Cassandra does not offer fully ACID-compliant transactions, the standard for transactional behavior in a relational database systems:
As a non-relational database, Cassandra does not support joins or foreign keys, and consequently does not offer consistency in the ACID sense. For example, when moving money from account A to B the total in the accounts does not change. Cassandra supports atomicity and isolation at the row-level, but trades transactional isolation and atomicity for high availability and fast write performance. Cassandra writes are durable.
In Cassandra, a write is atomic at the row-level, meaning inserting or updating columns for a given row key will be treated as one write operation. Cassandra does not support transactions in the sense of bundling multiple row updates into one all-or-nothing operation. Nor does it roll back when a write succeeds on one replica, but fails on other replicas. It is possible in Cassandra to have a write operation report a failure to the client, but still actually persist the write to a replica.
For example, if using a write consistency level of QUORUM with a replication factor of 3, Cassandra replicates the write to all nodes in the cluster and waits for acknowledgement from two nodes. If the write fails on one of the nodes but succeeds on the other, Cassandra reports a failure to replicate the write on that node. However, the replicated write on the other node that succeeds is not automatically rolled back.
Cassandra uses timestamps to determine the most recent update to a column. The timestamp is provided by the client application. The latest timestamp always wins when requesting data, so if multiple client sessions update the same columns in a row concurrently, the most recent update is the one that will eventually persist.
There are no locking or transactional dependencies when concurrently updating multiple rows or tables. Cassandra supports tuning between availability and consistency, and always gives you partition tolerance. Cassandra can be tuned to give you strong consistency in the CAP sense where data is made consistent across all the nodes in a distributed database cluster. A user can pick and choose on a per operation basis how many nodes must receive a DML command or respond to a SELECT query.
Prior to Cassandra 1.1, it was possible to see partial updates in a row when one user was updating the row while another user was reading that same row. For example, if one user was writing a row with two thousand columns, another user could potentially read that same row and see some of the columns, but not all of them if the write was still in progress.
Full row-level isolation is now in place so that writes to a row are isolated to the client performing the write and are not visible to any other user until they are complete.
From a transactional ACID (atomic, consistent, isolated, durable) standpoint, this enhancement now gives Cassandra transactional AID support. A write is isolated at the row-level in the storage engine.
Writes in Cassandra are durable. All writes to a replica node are recorded both in memory and in a commit log on disk before they are acknowledged as a success. If a crash or server failure occurs before the memory tables are flushed to disk, the commit log is replayed on restart to recover any lost writes. In addition to the local durability (data immediately written to disk), the replication of data on other nodes strengthens durability.