Introducing a new database migration version

At GitLab we’ve added many helpers for the database migrations to help developers manipulate the schema and data of tables on a large scale like on To avoid the repetitive task of including the helpers into each database migration, we use a subclass of the Rails ActiveRecord::Migration class that we use for all of our database migrations. This subclass is Gitlab::Database::Migration, and it already includes all the helpers that developers can use. You can see many use cases of helpers built in-house in Avoiding downtime in migrations.

Sometimes, we need to add or modify existing an helper’s functionality without having a reverse effect on all the previous database migrations. That’s why we introduced versioning to Gitlab::Database::Migration. Now, each database migration can inherit the latest version of this class at the time of the writing the database migration. After we add a new feature, those old database migrations are no longer affected. We usually refer to the version using Gitlab::Database::Migration[2.1], where 2.1 is the current version.

Because we are chasing a moving target, adding a new migration and deprecating older versions can be challenging. Database migrations are introduced every day, and this can break the pipeline. In this document, we explain a two-step method to add a new database migration version.

  1. Introduce a new version, and keep the older version allowed
  2. Prevent the usage of the older database migration version

Introduce a new version, and keep the older version allowed

  1. The new version can be added to the migration.rb class, along with any new helpers that should be included in the new version. Make sure that current_version refers to this new version. For example:

          class V2_2 < V2_1 # rubocop:disable Naming/ClassAndModuleCamelCase
            include Gitlab::Database::MigrationHelpers::ANY_NEW_HELPER
          def self.current_version
  2. Update all the examples in the documentation to refer to the new database migration version Gitlab::Database::Migration[2.2].
  3. Make sure that migration_spec.rb doesn’t fail for the new database migrations by adding an open date rate for the new database version.

Prevent the usage of the older database migration version

After some time passes, and ensuring all developers are using the new database migration version in their merge requests, prevent the older version from being used:

  1. Close the date range in migration_spec.rb for the older database version.
  2. Modify the RuboCop::Cop::Migration::VersionedMigrationClass and its owned tests.
  3. Communicate this change on our Slack #backend and #database channels and Engineering Week-in-Review document.