A column family is a NoSQL object that contains columns of related data. It is a tuple (pair) that consists of a key-value pair, where the key is mapped to a value. Column family databases are probably most known because of .. by it, just like a NoSQL db might, this does not break the relational model. The Cassandra database follows your first model, I think. A ColumnFamily is a collection of rows, which can contain any columns, in a sparse.