How To Create a Cassandra Cluster in AWS Part 1

In this post, I’ll walk you through creating a Cassandra cluster in Amazon’s Web Services. The first thing you’ll need to do is sign in to your Amazon Console.  If you don’t have one, create an account.  Once you’re logged in, from the dashboard, click on the EC2 logo, under the Compute section.

ec2 logo from amazon

This is Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud where you can launch virtual servers, known as an Amazon EC2 instance.  From the EC2 Dashboard, you will notice that you have multiple regions to choose from in the upper right corner of the dashboard.  Since I’m U.S. based, I’ve selected the N. Virginia based data center.  Now we’re going to start the Launch Instance wizard.  Right in the middle of the screen, you should see a large “Launch Instance” button under the Create Instance section.


Create the Virtual Machines


There are many ways to select an Operating System for your virtual server.  Some are provided via an Amazon Machine Image (AMI), others are provided from the Community, or you can even provide your own Image.  For this tutorial, I’m looking to run Ubuntu on an instance with a small local SSD.


For that I’ll select the Quick Start menu,

create a virtual machine

and chose the Ubuntu Server option.

select ubuntu

The next step is to select an instance size.

choose an instance type

I’m wanting something that uses local SSDs and not EBS.  I could try to use the free tier and get a super tiny instance, but it doesn’t really demonstrate anything that you’d actually do in the real world.  From the available instance sizes, I’m looking for something not too expensive or beefy, since this is just a tutorial.  I’ve decided that an m3.large is small enough to demonstrate what I need and still big enough to run without any issues.


Choose the m3.large instance type.  This virtual server has 2 cores, 7.5G RAM & a 32G SSD with moderate network performance.


Step 3 is where you can decide how many of this these instances you wish to create and which availability zone, if you want a VPC, etc.

configure instance details

For this tutorial, I think a three node cluster will suffice.  I’ve changed the Number of Instances input from 1 to 3 and left the rest as the defaults.

3 node cluster

Step 4 is for adding any additional storage.

add additional storage

This tutorial doesn’t really have any need for additional storage, so I’m going to pass over this selection, leaving it all as the defaults.


Step 5 is for adding tags to your instance.

tag instances

At DataScale, we use this feature heavily, as we can sort and find different groupings of instances quite easily with this feature.  But again, for this tutorial, there’s really not much of a need for it.


Step 6 is for adding a Security Group around your instances.

configure security groups

I’ve updated the Security Group name & description to reflect what I’m doing.  I also added four inbound rules for the ports that Cassandra requires.

inbound security rules

Step 7 allows you to review all the choices you’ve made and make any changes.  If you’re satisfied with what you’ve selected, then you can press the Launch button and watch your virtual servers get created.

review instance launch

After you press the Launch button, AWS will prompt you to add a key pair to be used when you want to log into your new instances.

select a key pair

For the sake of the tutorial, I’ll create a new key pair and download the private key file.  If you lose this private key, you’ll never be able to access these instances and will need to terminate them and start over.  So don’t forget to click the Download Key Pair button and keep that .pem file someplace safe.

download key pair

Now I’ve pressed the Launch Instances button and my machines are being created.

launch status
So now I’m on the clock and being charged by Amazon for my use of these 3 machines.

In part 2 of this two-part tutorial, We will install & configure Cassandra on our cluster.

Adam HutsonBy Adam Hutson

Adam is Data Architect for DataScale, Inc.  He is a seasoned data professional with experience designing & developing large-scale, high-volume database systems.  Adam previously spent four years as Senior Data Engineer for Expedia building a distributed Hotel Search using Cassandra 1.1 in AWS.  Having worked with Cassandra since version 0.8, he was early to recognize the value Cassandra adds to Enterprise data storage.  Adam is also a DataStax Certified Cassandra Developer.