ALT.NET and Cassandra

On a lark, tonight I attended an ALT.NET presentation on Cassandra at our local Microsoft Nerd Center. Kudos to Microsoft for hosting all these great meetings – its a real service to the broader developer community.

Coming from a Java perspective, I found this meeting especially interesting since it was all about .NET. It is always informative to see how other different developer communities are using NoSQL technologies.

The speaker, John Zablocki, emphasized how his goal with the ALT.NET group is to introduce open source projects to Microsoft developers. He was an engaging and entertaining speaker with a background in Mongo, CouchDB and Cassandra. I really enjoyed his joke how DB admins are increasing global warming by being so highly paid and thus buying bigger houses, consuming more resources, etc. 🙂

One of the major outcomes of the meeting for me was my increased awareness of Microsoft Azure. I’ve definitely added a  new item on my to-learn-more queue regarding Azure and more specifically their key/value consistent store called Windows Azure Table. There were several Microsoft folks involved with Azure that imparted some great information. They seem  eager to hook up with greater No SQL community – things are a happening here.

The first part of the talk was on general No SQL background stuff – a bit redundant to the knowledgeable ones. But I always find reviews productive – there is always something new to learn, a slight new angle from a different perspective or a new nugget to store in ye old gray matter. We certainly had fun with Cassandra’s sub-par cassandra-cli shell!

Regarding specific Windows issues, I asked if there were any Windows-based Cassandra deployments out there but no one knew of any. John was obviously very much in-the-know on the three .NET Cassandra client drivers and according to him Fluent Cassandra is the best choice since it most true to the .NET programming paradigm. I was rather surprised at the number of clients for .NET compared to Java!

Finally John was kind enough to raffle a copy of Cassandra The Definitive Guide book to the person who knew who the author of the CAP theorem was. Hint: he recently joined the board of Riak! I volunteered the answer, and lo and behold I now have to update my Cassandra knowledge with “out-of-date” knowledge. How quickly tool-specific information is outdated! The book was published not even a year ago (Nov. 2010) and deals with version 7 whereas the current version is 1.0! Nevertheless, I am confident that there is plenty worthwhile core architectural information to be learned.

As a sidebar, with the tragic demise of Borders bookstore, I had somewhat guiltily  opted to buy a copy of the classical book Principles of Transaction Processing, Second Edition instead of the Cassandra book since the pages-to-price-to-knowledge ratio was higher for the former than the latter. Now my conscience is clear-er! Of particular interest is Chapter 9 Replication which presents a priceless rigorous exposition of replication – from master/slave to eventual consistency. A must read for the No SQL professional!

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