM amount

*         RAM speed (think Nehalem architecture where memory comes in a few 
speeds, though I doubt this is much of a concern as it is mainly dictated by 
which processor you buy and how many slots you populate)

*         Total iops available (i.e. number of disks)

*         Total disk space available (depending on the ratio of iops/space 
deciding on SAS vs. SATA and various rotational speeds)

My current thinking is 1U boxes with four 3.5 inch disks since that seems to be 
a readily available config.  One big question is should I go with a single 
processor Nehalem system to go with those four disks, or would two CPU's be 
useful, and also, how much RAM is appropriate to match?  I am making the 
assumption that Cassandra nodes are going to be disk bound as they must do a 
random read to answer any given query (i.e. indexes in RAM, but all data lives 
on disk?).

The other big decision is what type of hard disks others are finding to provide 
the optimal ratio of iops to available space?  SAS or SATA?  And what 
rotational speed?

Let me throw out here an actual hardware config and feel free to tell me the 
error of my ways:

*         A SuperMicro SuperServer 6016T-NTRF configured as follows:

o   2.26 ghz E5520 dual processor quad core hyperthreaded Nehalem architecture 
(this proc provides a lot of bang for the buck, faster procs get more expensive 

o   Qty 12, 4 gig 1066mhz DIMMS for a total of 48 gigs RAM (the 4 gig DIMMS 
seem to be the price sweet spot)

o   Dual on board 1 gigabit NIC's (perhaps one for client connections and the 
other for cluster communication?)

o   Dual power supplies (I don't want to lose half my cluster due to a failure 
on one power leg)

o   4x 1TB SATA disks (this is a complete SWAG)

o   No RAID controller (all just single individual disks presented to the OS) - 
Though is there any down side to using a RAID controller with RAID 0 (perhaps 
one single disk for the log for sequential io's, and 3x disks in a stripe for 
the random io's)

o   The on-board IPMI based OOB controller (so we can kick the boxes remotely 
if need be)

*         http://www.supermicro.com/products/system/1U/6016/SYS-6016T-NTRF.cfm

I can't help but think the above config has way too much RAM and CPU and not 
enough iops capacity.  My understanding is that Cassandra does not cache much 
in RAM though?

Any thoughts are appreciated.  Thanks.

Eric Rosenberry
Sr. Infrastructure Architect | Chief Bit Plumber

111 SW Fifth Avenue
Suite 3200
Portland, OR 97204

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