Skip to content

Post Deployment Migrations

Post deployment migrations are regular Rails migrations that can optionally be executed after a deployment. By default these migrations are executed alongside the other migrations. To skip these migrations you must set the environment variable SKIP_POST_DEPLOYMENT_MIGRATIONS to a non-empty value when running rake db:migrate.

For example, this would run all migrations including any post deployment migrations:

bundle exec rake db:migrate

This however skips post deployment migrations:

SKIP_POST_DEPLOYMENT_MIGRATIONS=true bundle exec rake db:migrate

For, these migrations are executed on a daily basis at the discretion of release managers through the post-deploy migration pipeline.

Deployment Integration

Say you're using Chef for deploying new versions of GitLab and you'd like to run post deployment migrations after deploying a new version. Let's assume you usually use the command chef-client to do so. To make use of this feature you'd have to run this command as follows:


Once all servers have been updated you can run chef-client again on a single server without the environment variable.

The process is similar for other deployment techniques: first you would deploy with the environment variable set, then you re-deploy a single server but with the variable unset.

Creating Migrations

To create a post deployment migration you can use the following Rails generator:

bundle exec rails g post_deployment_migration migration_name_here

This generates the migration file in db/post_migrate. These migrations behave exactly like regular Rails migrations.

Use Cases

Post deployment migrations can be used to perform migrations that mutate state that an existing version of GitLab depends on. For example, say you want to remove a column from a table. This requires downtime as a GitLab instance depends on this column being present while it's running. Usually you'd follow these steps in such a case:

  1. Stop the GitLab instance
  2. Run the migration removing the column
  3. Start the GitLab instance again

Using post deployment migrations we can instead follow these steps:

  1. Deploy a new version of GitLab while ignoring post deployment migrations
  2. Re-run rake db:migrate but without the environment variable set

Here we don't need any downtime as the migration takes place after a new version (which doesn't depend on the column anymore) has been deployed.

Some other examples where these migrations are useful:

  • Cleaning up data generated due to a bug in GitLab
  • Removing tables
  • Migrating jobs from one Sidekiq queue to another