Cassandra Documentation


Adding, replacing, moving and removing nodes


Adding new nodes is called "bootstrapping". The num_tokens parameter will define the amount of virtual nodes (tokens) the joining node will be assigned during bootstrap. The tokens define the sections of the ring (token ranges) the node will become responsible for.

Token allocation

With the default token allocation algorithm the new node will pick num_tokens random tokens to become responsible for. Since tokens are distributed randomly, load distribution improves with a higher amount of virtual nodes, but it also increases token management overhead. The default of 256 virtual nodes should provide a reasonable load balance with acceptable overhead.

On 3.0+ a new token allocation algorithm was introduced to allocate tokens based on the load of existing virtual nodes for a given keyspace, and thus yield an improved load distribution with a lower number of tokens. To use this approach, the new node must be started with the JVM option -Dcassandra.allocate_tokens_for_keyspace=<keyspace>, where <keyspace> is the keyspace from which the algorithm can find the load information to optimize token assignment for.

Manual token assignment

You may specify a comma-separated list of tokens manually with the initial_token cassandra.yaml parameter, and if that is specified Cassandra will skip the token allocation process. This may be useful when doing token assignment with an external tool or when restoring a node with its previous tokens.

Range streaming

After the tokens are allocated, the joining node will pick current replicas of the token ranges it will become responsible for to stream data from. By default it will stream from the primary replica of each token range in order to guarantee data in the new node will be consistent with the current state.

In the case of any unavailable replica, the consistent bootstrap process will fail. To override this behavior and potentially miss data from an unavailable replica, set the JVM flag -Dcassandra.consistent.rangemovement=false.

Resuming failed/hanged bootstrap

On 2.2+, if the bootstrap process fails, it’s possible to resume bootstrap from the previous saved state by calling nodetool bootstrap resume. If for some reason the bootstrap hangs or stalls, it may also be resumed by simply restarting the node. In order to cleanup bootstrap state and start fresh, you may set the JVM startup flag -Dcassandra.reset_bootstrap_progress=true.

On lower versions, when the bootstrap proces fails it is recommended to wipe the node (remove all the data), and restart the bootstrap process again.

Manual bootstrapping

It’s possible to skip the bootstrapping process entirely and join the ring straight away by setting the hidden parameter auto_bootstrap: false. This may be useful when restoring a node from a backup or creating a new data-center.

Removing nodes

You can take a node out of the cluster with nodetool decommission to a live node, or nodetool removenode (to any other machine) to remove a dead one. This will assign the ranges the old node was responsible for to other nodes, and replicate the appropriate data there. If decommission is used, the data will stream from the decommissioned node. If removenode is used, the data will stream from the remaining replicas.

No data is removed automatically from the node being decommissioned, so if you want to put the node back into service at a different token on the ring, it should be removed manually.

Moving nodes

When num_tokens: 1 it’s possible to move the node position in the ring with nodetool move. Moving is both a convenience over and more efficient than decommission + bootstrap. After moving a node, nodetool cleanup should be run to remove any unnecessary data.

Replacing a dead node

In order to replace a dead node, start cassandra with the JVM startup flag -Dcassandra.replace_address_first_boot=<dead_node_ip>. Once this property is enabled the node starts in a hibernate state, during which all the other nodes will see this node to be DOWN (DN), however this node will see itself as UP (UN). Accurate replacement state can be found in nodetool netstats.

The replacing node will now start to bootstrap the data from the rest of the nodes in the cluster. A replacing node will only receive writes during the bootstrapping phase if it has a different ip address to the node that is being replaced. (See CASSANDRA-8523 and CASSANDRA-12344)

Once the bootstrapping is complete the node will be marked "UP".


If any of the following cases apply, you MUST run repair to make the replaced node consistent again, since it missed ongoing writes during/prior to bootstrapping. The replacement timeframe refers to the period from when the node initially dies to when a new node completes the replacement process.

  1. The node is down for longer than max_hint_window before being replaced.

  2. You are replacing using the same IP address as the dead node and replacement takes longer than max_hint_window.

Monitoring progress

Bootstrap, replace, move and remove progress can be monitored using nodetool netstats which will show the progress of the streaming operations.

Cleanup data after range movements

As a safety measure, Cassandra does not automatically remove data from nodes that "lose" part of their token range due to a range movement operation (bootstrap, move, replace). Run nodetool cleanup on the nodes that lost ranges to the joining node when you are satisfied the new node is up and working. If you do not do this the old data will still be counted against the load on that node.