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NOTE: We have published an article on InfoQ that gives an overview of Obevo.

Please see that article in place of this page.


Before we start, we’d like to mention that one of the keys to this tool is to make your db schema maintenance easy, whether for large or small DBs, for new or existing.

Particuarly existing systems - if you haven’t managed your DB schemas in source code before, it usually would be painful to get that under source control, and thus Obevo has functionality to make it as easy as possible (and continually looks to improve)

Obevo was built to handle such cases and vetted by its usage and onboarding into long-lived existing systems. See here for a demo project to show this. In our opinion, the resulting code is rather maintainable (considering the hundreds of db objects!) compared to what may otherwise result if the system was maintained only using incremental update scripts.

Overview of how “most database deployment tools” work

Some Background - the key fact is that a database is maintained over time with incremental changes

  • i.e. you cannot redefine a DB table by simply editing the existing definition
  • This is because the only way to perform such changes in SQL is by dropping and re-adding the table, and this is not possible as tables have data in it
  • Instead, you must define ALTER statements on top of the existing tables to make changes

Hence, most DB deployment tools operate in this manner:

  • Developers define the DB changes (i.e some create/alter command) in source control, with the changes identifiable by a certain convention (one example is to do one change per file, with thename of the change being the file name)
  • The tool is executed against a target database. The changes that get applied are stored in a table in the target database (keyed off the name of the change)
  • Upon subsequent calls to the deployment tool, the tool will use this audit trail to know which changes should get deployed (i.e. “set of changes defined in your code” minus “set of changes in the audit db” = “set of changes to deploy”)
    • This implies that once a change is deployed to a DB, that the change should no longer be modified in source control
    • Many db tools will do a check to ensure that this does not happen (i.e. store a hash of the change in the DB upon deployment, and compare against that hash upon subsequent deployments)

Alternative considered - tool generates the diffs:

  • An approach that people may think of is to just maintain the latest version of the schema in your source, and have the tool figure out the differences
  • This would be ideal, but in practice can be tricky (even with vendor products) and would always need some human intervention. Hence, we cut out this part entirely

Why Obevo

Viewing all DB migrations as incremental changes is simple to implement, but does not lead to a maintainable code base in the long term

  • Imagine all the change files that will start piling up in your code base
  • And for rerunnable objects like stored procedures or views, it seems redundant to keep the old change files around. (yes, stored procedures are “evil”, but many systems still use them and we need to continue to maintain them)
  • And having to manually define the order of your changes, e.g. for inter-dependent stored procedures. (Imagine if you had to do this for Java, i.e. specifying the compile order of your classes based on their dependencies and relationships)

Obevo looks to save some of the work around this by:

  • Encouraging a one-file-for-db-object convention as to make db object maintenance similar to your code (e.g. the one-file-per-class convention in Java)
  • Saving some work to generate alter commands where needed (e.g. for views and stored procedures)
  • Using an algorithm to automatically calculate the change deployment order (both for incremental changes and rerunnable changes)
  • Among other things

The user guide details the features that come with Obevo.

How Obevo Calculates and Applies Changes

Read the ‘how “most database deployment tools” work’ section and then see the Design Walkthrough