Creating a counter table

A counter is a special column used to store an integer that is changed in increments.

Counters are useful for many data models. Some examples:

  • Keeping track of the number of web page views received on a company website

  • Keeping track of the number of games played online or the number of players who have joined an online game

The table shown below uses id as the primary key and keeps track of the popularity of a cyclist based on thumbs up or thumbs down clicks in the popularity field of a counter table.


Tracking count in a distributed database presents an interesting challenge. At any given moment in Astra DB Serverless, the counter value could be stored in the memtable, commit log, or one or more SSTables. Replication between nodes can cause consistency issues in certain edge cases.

Because counters are implemented differently from other columns, counter columns can only be created in dedicated tables. A counter column must have the counter data type. This data type cannot be assigned to a column that serves as the primary key or partition key. To implement a counter column, create a table that only includes:

  • The primary key (can be one or more columns)

  • The counter column

Many counter-related settings can be set in the cassandra.yaml file.

A counter column cannot be indexed or deleted. To load data into a counter column, or to increase or decrease the value of the counter, use the UPDATE command. The database rejects USING TIMESTAMP or USING TTL when updating a counter column.

To create a table having one or more counter columns:

  • Use CREATE TABLE to define the counter and non-counter columns. Use all non-counter columns as part of the PRIMARY KEY definition.

Counter type

A counter column value is a 64-bit signed integer.

Using a counter

A counter is a special column for storing a number that is updated by increments or decrements.

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