Background migrations can be used to perform data migrations that would otherwise take a very long time (hours, days, years, etc) to complete. For example, you can use background migrations to migrate data so that instead of storing data in a single JSON column the data is stored in a separate table.
If the database cluster is considered to be in an unhealthy state, background migrations automatically reschedule themselves for a later point in time.
When To Use Background Migrations
Note: When adding background migrations you must make sure they are announced in the monthly release post along with an estimate of how long it will take to complete the migrations.
In the vast majority of cases you will want to use a regular Rails migration instead. Background migrations should only be used when migrating data in tables that have so many rows this process would take hours when performed in a regular Rails migration.
Background migrations may not be used to perform schema migrations, they should only be used for data migrations.
Some examples where background migrations can be useful:
- Migrating events from one table to multiple separate tables.
- Populating one column based on JSON stored in another column.
- Migrating data that depends on the output of external services (e.g. an API).
Background migrations must be isolated and can not use application code (e.g.
models defined in
app/models). Since these migrations can take a long time to
run it's possible for new versions to be deployed while they are still running.
It's also possible for different migrations to be executed at the same time. This means that different background migrations should not migrate data in a way that would cause conflicts.
Background migrations are executed in a context of a Sidekiq process. Usual Sidekiq rules apply, especially the rule that jobs should be small and idempotent.
See Sidekiq best practices guidelines for more details.
Make sure that in case that your migration job is going to be retried data integrity is guaranteed.
How It Works
Background migrations are simple classes that define a
perform method. A
Sidekiq worker will then execute such a class, passing any arguments to it. All
migration classes must be defined in the namespace
Gitlab::BackgroundMigration, the files should be placed in the directory
Scheduling a background migration should be done in a post-deployment migration. To do so, simply use the following code while replacing the class name and arguments with whatever values are necessary for your migration:
BackgroundMigrationWorker.perform_async('BackgroundMigrationClassName', [arg1, arg2, ...])
Usually it's better to enqueue jobs in bulk, for this you can use
BackgroundMigrationWorker.bulk_perform_async( [['BackgroundMigrationClassName', ], ['BackgroundMigrationClassName', ]] )
You'll also need to make sure that newly created data is either migrated, or
saved in both the old and new version upon creation. For complex and time
consuming migrations it's best to schedule a background job using an
after_create hook so this doesn't affect response timings. The same applies to
updates. Removals in turn can be handled by simply defining foreign keys with
If you would like to schedule jobs in bulk with a delay, you can use
jobs = [['BackgroundMigrationClassName', ], ['BackgroundMigrationClassName', ]] BackgroundMigrationWorker.bulk_perform_in(5.minutes, jobs)
Rescheduling background migrations
If one of the background migrations contains a bug that is fixed in a patch release, the background migration needs to be rescheduled so the migration would be repeated on systems that already performed the initial migration.
When you reschedule the background migration, make sure to turn the original
scheduling into a no-op by clearing up the
#down methods of the
migration performing the scheduling. Otherwise the background migration would be
scheduled multiple times on systems that are upgrading multiple patch releases at
Note: Cleaning up any remaining background migrations must be done in either a major or minor release, you must not do this in a patch release.
Because background migrations can take a long time you can't immediately clean things up after scheduling them. For example, you can't drop a column that's used in the migration process as this would cause jobs to fail. This means that you'll need to add a separate post deployment migration in a future release that finishes any remaining jobs before cleaning things up (e.g. removing a column).
As an example, say you want to migrate the data from column
foo (containing a
big JSON blob) to column
bar (containing a string). The process for this would
roughly be as follows:
- Release A:
- Create a migration class that perform the migration for a row with a given ID.
- Deploy the code for this release, this should include some code that will
schedule jobs for newly created data (e.g. using an
- Schedule jobs for all existing rows in a post-deployment migration. It's possible some newly created rows may be scheduled twice so your migration should take care of this.
- Release B:
- Deploy code so that the application starts using the new column and stops scheduling jobs for newly created data.
- In a post-deployment migration you'll need to ensure no jobs remain.
Gitlab::BackgroundMigration.stealto process any remaining jobs in Sidekiq.
- Reschedule the migration to be run directly (i.e. not through Sidekiq) on any rows that weren't migrated by Sidekiq. This can happen if, for instance, Sidekiq received a SIGKILL, or if a particular batch failed enough times to be marked as dead.
- Remove the old column.
This may also require a bump to the import/export version, if importing a project from a prior version of GitLab requires the data to be in the new format.
To explain all this, let's use the following example: the table
services has a
properties which is stored in JSON. For all rows you want to
url key from this JSON object and store it in the
column. There are millions of services and parsing JSON is slow, thus you can't
do this in a regular migration.
To do this using a background migration we'll start with defining our migration class:
class Gitlab::BackgroundMigration::ExtractServicesUrl class Service < ActiveRecord::Base self.table_name = 'services' end def perform(service_id) # A row may be removed between scheduling and starting of a job, thus we # need to make sure the data is still present before doing any work. service = Service.select(:properties).find_by(id: service_id) return unless service begin json = JSON.load(service.properties) rescue JSON::ParserError # If the JSON is invalid we don't want to keep the job around forever, # instead we'll just leave the "url" field to whatever the default value # is. return end service.update(url: json['url']) if json['url'] end end
Next we'll need to adjust our code so we schedule the above migration for newly created and updated services. We can do this using something along the lines of the following:
class Service < ActiveRecord::Base after_commit :schedule_service_migration, on: :update after_commit :schedule_service_migration, on: :create def schedule_service_migration BackgroundMigrationWorker.perform_async('ExtractServicesUrl', [id]) end end
after_commit here to ensure the Sidekiq job is not scheduled
before the transaction completes as doing so can lead to race conditions where
the changes are not yet visible to the worker.
Next we'll need a post-deployment migration that schedules the migration for existing data. Since we're dealing with a lot of rows we'll schedule jobs in batches instead of doing this one by one:
class ScheduleExtractServicesUrl < ActiveRecord::Migration[4.2] disable_ddl_transaction! class Service < ActiveRecord::Base self.table_name = 'services' end def up Service.select(:id).in_batches do |relation| jobs = relation.pluck(:id).map do |id| ['ExtractServicesUrl', [id]] end BackgroundMigrationWorker.bulk_perform_async(jobs) end end def down end end
Once deployed our application will continue using the data as before but at the same time will ensure that both existing and new data is migrated.
In the next release we can remove the
after_commit hooks and related code. We
will also need to add a post-deployment migration that consumes any remaining
jobs and manually run on any un-migrated rows. Such a migration would look like
class ConsumeRemainingExtractServicesUrlJobs < ActiveRecord::Migration[4.2] disable_ddl_transaction! class Service < ActiveRecord::Base include ::EachBatch self.table_name = 'services' end def up # This must be included Gitlab::BackgroundMigration.steal('ExtractServicesUrl') # This should be included, but can be skipped - see below Service.where(url: nil).each_batch(of: 50) do |batch| range = batch.pluck('MIN(id)', 'MAX(id)').first Gitlab::BackgroundMigration::ExtractServicesUrl.new.perform(*range) end end def down end end
The final step runs for any un-migrated rows after all of the jobs have been processed. This is in case a Sidekiq process running the background migrations received SIGKILL, leading to the jobs being lost. (See more reliable Sidekiq queue for more information.)
If the application does not depend on the data being 100% migrated (for instance, the data is advisory, and not mission-critical), then this final step can be skipped.
This migration will then process any jobs for the ExtractServicesUrl migration
and continue once all jobs have been processed. Once done you can safely remove
It is required to write tests for:
- The background migrations' scheduling migration.
- The background migration itself.
- A cleanup migration.
You can use the
:migration RSpec tag when testing the migrations.
Testing Rails migrations
When you do that, keep in mind that
after RSpec hooks are going
to migrate you database down and up, which can result in other background
migrations being called. That means that using
spy test doubles with
have_received is encouraged, instead of using regular test doubles, because
your expectations defined in a
it block can conflict with what is being
called in RSpec hooks. See issue #35351
for more details.
- Make sure to know how much data you're dealing with.
- Make sure that background migration jobs are idempotent.
- Make sure that tests you write are not false positives.
- Make sure that if the data being migrated is critical and cannot be lost, the clean-up migration also checks the final state of the data before completing.
- Make sure to know how much time it'll take to run all scheduled migrations.
- When migrating many columns, make sure it won't generate too many dead tuples in the process (you may need to directly query the number of dead tuples and adjust the scheduling according to this piece of data).
- Make sure to discuss the numbers with a database specialist, the migration may add more pressure on DB than you expect (measure on staging, or ask someone to measure on production).