A proper version control mechanism is vital for managing any application development process. It is more significant when moving from slow and monolithic development processes to leaner and faster agile developments. However, the database is an important aspect that is left out of the agile development process. In this article, we will see what you can achieve by implementing database version control into your CI/CD pipeline.

What is Database Version Control?

Once you start reading this article, the first question you would get is what’s the meaning of database version control. It’s similar to application version control, where you keep track of all the changes (bug fixes, improvement, features, hotfixes) done to the application by all your team members.

The same can be done for the database to keep track of all the changes done by different team members. This can include database schema, indexes, views, stored procedures, functions, database configurations, etc. The database version control acts as a single source of truth, allowing you to properly view, track and manage all the modifications done to your databases.

Why is Database often left out of CI/CD?

Even in the age of DevOps, databases are often left out of the CI/CD pipeline and managed separately. This creates a disconnect between the application and the database as well as development and database teams. As a result, database changes will be slow and lagging while the application is rapidly growing. There can be many reasons why databases are left out of the CI/CD process as follows.

Database Complexity
Most of the time, modern applications do not rely on a single database, and they use multiple types of databases to handle various types of data. These can range from RDBMS to NoSQL databases from different vendors to facilitate different functions. Therefore properly integrating an existing database into a CI/CD pipeline can be a complex and time-consuming process.

Siloed Teams
In the SDLC, there’s a high disconnect between your Dev and DBA teams which leads to differences in priorities and targets. For instance, if the DBA wants to update the database into a new version while the developers are introducing a new feature, it might lead to catastrophic bugs. Thus all teams should be on the same page with shared goals and targets before integrating databases to CI/CD.

Lack of Tools
Even if your organization wants to integrate databases to CI/CD, there can be a lack of proper tools for seamless integration. Most of the time, solutions are vendor locked or lack the necessary features and need workarounds to integrate properly with CI/CD tools.

Limited Knowledge
Another major reason why databases are left out is the lack of knowledge on Database DevOps. You might be aware of all the ins and outs of the application DevOps, yet a novice when it comes to DB DevOps.

What are the Advantages of Database Version Control

Database version control offers many advantages to streamline database management efficiently, and some of them are listed below.

Increased Visibility
Version control will provide you visibility of what has happened to the database, what has been done currently, its progress, and who is doing the changes. Having all the historical changes under a single source, if any bug related to the DB is identified, you can easily refer to the source and fix it quickly.

This increased visibility also allows developers and DBAs to synchronize application and database changes better using a DevOps pipeline. Thus it helps you identify which application changes correspond to which database changes.

Better Collaboration between team members
Proper version control enables your team members to work collaboratively by sharing the workload for databases effectively. Moreover, it enables DBAs to easily push changes to the source repo and get verified by other team members before merging.

Likewise, this improved collaboration fast-tracks the database development while increasing the visibility and management capabilities of the database.

Efficient and Scalable Deployments
A single source of truth offered by version control simplifies the management of databases. You just have to plug the version control into a CI/CD pipeline, and each approved change will be automatically reflected in staging and production databases as required.

Version control also enables to scale up databases easily. You can use the master source to replicate the schema, database configurations, etc.

Database Rollbacks
Version control allows you to easily roll back to a previous version in the event of a critical production bug. This is also a critical part of a good database backup strategy. Since all the changes are incremental, the effect of the rollbacks can be minimized. These rollbacks also help to identify the root cause of the bug quickly.

Easily comply with compliance and audit requirements
Version control can help you comply with compliance and audit requirements easily. Since all the changes are tracked and divided effectively, DBA can focus on creating code that is fully compliant with any requirement. Moreover, version control facilitates integrating compliance requirement management into the database DevOps process with easy management and review.

Why do you need Database Version Control?

As mentioned previously, database version control offers a whole host of advantages. Yet, do you really need version control? Would it be worth the investment? What if you are a smaller team, and will there be any tangible benefits?

In short, the answer to all the above questions is “Yes.” Regardless of the size of your organization or the database, it is beneficial to have a proper database version control mechanism configured from the beginning.

Think of a situation where you have to manage a database manually. There, even a small change request from the Dev team has to go to the DBA and wait until it’s approved to carry on the development and testing. It will not work and create bottlenecks in the development pipeline when there are multiple requests. Besides, how can team members know what each member is working on to avoid duplicates or outright conflicts with each other’s work? How difficult it will be to pinpoint the change when a database issue occurs. So manually doing all these things is a nearly impossible task that would waste a lot of DBA time and resources.

Version control can help mitigate all the bottlenecks in database management while also increasing the efficiency and visibility of the database development process. Integrating source control to CI/CD and automating tasks such as testing and deployment further saves time and helps to easily adapt to any requirement.

Why is it so challenging to implement?

Earlier, we discussed why databases are often left out of the DevOps process. All of those reasons, such as complexity and lack of knowledge and tools, also apply to database version control.

In application development, the usual process is developing the application, testing, packaging, and deploying it to the appropriate environments. You can easily integrate new technologies and tools without having to do major restructuring to the codebase.

However, there is a unique set of challenges with databases that any DBA must overcome to implement version control properly. The main concern is security as you are dealing with user data. Any data breach can be catastrophic, and even minor changes should be handled carefully. When there are different database types and limitations, version control should be structured to handle different database codebases separately without any conflicts. This is important as SQL dialects can differ depending on the database.

The complexity of databases increases further with their host environment. For instance, some configurations available in an on-premise database might not be available in a managed database on the cloud. Thus any code targeting an unavailable feature will break the database. So implementing database version control in a CI/CD pipeline will become a resource-intensive, time-consuming and daunting task without proper tools to facilitate Database DevOps.

Intro to DBmaestro Database Version Control

DBmaestro is a purpose-built database delivery automation platform that can be used to automate, secure, and govern database CI/CD pipelines. Database Version Control is one of the core products offered by DBmaestro, which provides all the necessary functionality to manage the changes done to the database structure and content while maintaining a single source of truth.

Now let’s have a look at a simple DBmaestro version control workflow.

Step 1 – Do some changes to the database. (This can be anything from a simple procedure change to creating a new table)

Step 2 – Using DBmaestro, commit to version control the changes introduced to the database. It will also provide you with an overview of your intended changes and any conflicts.

Step 3 – You can review your commits again and push the changes to the source repository.

The changes will be reflected in the source repository immediately after pushing (The following is an example of a Github repo)

 

Step 4 – If another team member wants to get the changes, he can pull changes from version control, and integrate them into his database.

The user can generate a script that includes the changes in the source repository and implement them in his local sandbox or team database.

DBmaestro simplifies the database version control so that you can easily manage the source repository and keep track of all the changes done by your team. It provides an excellent platform for Database Version Control with its support for multiple databases from different vendors and easy integrations with existing CI/CD tools.