Switching to South

Note: This is an old post in a blog with a lot of posts. The world has changed, technologies have changed, and I've changed. It's likely this is out of date and not representative. Let me know if you think this is something that needs updating.


We just landed the bits that switch us from Schematic---the migration system we were using---to South. This is my account of that journey in case it helps others.


Kitsune is the Django project that runs Mozilla Support. The project was started many years ago. For as long as I've worked on Kitsune, we used a migration system called Schematic.

Schematic has the nicety of being very very raw. You can do anything: raw SQL, raw shell, raw Python, raw fish---whatevs. This was nice because we could write whatever we wanted.

Schematic is a total pain in the ass because it hasn't been touched in 2 years, doesn't work well with recent versions of MySQL or MariaDB and makes it really difficult to write migrations that continue to work over time. Further, there's no way to do backwards migrations in Schematic even if you wanted to. We were constantly getting bit by these issues.

The switch

Switching from Schematic to South turned out to be pretty easy. I did it Monday afternoon. I essentially followed these steps:

  1. Added South as a dependency for our Django project.

  2. Initialized South migrations for all the apps we use in Kitsune which was a whole bunch of:

    $ ./manage.py schemamigration <appname> --initial
  3. Wrote a last Schematic migration that adds all the South bookkeeping which entailed dumping the output of this to a file:

    $ mysqldump <database> south_migrationhistory

    and then editing that file by hand.

    That creates the south_migrationhistory table and populates it with the bookkeeping for the initial commits for the apps initialized in step 2.

  4. Added ./manage.py migrate to our deploy script.

  5. Do a happy dance!

The relevant commits for Kitsune are here:

That's pretty much it.

Update: September 11, 2013

This was with Django 1.4.7 and South 0.8.2. If you're using different versions, you may experience different things.

Update: September 13, 2013

In Schematic, one thing we would do after creating new models is add a content type and the permissions.

This walks through setting that up automatically with South and post_migrate:


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