Query timestamps

In Apache Cassandra, each mutation has a microsecond-precision timestamp, which is used to order operations relative to each other.

The timestamp can be provided by the client or assigned server-side based on the time the server processes the request.

Letting the server assign the timestamp can be a problem when the order of the writes matter: with unlucky timing (different coordinators, network latency, etc.), two successive requests from the same client might be processed in a different order server-side, and end up with out-of-order timestamps.

Client-side generation

Using a timestamp generator

When using Apache Cassandra 2.1+ or DataStax Enterprise 4.7+, it’s possible to send the operation timestamp in the request. Starting from version 3.3 of the C# driver, the driver uses AtomicMonotonicTimestampGenerator by default to generate the request timestamps.

You can provide a different generator when building the ICluster instance:

var cluster = Cluster.Builder()

To implement a custom timestamp generator, you must implement ITimestampGenerator interface.

In addition, you can also set the default timestamp on a per-execution basis in the query options using the IStatement.SetTimestamp() method.


The driver provides 2 built-in implementations:

  • AtomicMonotonicTimestampGenerator that uses DateTime.UtcNow.Ticks to generate timestamps. The precision of UtcNow is system dependent and unspecified, which in summary can be around 15.6ms.
  • AtomicMonotonicWinApiTimestampGenerator that uses Win API’s GetSystemTimeAsFileTime() to generate timestamps. This method call is only available when running on Windows 8+ / Windows Server 2012+ and according to the documentation, the precision is higher than 1us.


AtomicMononoticTimestampGenerator and AtomicMonotonicWinApiTimestampGenerator implementations also guarantee that the returned timestamps will always be monotonically increasing, even if multiple updates happen under the same millisecond.

Note that to guarantee such monotonicity, if more than one thousand timestamps are generated within the same millisecond, or in the event of a system clock skew, the implementation might return timestamps that drift out into the future. When this happens, the built-in generator logs a periodic warning message. See their non-default constructors for ways to control the warning interval.

Provide the timestamp in the query

Alternatively, if you are using a lower server version, you can explicitly provide the timestamp in your CQL query:

session.Execute("INSERT INTO my_table (c1, c2) VALUES (1, 1) USING TIMESTAMP 1482156745633040");