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Challenges of Continuous Integration in Databases

Continuous Integration (CI) enables developers to frequently merge code changes into a shared database repository, making it easier to catch errors early and reduce integration problems down the line. Automating database schema migrations and testing as part of the CI process allows teams to achieve faster deployments and higher-quality database changes.
Nov 7, 2023 8:09:12 AM Algirdas Berneris, Senior BI Developer


Embracing CI is a game-changer in software development, seamlessly blending code changes into a shared repository while automating building and testing for a polished end product. Yet, databases introduce their own set of complexities, especially in wrangling schema tweaks and safeguarding data integrity.

In this blog post, we delve into these challenges, getting hands-on to uncover how the combination of Microsoft's SSDT and Azure DevOps, coupled with practical insights, can equip data engineers to overcome these obstacles.

Keeping Data Integrity while changing schema 

Database schema changes are like navigating a labyrinth. Tinkering with a schema while preserving existing data integrity is a tightrope walk, especially with complex relationships or mammoth databases. A tweak to a column can set off a chain reaction across stored procedures, views, and more as it is a complex, often causing conflicts process. One of the ways to solve it is to use Microsoft's SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT), it offers a structured approach to managing database schema changes. With a visual interface and deployment scripts, it smoothens the process, turning a potential headache into a breeze. 

Furthermore, Azure DevOps possesses a powerful asset: pipelines that enable the construction of database projects. Within these projects, you can specify the database schema's structure, its relationships, and create migration scripts. The utilization of these scripts ensures that developers can have confidence in the proper migration of data and its associated relationships.

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Finding a way in the data jungle 

Not all databases are inherently designed for continuous integration. Poor maintenance can lead to issues such as redundant entries and complex relationships. Cleaning up the database is essential, requiring strategic thinking and adjustments to achieve alignment. In order to maintain a smooth continuous integration process and prevent unexpected problems, consider the following steps:

  • Enforce data validation.
  • Implement a robust backup strategy.
  • Utilize housekeeping scripts.

Refactoring the schema and implementing version control for database artifacts is the key to marrying CI principles with existing structures. 

Proper testing and recovery plan 

Even with the best-laid plans, hiccups happen. That's where reliable rollback and recovery mechanisms come into play. Quick, efficient reversions to a stable state are the lifeline when the unexpected strikes. Robust backup and recovery strategies, like transaction logs and point-in-time recovery, are invaluable. Always source user acceptance testing environment with data from production. By doing so data engineers or testers can verify that changes work correctly also with not artificial but actual data. This keeps things real, highlighting any discrepancies or hitches that might come up during the CI process. 

Final thoughts

Mastering CI for databases isn't a walk in the park, but with the right tools and know-how, it's entirely achievable. Taking all these items in consideration, it can be said that our journey at mastering CI process in databases is ongoing. While we have not yet conquered ‘the summit of Everest’ in our projects, we have the necessary tools and knowledge to get there. We're on this path, going at comfortable speed, removing obstacles and preparing terrain for smoother change.

SSDT and Azure DevOps, combined with best practices' like tidying up messy databases, retrofitting for CI, and strengthening infrastructure, clears the way for a seamless CI pipeline. This approach ensures efficiency, reliability, and the integrity of your database systems throughout the continuous integration journey. 



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