How to build an Oracle Database application (that supports APEX, Java, React or any other front-end) (5)

Gert-Jan Paulissen
DevOps
Kharnagy, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Last time in “How to build an Oracle Database application (that supports APEX, Java, React or any other front-end) (4)”, I told you about the Oracle SQL Developer Data Modeler.

This time I will discuss the following tools: Git, Subversion, Maven and Flyway.

Flyway

The first tool I would like to discuss is one of the cornerstones of the build architecture.

With Flyway all changes to the database are called migrations. Migrations can be either versioned or repeatable.

Why migrations?

For the non-database code side of projects we are now in control.

From the Flyway documentation, Why database migrations?:

  • Version control is now universal with better tools everyday.
  • We have reproducible builds and continuous integration.
  • We have well defined release and deployment processes.

But what about the database? Well unfortunately we have not been doing so well there. Many projects still rely on manually applied sql scripts. And sometimes not even that (a quick sql statement here or there to fix a problem). And soon many questions arise:

  • What state is the database in on this machine?
  • Has this script already been applied or not?
  • Has the quick fix in production been applied in test afterwards?
  • How do you set up a new database instance?
  • More often than not the answer to these questions is: We don’t know.

Database migrations are a great way to regain control of this mess.

They allow you to:

  • Recreate a database from scratch
  • Make it clear at all times what state a database is in
  • Migrate in a deterministic way from your current version of the database to a newer one

How Flyway works?

Again from the Flyway documentation:

  1. Flyway uses a schema history table (automatically created by Flyway) to maintain the track the state of the database.
  2. Flyway will scan the filesystem or the classpath of the application for migrations. They can be written in either Sql or Java.
  3. The migrations are then sorted based on their version number and applied in order.
  4. As each migration gets applied, the schema history table is updated accordingly.
  5. With the metadata and the initial state in place, we can now talk about migrating to newer versions.
  6. Flyway will once again scan the filesystem or the classpath of the application for migrations. The migrations are checked against the schema history table. If their version number is lower or equal to the one of the version marked as current, they are ignored.
  7. The remaining migrations are the pending migrations: available, but not applied.

And that’s it! Every time the need to evolve the database arises, whether structure (DDL) or reference data (DML), simply create a new migration with a version number higher than the current one. The next time Flyway starts, it will find it and upgrade the database accordingly.

Incremental migrations

Also called versioned migrations. As the name already indicates these files are run only once in a database. They are usually used for SQL commands that can execute only once:

  • CREATE …
  • ALTER …
  • DROP …

The default naming convention of Flyway is that incremental migrations have a prefix V, a version number, two underscores and the rest is free.

I prefer to have a timestamp as version number in the Oracle date format YYYYMMDDHH24MISS. An example is thus V20210217140700__create_table_TEST.sql.

You can put more than one SQL command in an incremental migration but take care: if the script fails after having executed successfully at least one command you are in deep trouble. That’s why I prefer to have just a single command in each incremental script or I write them foolproof, guarding against unexpected situations. It depends.

Repeatable migrations

Repeatable migrations are very useful for managing database objects whose definition can then simply be maintained in a single file in version control. Instead of being run just once, they are (re-)applied every time their checksum changes.

They are typically used for:

  • (Re-)creating views/procedures/functions/packages/
  • Bulk reference data reinserts

With Flyway’s default naming convention, the filename will be similar to the regular migrations, except for the V prefix which is now replaced with a R and the lack of a version.

Although there is no order due to a version there is an order because of the name of the file. In order to minimize the number of errors or warnings during a migration I use the following naming convention:

R__<type order number>.<schema>.<type>.<name>.sql

This table shows the types (from DBMS_METADATA) and their type order number:

typetype order number
FUNCTION08
PACKAGE_SPEC09
VIEW10
PROCEDURE11
PACKAGE_BODY14
TYPE_BODY15
TRIGGER17
OBJECT_GRANT18
SYNONYM21
COMMENT22
JAVA_SOURCE25

The missing numbers are used for CREATE only objects like tables, constraints and so on but they are not used for repeatable migrations so I left them out.

When the schema is not fixed I do not use the <schema> part as in R__09.PACKAGE_SPEC.CFG_PKG.sql, a package specification that defines some constants (debugging on/off and testing on/off) to be used in conditional compiling.

You must be careful with views. If you create a view that depends on another object (a view for instance) that has not yet been created, Flyway will fail unless you add the FORCE keyword.

You must be careful with views and instead of triggers. Instead triggers have the nasty characteristic of disappearing when you recreate the view. But there is a simple solution. Create the instead of trigger in the same script as the view (creating the view first obviously). Then Flyway will be your savior.

DML

As already said DML scripts can be either incremental or repeatable migrations.

Preferred order of migrations

The preferred order is:

  • incremental migrations
  • repeatable DDL migrations
  • repeatable DML migrations

You can influence that by choosing wisely the Flyway locations to search for migration scripts.

Why not Liquibase?

There is another competitor of Flyway: Liquibase.

I have investigated Liquibase long time ago and I saw recently that the Oracle SQLcl client supports Liquibase. I still prefer Flyway because it is so much easier to understand and use. And it handles PL/SQL code so much better.

I will quote this from an oracle-base.com article:

That’s Not How You Use It! When you look at examples of using Liquibase on the internet they all have a few things in common.

  • They are typically examples used to track table changes and not much else.
  • Like my examples, they are based on small simple schemas. This always makes sense, but issues arise with some methods when things grow.
  • They don’t include code objects (procedure, functions, packages, triggers, types etc.).
  • If they do include code objects, they assume each version of the code is in a new file. This means you’re going to lose the conventional commit history of a file you would normally expect for code. Instead you have to manually diff between separate files.
  • They assume people need to rollback changes to previous versions of the database through this mechanism. I think creating a rollback script for each schema change makes sense, but I think it’s a bad idea to include it in this mechanism. In my opinion all changes should move forward. So a “rollback” is really a new change applied to the database that reverts the changes. This is especially true of code related functionality.

The major issue for me is the way code objects are managed. This may not affect you if you never have code in the database, but for a PL/SQL developer, this feels like a show-stopper. As a result, I prefer to work using scripts, which are kept in source control, and use Liquibase as the deployment and sequencing mechanism. I’m sure many Liquibase users will not like this, and will think I’m using it incorrectly. That’s fine. There’s more discussion about script management here.

I can only add: if you prefer to have your PL/SQL code in a script why not your tables and so on (the incremental scripts)?

I rest my case.

Maven

The reason I have chosen Maven to be the build integration tool is its excellent support for Flyway and Jenkins. It enables you to do Continuous Integration. And yes, it is used mainly by Java projects but it can perfectly be used in a project integrating several technologies.

There is a lot of documentation about Maven but for building Oracle projects you can just begin with the:

Version control

As already stated before version control tools are necessary for a mature project.

Tools

The tools used nowadays are Git and Subversion. Git is now the standard and I would like to have used it throughout but there were two areas where I had to resort to Subversion.

Git

Git is nowadays the standard version control tool and also the standard for GitHub.com, the standard Open Source site. Not a real choice thus.

Subversion

Subversion is used because Oracle SQL Developer Data Modeler only supports this version control tool. However, luckily there is a Git Subversion bridge that allows you to treat a Git repository as a Subversion repository.

Another advantage of Subversion is that it allows you to use the Maven SCM plugin with the scm:update command. This comes in handy when you are on a Citrix server and have no way to use the command line to clone (checkout) the repository for instance. Then it is very useful to scm:checkout your repository once and later update it. For one reason or another this scm:update command does not seem to work with the Git Java implementation of the Maven SCM plugin (remember no command line git allowed so Java needed).

So that’s why I add this code in the project parent POM:

<scm>
  <developerConnection>scm:svn:https://github.com/<user>/<project>.git/trunk</developerConnection>
</scm>

See for more information: Support for Subversion clients, Github.com

Branching or not?

I am not a big fan of branching, especially not in a database environment. I prefer to have a development process where you develop your changes as feature toggles (feature on/off). The changes initially do not impact production code by using constructs like conditional compiling (available since Oracle Database 10) and APEX Build Options (or if nothing else is available if/then/else) based on a configuration (for instance a package header defining some boolean constants). Those constructions allow you to enable/disable parts of the code. In the database you could even go further using Edition Based Redefinition (EBR) but that seems only necessary for applications running 24×7. EBR allows you to run multiple versions of packages and views in parallel – depending on the application or the user, the desired version of each database object is selected.

Conclusion

In this article I have shown you the reasons for choosing Flyway, Maven, Git and Subversion. The integration between them is (very) good and thus it allows you to do Continuous Integration.

Stay tuned!

All articles in this serie

SubjectLink
Introduction“How to build an Oracle Database application (that supports APEX, Java, React or any other front-end) (1)”
Database structure“How to build an Oracle Database application (that supports APEX, Java, React or any other front-end) (2)”
Oracle Database and Oracle APEX“How to build an Oracle Database application (that supports APEX, Java, React or any other front-end) (3)”
Oracle SQL Developer Data Modeler“How to build an Oracle Database application (that supports APEX, Java, React or any other front-end) (4)”
Git, Subversion, Maven and Flyway“How to build an Oracle Database application (that supports APEX, Java, React or any other front-end) (5)”
Oracle SQL Developer, utPLSQL, SonarQube, Perl, Ant and DevOps“How to build an Oracle Database application (that supports APEX, Java, React or any other front-end) (6)”

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How to build an Oracle Database application (that supports APEX, Java, React or any other front-end) (6)

Last time in “How to build an Oracle Database application (that supports APEX, Java, React or any other front-end) (5)”, I told you about Git, Subversion, Maven and Flyway. In this final article, I will discuss the following tools & methods: Oracle SQL Developer, utPLSQL, SonarQube, Perl, Ant and DevOps. Oracle […]