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Three Rules for Database Development

September 17, 2012
shared database development

Do you have rules for database development?

I’ve always followed a few maxims over the years that have guided me well. One of those is that we must all agree on how we are going to perform any process and then all work that way. We can define whatever standards, rules, frameworks, processes, etc. that the group wants, but once we decide, we all need to work along in the manner we’ve prescribed. That’s worked well for me, and when everyone follow the rules we’ve agreed on, things run smoother.

I ran across this post on three rules for database work from Scott Allen, a developer that has a lot of experience writing software. The three rules are never use a shared database server for development, always have an authoritative source for your schema, and always version your database. The last two rules are things I’ve always followed in the past since I think these are extremely important for maintaining control over the environment. Not control as a way to ensure developers are hamstrung, but control in that at any point in time you are aware of the state of the database.

The first rule, never using a shared database, isn’t something I’ve usually done. Most of the time I’ve worked with small enough teams that people are working on separate sections of the database, and they almost never run into any conflicts with each other. A shared database server means changes from one person appear almost immediately to others is valuable. It allows development that is dependent on other changes to take place right away. That was in the past. These days with a tool like SQL Source Control (or custom scripting), you could simulate this on separate databases for separate developers.

As with most rules in the database world, I think the answer to whether you follow these particular rules in your environment depends. It depends on what your resources are, your needs, your team structure and more. You can choose the framework that works best, whatever it is. You just need to make sure that everyone works within whatever you decide.

Steve Jones


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