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I've got an old monolithic project using MariaDB and PHP that I'm trying to put on CI/CD. The project has DB migrations to update the DB state. My current CD is built on top of AWS CodeCommit + CodePipeline + CodeBuild + CodeDeploy pushing a Docker image into ECR and then making AWS ECS redeploy the service. The container itself applies the DB migrations before starting the web server.

New deployments are ok, but I can't figure out how to rollback properly.

If I try to just deploy the older version of the image it won't have the migrations that need to be reverted and the DB state will differ from the one expected by the code.

I couldn't find any AWS guidance on the rollback with the special handling of the DB migrations, so it looks like it is up to me to come up with some solution.

My current idea is to update the build process so it would look for migration files that exist in the currently deployed image (the one being rolled back) but not in the upcoming deployment (some previous app version), and store them in a special directory. When the container will start it will revert all migrations found in the special directory.

This approach has a big flaw: new migrations are not guaranteed to work with the old code and/or configuration. Same time, the reverted code is not guaranteed to work correctly at all, hence I can't use the rolled-back image to take down its changes.

What would be the correct implementation of the rollback in this case?

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Databases are definitely the most challenging area for rollbacks.

The binary approach to rolling back a database is to restor a backup from before the upgrade. You then have to work out how you deal with any data that changed after the backup.

Instead, we normally apply database refactoring patterns to carefully introduce non-breaking changes using a series of small steps.

The following are "safe changes":

  • Adding a table
  • Adding a column with a default value

Any previous version of your application would work after these changes as it simply wouldn't know the new items existed.

If you perform these:

  • Adding a required columns
  • Renaming anything
  • Deleting anything

The database is no longer compatible with older versions of the software. This is where the refactorings help, as they provide a path that lets the change be divided into smaller safe steps.

At the end of a database refactoring, you still have to track compatibility as there will be a "minimum application version" supported by the database.

Without database refactoring, you'll be tackling the big data issue every time there is a problem (unless you can roll-forward the application instead). With database refactoring, you should be able to avoid the restore-from-backup scenario.

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  • Restoring from the backup is a dead end. Thank you for sharing the info about "database refactoring patterns" as I've never heard it before. This is something similar to the expand/contract approach that I'm trying to integrate now with low success. Although, it is all very complicated in general as instead of 3 projects (BE + FE + DevOps) another one is added - DB. In my case, the team doesn't have the capacity, so I asked about it in the first place.
    – Daniel
    Mar 17, 2023 at 10:08
  • @Daniel absolutely! With limited capacity, you might want to start with a small list of allowed changes: Add table, and add column with default value.
    – Fenton
    Mar 20, 2023 at 8:14

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