Held Hostage by the Database

Your database platform will constrain and limit the flexibility you have in evolving your software. It doesn’t matter which platform you choose, which type of database, or even the format for your data. At some point, you will be dealing with legacy data in some legacy schema or structure, and your development, and certainly deployment, will be slowed or impacted. Face it, the need to maintain state for your data is an impediment in a relational system. In a NoSQL or other store, the need to maintain code in your application that can interpret your data might be the issue over time.

That’s not to imply this need to maintain state has to slow your development. On the contrary, there are many companies that find themselves moving quickly, able to make database changes on a weekly, or even daily, basis. There are multiple tricks and techniques for managing change, but ultimately the real secret is having a process that computers can follow and your developers adhere to.

In other words, having some automation.

Certainly you need to program the automation, or use tools like those from my employer, Redgate Software, but it doesn’t matter which what process you use. The process does need to be flexible because it will change over time. I can almost guarantee that the way in which you need to deploy code to the database in your environment will change over time. It has to as the needs and requirements of your business change.

This means the way in which your developers need to build, test, and package changes will need to grow and evolve as well. While every developer and sysadmin needs to work within the process, the process does also need to be flexible as needs change. That isn’t to imply that your process should change every week, or for every deployment, but it will need to do so periodically, and hopefully, rarely.

There are techniques to make deploying database changes easier on the developer and system administrator, but there are no magic techniques. All the tools I’ve encountered, including those from Redgate, do the same types of things you’d do manually. They just save you time and stress by helping you get set up and easily maintain your deployment tasks over time.

Whether you use tools or not, please don’t allow the database to hold back your software development. Learn new ways to alter your database. Learn the ways to make changes to large tables. Learn how to avoid downtime. Just learn to design database changes in a better way and then automate the deployment of those changes.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

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About way0utwest

Editor, SQLServerCentral
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