About upgrading Apache Cassandra

Upgrading an Apache Cassandra® cluster is accomplished by upgrading the version of Cassandra running on each of the cluster’s constituent nodes. For example, a cluster whose nodes are running Cassandra 3.11.15 is considered fully upgraded once all of its nodes have been successfully upgraded to Cassandra 4.1.2. With only a few exceptions, the cluster as a whole continues to work as though it were on the earlier version of Cassandra until all of the nodes in the cluster are upgraded.

Upgrades can be performed with the cluster either offline or online. One of the many benefits of Cassandra’s distributed architecture is that a cluster needn’t incur downtime while it’s being upgraded. Nodes can be upgraded and restarted one at a time while other nodes continue to operate online, serving replica data.

Upgrading Cassandra involves careful planning and preparations at the cluster-level to ensure minimal disruption to ongoing operations. The appropriate upgrade procedure depends on whether the cluster is required to continue serving data during the course of the upgrade.

The following pages outline the requirements for upgrading a Cassandra cluster:
Plan your upgrade

Create an upgrade plan that’s tailored to your specific environment.

Learn about the new release

Familiarize yourself with new features and changes, and understand how they may impact the upgrade process.

Review the prerequisites

Certain prerequisites are required in order upgrade to a new version of Cassandra.

Upgrade your cluster

Follow the step-by-step process for upgrading your cluster.

Supported upgrade paths

Cassandra version increments follow a traditional versioning scheme of MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH (X.Y.Z):

Major (X)

Backward-incompatible changes can be introduced.

Minor (Y)

New functionality can be introduced, but in a backward-compatible manner.

Patch (Z)

Bugs are fixed in a backward-compatible manner.

Unless documented otherwise, Cassandra can be upgraded to any release in the next major version increment. For example, a cluster running any 3.x release can be upgraded to any 4.x release.

However, upgrades to non-adjacent major versions are not supported. To upgrade by more than one major version increment, you’ll need to upgrade to an intermediate major version first. For example, to upgrade from a 2.x release to a 4.x release, the entire cluster must be upgraded twice; first to 3.x (preferably the latest release: 3.11.15), then again to 4.x (preferably the latest release: 4.1.2).

Supported and recommended upgrade paths
Starting version Path to current version

Cassandra 2.x

Supported: 2.x → 3.x → 4.x

Recommended: 2.x → 2.2.19 (if not already running) → 3.11.15 → 4.1.2

Cassandra 3.x

Supported: 3.x → 4.x

Recommended: 3.x → 3.11.15 (if not already running) → 4.1.2

When upgrading to a new major version, it’s recommended that you first upgrade the cluster to the latest patch release on your current version. Fixes included in the latest patch release can help avoid issues and reduce the overall level of risk associated with the upgrade process. For this reason, it’s a general best practice to have a continual upgrade strategy that keeps the cluster on the latest patch release of the current major version.

No matter what version increment you’re upgrading to — whether it’s a major release or a patch release — the node-level upgrade procedures remain largely the same. However, there may be significant differences in the steps required before and after upgrading a major version versus a minor version.

Downgrading Cassandra

Cassandra doesn’t have a direct mechanism for downgrading to a previous version once it has been upgraded to a newer version.

However, if issues occur during the course of a cluster upgrade, nodes can be rolled back to the previous version of Cassandra and restored from a snapshot backup.

Another option is to create an entirely new cluster running a lower version of Cassandra and migrate the data from the newly upgraded cluster.

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