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Schema Migration

Schema migration with Datahike is the evolution of your current schema into a future schema.

Why using the schema migration tool?

You could use the transact-fn of the api-ns to apply your schema, but with our norm-ns you can define your migrations centrally and they will be applied once and only once to your database.

This helps when your production database has limited accessibility from your developer machines and you want to apply the migrations from a server next to your production code. In case you are setting up your database from scratch for e.g. development purpose you can rely on your schema to be up-to-date with your production environment because you are keeping your original schema along with your migrations in a central repository.

How to migrate a database schema

When we are speaking of changes to your schema, these should always add new definitions and never change existing definitions. In case you want to change existing data to a new format you will have to create a new schema and transact your existing data transformed again. A good intro to this topic can be found here.


Your transaction functions need to be on your classpath to be called and they need to take one argument, the connection to your database. Each function needs to return a vector of transactions so that they can be applied during migration.

Please be aware that with transaction-functions you will create transactions that need to be held in memory. Very large migrations might exceed your memory.


Like conformity for Datomic we are using the term norm for our tool. You can use it to declare expectations about the state of your database and enforce those idempotently without repeatedly transacting schema. These expectations can be the form of your schema, data in a certain format or pre-transacted data for e.g. a development database.

Migration folder

Preferably create a folder in your project resources called migrations. You can however use any folder you like even outside your resources. If you don't want to package the migrations into a jar you can just run the migration-functions with a path as string passed. In your migration-folder you store your migration-files. Be aware that your chosen migration-folder will include all subfolders for reading the migrations. Don't store other files in your migration-folder besides your migrations!

How to migrate

  1. Create a folder of your choice, for now let's call it migrations. In this folder you create a new file with an edn-extension like 001-my-first-norm.edn. Preferably you name the file beginning with a number. Please be aware that the name of your file will be the id of your migration. Taking into account that you might create some more migrations in the future you should left-pad the names with zeros to keep a proper sorting. Keep in mind that your migrations are transacted sorted after your chosen ids one after another. Spaces will be replaced with dashes to compose the id.

  2. Write the transactions itself into your newly created file. The content of the file needs to be an edn-map with one or both of the keys :tx-data and tx-fn. :tx-data is just transaction data in the form of a vector, :tx-fn is a function that you can run during the execution to migrate data from one attribute to another for example. This function needs to be qualified and callable from the classpath. It will be evaluated during the migration and needs to return transactions. These transactions will be transacted with :tx-data together in one transaction.

Example of a migration:

{:tx-data [{:db/doc         "Place of occupation"
            :db/ident       :character/place-of-occupation
            :db/valueType   :db.type/string
            :db/cardinality :db.cardinality/one}]
  1. When you are sufficiently confident that your migrations will work you usually want to store it in some kind of version control system. To avoid conflicts with fellow colleagues we implemented a security net. Run the function update-checksums! from the datahike.norm.norm namespace to create or update a checksums.edn file inside your migrations-folder. This file contains the names and checksums of your migration-files. In case a colleague of yours checked in a migration that you have not been aware of, your VCS should avoid merging the conflicting checksums.edn file.

  2. To apply your migrations you most likely want to package the migrations into a jar together with datahike and a piece of code that actually runs your migrations and run it on a server. You should check the correctness of the checksums with datahike.norm.norm/verify-checksums and finally run the datahike.norm.norm/ensure-norms! function to apply your migrations. For each migration that is already applied there will be a :tx/norm attribute stored with the id of your migration so it will not be applied twice.

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