Administrative tasks

Aside from the main task of executing user requests, the driver also needs to track cluster state and metadata. This is done with a number of administrative components:

Text Diagram

Note: the event bus is covered in the common infrastructure section.

Control connection

The goal of the control connection is to maintain a dedicated DriverChannel instance, used to:

  • listen for server-side protocol events:
    • topology events (NEW_NODE, REMOVED_NODE) and status events (UP, DOWN) are published on the event bus, to be processed by other components;
    • schema events are propagated directly to the metadata manager, to trigger a refresh;
  • provide a way to query system tables. In practice, this is used by:
    • the topology monitor, to read node information from system.local and system.peers;
    • the metadata manager, to read schema metadata from system_schema.*.

It has its own reconnection mechanism (if the channel goes down, a new one will be opened to another node in the cluster) and some logic for initialization and shutdown.

Note that the control connection is really just an implementation detail of the metadata manager and topology monitor: if those components are overridden with custom versions that use other means to get their data, the driver will detect it and not initialize the control connection (at the time of writing, the session also references the control connection directly, but that’s a bug: JAVA-2473).

Metadata manager

This component is responsible for maintaining the contents of session.getMetadata().

One big improvement in driver 4 is that the Metadata object is immutable and updated atomically; this guarantees a consistent view of the cluster at a given point in time. For example, if a keyspace name is referenced in the token map, there will always be a corresponding KeyspaceMetadata in the schema metadata.

MetadataManager keeps the current Metadata instance in a volatile field. Each transition is managed by a MetadataRefresh object that computes the new metadata, along with an optional list of events to publish on the bus (e.g. table created, keyspace removed, etc.) The new metadata is then written back to the volatile field. MetadataManager follows the confined inner class pattern to ensure that all refreshes are applied serially, from a single admin thread. This guarantees that two refreshes can’t start from the same initial state and overwrite each other.

There are various types of refreshes targeting nodes, the schema or the token map.

Note that, unlike driver 3, we only do full schema refreshes. This simplifies the code considerably, and thanks to debouncing this should not affect performance. The schema refresh process uses a few auxiliary components that may have different implementations depending on the Cassandra version:

  • SchemaQueries: launches the schema queries asynchronously, and assemble the result in a SchemaRows;
  • SchemaParser: turns the SchemaRows into the SchemaRefresh.

When the metadata manager needs node-related data, it queries the topology monitor. When it needs schema-related data, it uses the control connection directly to issue its queries.

Topology monitor

TopologyMonitor abstracts how we get information about nodes in the cluster:

  • refresh the list of nodes;
  • refresh an individual node, or load the information of a newly added node;
  • check schema agreement;
  • emit TopologyEvent instances on the bus when we get external signals suggesting topology changes (node added or removed), or status changes (node down or up).

The built-in implementation uses the control connection to query system.local and system.peers, and listen to gossip events.

Node state manager

NodeStateManager tracks the state of the nodes in the cluster.

We can’t simply trust gossip events because they are not always reliable (the coordinator can become isolated and think other nodes are down). Instead, the driver uses more elaborate rules that combine external signals with observed internal state:

  • as long as we have an active connection to a node, it is considered up, whatever gossip events say;
  • if all connections to a node are lost, and its pool has started reconnecting, it gets marked down (we check the reconnection because the pool could have shut down for legitimate reasons, like the node distance changing to IGNORED);
  • a node is marked back up when the driver has successfully reopened at least one connection;
  • if the driver is not actively trying to connect to a node (for example if it is at distance IGNORED), then gossip events are applied directly.

See the javadocs of NodeState and TopologyEvent, as well as the NodeStateManager implementation itself, for more details.

Topology events vs. node state events

These two event types are related, but they’re used at different stages:

  • TopologyEvent is an external signal about the state of a node (by default, a TOPOLOGY_CHANGE or STATUS_CHANGE gossip event received on the control connection). This is considered as a mere suggestion, that the driver may or may not decide to follow;
  • NodeStateEvent is an actual decision made by the driver to change a node to a given state.

NodeStateManager essentially transforms topology events, as well as other internal signals, into node state events.

In general, other driver components only react to node state events, but there are a few exceptions: for example, if a connection pool is reconnecting and the next attempt is scheduled in 5 minutes, but a SUGGEST_UP topology event is emitted, the pool tries to reconnect immediately.

The best way to find where each event is used is to do a usage search of the event type.

How admin components work together

Most changes to the cluster state will involve the coordinated effort of multiple admin components. Here are a few examples:

A new node gets added

Text Diagram

At this point, other driver components listening on the event bus will get notified of the addition. For example, DefaultSession will initialize a connection pool to the new node.

A new table gets created

Text Diagram

The last connection to an active node drops

Text Diagram

Extension points


This is a standalone component because some users have asked for a way to use their own discovery service instead of relying on system tables and gossip (see JAVA-1082).

A custom implementation can be plugged by extending the context and overriding buildTopologyMonitor. It should:

  • implement the methods of TopologyMonitor by querying the discovery service;
  • use some notification mechanism (or poll the service periodically) to detect when nodes go up or down, or get added or removed, and emit the corresponding TopologyEvent instances on the bus.

Read the javadocs for more details; in particular, NodeInfo explains how the driver uses the information returned by the topology monitor.


It’s less likely that this will be overridden directly. But the schema querying and parsing logic is abstracted behind two factories that handle the differences between Cassandra versions: SchemaQueriesFactory and SchemaParserFactory. These are pluggable by extending the context and overriding the corresponding buildXxx methods.