Squashing Database Schema Migrations

What are Squashed Migrations?

The Django framework on which NetBox is built utilizes migration files to keep track of changes to the PostgreSQL database schema. Each time a model is altered, the resulting schema change is captured in a migration file, which can then be applied to effect the new schema.

As changes are made over time, more and more migration files are created. Although not necessarily problematic, it can be beneficial to merge and compress these files occasionally to reduce the total number of migrations that need to be applied upon installation of NetBox. This merging process is called squashing in Django vernacular, and results in two parallel migration paths: individual and squashed.

Below is an example showing both individual and squashed migration files within an app:

Individual Squashed
0001_initial 0001_initial_squashed_0004_add_field
0002_alter_field .
0003_remove_field .
0004_add_field .
0005_another_field 0005_another_field

In the example above, a new installation can leverage the squashed migrations to apply only two migrations:

  • 0001_initial_squashed_0004_add_field
  • 0005_another_field

This is because the squash file contains all of the operations performed by files 0001 through 0004.

However, an existing installation that has already applied some of the individual migrations contained within the squash file must continue applying individual migrations. For instance, an installation which currently has up to 0002_alter_field applied must apply the following migrations to become current:

  • 0003_remove_field
  • 0004_add_field
  • 0005_another_field

Squashed migrations are opportunistic: They are used only if applicable to the current environment. Django will fall back to using individual migrations if the squashed migrations do not agree with the current database schema at any point.

Squashing Migrations

During every minor (i.e. 2.x) release, migrations should be squashed to help simplify the migration process for new installations. The process below describes how to squash migrations efficiently and with minimal room for error.

1. Create a New Branch

Create a new branch off of the develop-2.x branch. (Migrations should be squashed only in preparation for a new minor release.)

git checkout -B squash-migrations

2. Delete Existing Squash Files

Delete the most recent squash file within each NetBox app. This allows us to extend squash files where the opportunity exists. For example, we might be able to replace 0005_to_0008 with 0005_to_0011.

3. Generate the Current Migration Plan

Use Django's showmigrations utility to display the order in which all migrations would be applied for a new installation.

manage.py showmigrations --plan

From the resulting output, delete all lines which reference an external migration. Any migrations imposed by Django itself on an external package are not relevant.

4. Create Squash Files

Begin iterating through the migration plan, looking for successive sets of migrations within an app. These are candidates for squashing. For example:

[X]  extras.0014_configcontexts
[X]  extras.0015_remove_useraction
[X]  extras.0016_exporttemplate_add_cable
[X]  extras.0017_exporttemplate_mime_type_length
[ ]  extras.0018_exporttemplate_add_jinja2
[ ]  extras.0019_tag_taggeditem
[X]  dcim.0062_interface_mtu
[X]  dcim.0063_device_local_context_data
[X]  dcim.0064_remove_platform_rpc_client
[ ]  dcim.0065_front_rear_ports
[X]  circuits.0001_initial_squashed_0010_circuit_status
[ ]  dcim.0066_cables

Migrations 0014 through 0019 in extras can be squashed, as can migrations 0062 through 0065 in dcim. Migration 0066 cannot be included in the same squash file, because the circuits migration must be applied before it. (Note that whether or not each migration is currently applied to the database does not matter.)

Squash files are created using Django's squashmigrations utility:

manage.py squashmigrations <app> <start> <end>

For example, our first step in the example would be to run manage.py squashmigrations extras 0014 0019.


Specifying a migration file's numeric index is enough to uniquely identify it within an app. There is no need to specify the full filename.

This will create a new squash file within the app's migrations directory, named as a concatenation of its beginning and ending migration. Some manual editing is necessary for each new squash file for housekeeping purposes:

  • Remove the "automatically generated" comment at top (to indicate that a human has reviewed the file).
  • Reorder import statements as necessary per PEP8.
  • It may be necessary to copy over custom functions from the original migration files (this will be indicated by a comment near the top of the squash file). It is safe to remove any functions that exist solely to accomodate reverse migrations (which we no longer support).

Repeat this process for each candidate set of migrations until you reach the end of the migration plan.

5. Check for Missing Migrations

If everything went well, at this point we should have a completed squashed path. Perform a dry run to check for any missing migrations:

manage.py migrate --dry-run

5. Run Migrations

Next, we'll apply the entire migration path to an empty database. Begin by dropping and creating your development database.


Obviously, first back up any data you don't want to lose.

sudo -u postgres psql -c 'drop database netbox'
sudo -u postgres psql -c 'create database netbox'

Apply the migrations with the migrate management command. It is not necessary to specify a particular migration path; Django will detect and use the squashed migrations automatically. You can verify the exact migrations being applied by enabling verboes output with -v 2.

manage.py migrate -v 2

6. Commit the New Migrations

If everything is successful to this point, commit your changes to the squash-migrations branch.

7. Validate Resulting Schema

To ensure our new squashed migrations do not result in a deviation from the original schema, we'll compare the two. With the new migration file safely commit, check out the develop-2.x branch, which still contains only the individual migrations.

git checkout develop-2.x

Temporarily install the django-extensions package, which provides the sqldiff utility:

pip install django-extensions

Also add django_extensions to INSTALLED_APPS in netbox/netbox/settings.py.

At this point, our database schema has been defined by using the squashed migrations. We can run sqldiff to see if it differs any from what the current (non-squashed) migrations would generate. sqldiff accepts a list of apps against which to run:

manage.py sqldiff circuits dcim extras ipam secrets tenancy users virtualization

It is safe to ignore errors indicating an "unknown database type" for the following fields:

  • dcim_interface.mac_address
  • ipam_aggregate.prefix
  • ipam_prefix.prefix

It is also safe to ignore the message "Table missing: extras_script".

Resolve any differences by correcting migration files in the squash-migrations branch.


Don't forget to remove django_extension from INSTALLED_APPS before committing your changes.

8. Merge the Squashed Migrations

Once all squashed migrations have been validated and all tests run successfully, merge the squash-migrations branch into develop-2.x. This completes the squashing process.