Introduce Database Migrations!/story/2001654

Most OpenStack services use SQLAlchemy Migrate or Alembic to provide migration scripts that (a) update the service’s database schema if it changes and (b) migrate data as required. Currently, Monasca does not follow this pattern. Instead, it provides simple SQL scripts for PostgreSQL or MySQL databases that are only useful for initializing a database schema. For any subsequent changes required by updated code operators are on their own, i.e. they need to apply these manually to keep Monasca working. This spec proposes introducing (a) database migrations and (b) a separate tool that analyses an existing database’s schema state and adds the necessary metadata to update it through migrations in the future.

Problem description

In a nutshell, the database schema used for holding various alarm, notification, and metric metadata is not updateable. This is due to the source of truth for the schema being a simple SQL script that is only useful for schema initialization on a blank database.

The group most affected by this is operators, who are faced with several unattractive choices when a code change requires a database schema change:

  1. They can drop their whole Monasca database and recreate it from scratch with the updated SQL script. That way they will lose all of their alarm definitions along with notification settings, their complete alarm history, and some metrics metadata.
  2. They can manually update the database and migrate data (in the case of columns/tables getting renamed). This is error prone and carries a risk of data loss.
  3. They can decide to live without that code change. If the change breaks on an outdated database they may even have to create and maintain code patches for that.

Besides operators, the lack of database migration infrastructure is a significant obstacle to Monasca developers as well: it turns any data model change into a breaking change due to the schema update that requires. Thus the current state of affairs prevents new features that require database changes or renders them extremely unpopular at the very least.

Use Cases

  1. Operators will be able to update Monasca without risking breakage due to database changes.
  2. Developers can modify the data model without breaking existing installations.

Proposed change

The proposal aims to improve the current state of affairs by adding Alembic based command line tooling for the following operations:

  1. A legacy database migration command line tool. This command line tool will detect which revision of the database schema SQL script was used based on the tables and columns currently in the database. It will then initialize the database’s migration meta data to allow for regular database migration from that point forward.

  2. A database migration command line tool with multiple base revisions to cover the following scenarios:

    1. An uninitialized database
    2. A schema state resulting from any of the existing SQL script

Both (1) and (2) may be implemented as part of the same tool.

A database schema based on third party SQL scripts (which may be found in various configuration management tools used for deploying Monasca) is not supported.


This change is long overdue and best practice throughout OpenStack. That being said, it would be possible to considerably reduce its scope by omitting the heuristics for detecting an existing legacy database schema. That way operators would be forced to drop the database and recreate it using migrations. If possible we should not impose this on operators.

It would also be possible to use plain SQLAlchemy Migrate rather than Alembic to implement migrations, but OpenStack appears to have standardized on Alembic by now (see for a discussion of why that happened).

Data model impact

There will be no impact on the data model itself. There will only be changes to how the data model is synchronized to the database’s run time schema.

REST API impact

There is no REST API impact.

Security impact

The only slightly security related aspect of this change is providing the database migration command line tools with access credentials for the data base. The accepted best practice for this is running it as root on the machine where the API service (in our case monasca-api) is also running and retrieve these credentials from the API service’s configuration.

Other end user impact


Performance Impact


Other deployer impact

Configuration management that uses the legacy SQL scripts must be changed to use the new migration tools. Among other things, the Monasca devstack plugin must be modified to use them. Users updating to a Monasca version with this feature may need to run a special migration to get versioning metadata added to their database schema.

Developer impact

Any developer making data model changes after this feature is implemented will have to write a migration for updating the database schema accordingly.



Primary assignee:


  • Add command line tool(s) for regular migration (i.e. migration of a versioned database) and transition of an unversioned database to a versioned one.
  • Create migration chains from:
    • Empty database
    • All revisions of the schema file in the repository.




Any meaningful testing can only take place in a full Monasca deployment with an actual database to test against. In particular, testing attention should focus on testing this with all revisions of the legacy SQL script in devstack/files/schema/mon_mysql.sql. This testing can take place at an early stage during Devstack setup as follows:

  1. Each SQL script revision is checked out from the git repository, applied to the database and converted to a “migratable” database by running the conversion operation on the database. After each iteration, the database is dropped to prepare for the next revision.
  2. As a final step, the initial migration for a blank database is performed and Devstack proceeds normally.

Since PostgreSQL is deprecated in OpenStack it will be sufficient to implement testing with the MySQL flavoured SQL script.

Documentation Impact

This feature needs to be documented in operator/deployer documentation to ensure operators use migrations rather than legacy SQL scripts.