Your Application, Phase Two - The database change

You've finished coding, testing, and deploying to customers. You put your feet up, and then the boss says "Right, time for Phase 2."

With your code all nicely checked in to a version control system, you're quite happy to add your features, fix a few defects, and deploy a new release. This time around, however, the database structure needs rearranging as well.

One obvious way to upgrade your database structure might be to grab the SQL for the changed parts, and diff it, just like code:

    CREATE TABLE books (
  -    title VARCHAR(255),
  +    title VARCHAR(1024) NOT NULL,
      year  INTEGER,

But when you apply this change to your existing database full of lovely books, you find you can't run CREATE on a table that's already there. You can DROP the table first, but then your data is toast and your users have to start over.

You could instead manually go over the database changes, and construct ALTER statements to update existing installs to the new plan, something like this:


But for a large set of changes this is probably tedious and time consuming, and that's just the update from the previous version of the application. What about crazy customers who for some unknown reason are still running the version from a year ago? Do you go back and painstakingly create the ALTER statements for those as well?

Enter DBIx::Class::Schema::Versioned

If you're using DBIx::Class to access your database from your application, then there's a tool which can help solve all these problems. Versioned helps keep track of which version of your application is installed where, and makes it easier to upgrade.

To start using Versioned in your application, add it as a component of the Schema class, for example:

   package My::Schema;
   use base 'DBIx::Class::Schema';

   our $VERSION = '0.01';



The important parts here are the load_components call, which makes your Schema class a subclass of DBIx::Class::Schema::Versioned, and the setting of the $VERSION variable.

When this Schema is deployed to a database, it will create an extra table called dbix_class_schema_versions. An initial row will be added containing the $VERSION of the deployed schema, and the date it was installed:

    version   |      installed
     0.0.1    | 2009-12-01 15:55:02

This data is used to verify, on every re-connection to the database, that the installed software (Schema) matches the version of the database structure it is talking to. If the version does not match, a warning is given.

Upgrading the database structure

First, make sure you have a copy of the SQL for the original Schema:


By default, this will produce an SQL DDL file for PostgreSQL, MySQL, and SQLite. See the DBIx::Class::Schema documentation for other formats and arguments.

Second, change your Result class to represent the new structure:

  -    title => { data_type => 'VARCHAR', size => 255' },
  +    title => { data_type => 'VARCHAR', size => 1024, is_nullable => 0 },

And change the version:

  -  our $VERSION = '0.01';
  +  our $VERSION = '0.02';

Now create another set of DDL files, upgrading from the original database layout to the new one:

   My::Schema->connect('dbi:SQLite:test.db')->create_ddl_dir(undef, '0.01', undef, '0.02');

Repeat this for as many upgrade paths (old version, new version) as you want to support.

The new Schema can now be used, along with the SQL files, to upgrade any existing database:



This system provides a bare-bones way of upgrading the structure of your database. It does not know anything about data migration. You are encouraged to investigate and override the various methods that Versioned supplies with any code you need in order to migrate the data.

Always examine the produced DDL files carefully. SQL::Translator is used to produce the diffs, and while it is good, it may not be perfect for your use.

Further reading

Make sure you read and understand the documentation of DBIx::Class::Schema::Versioned.


Jess Robinson <>