Azure: Do never use EF automigrations when working in teams

Todays number one approach in building database access libraries on ASP.NET based applications is the Entity Framework. Since Microsoft supports migration based database updates, which mostly look like copied from the approach Ruby on Rails offers since ages, it’s possible to use them in scenarios where continuous deployment is key.

The core model which fits perfectly into a development process around continuous delivery & deployment is a code-first approach. This means that the developer creates so called POCOs (Plain Old C# Object) and the system is able to generate the needed SQL changes, based on the current state of the database.

The Entity Framework has two options to generate the migration:

  1. Auto Migrations
    The Entity Framework tries to generate the database changes on runtime without any specific migrations implemented as code. Everything happens magically 😦
  2. Explicit Migrations
    The Entity Framework just runs the migration scripts written in a .NET based special DSL for database operations. Nothing happens magically 🙂 This needs the developers brain but is controllable even in large teams.

When you work in a team Auto Migrations are really a bad idea and should be disabled from the beginning. Assume developers do changes manually in the database which means the magic around AutoMigrations will generate a different set on instructions against this database as the next developer will get. The results of auto migrations in team environments are not reliable and repeatable.

So it’s a really good idea to disable automatic migrations from the start:

public Configuration()  {
AutomaticMigrationsEnabled = false;
}

Auto Migrations do not have a win at all when it comes to projects with more than one developer or projects which are deployed automatically. Continuous deployment relies on a strict unit of work and as less magic as possible. This will also help to troubleshoot when the continuous deployment breaks the production and a rollback is required.

Microsoft also published a nice article with more information at the MSDN: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-US/data/jj554735.aspx

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