Database Migrations. Vadim Kravcenko provides a useful, in-depth description of the less obvious challenges of applying database migrations successfully. Vadim uses and likes Django’s migrations (as do I) but notes that running them at scale still involves a number of thorny challenges.
The biggest of these, which I’ve encountered myself multiple times, is that if you want truly zero downtime deploys you can’t guarantee that your schema migrations will be deployed at the exact same instant as changes you make to your application code.
This means all migrations need to be forward-compatible: you need to apply a schema change in a way that your existing code will continue to work error-free, then ship the related code change as a separate operation.
Vadim describes what this looks like in detail for a number of common operations: adding a field, removing a field and changing a field that has associated business logic implications. He also discusses the importance of knowing when to deploy a dual-write strategy.
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