Ajarn Mark Caldwell Blog

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Using SQL Source Control with Fortress or Vault – Part 1

I am fanatical when it comes to managing the source code for my company.  Everything that we build (in source form) gets put into our source control management system.  And I’m not just talking about the UI and middle-tier code written in C# and ASP.NET, but also the back-end database stuff, which at times has been a pain.  We even script out our Scheduled Jobs and keep a copy of those under source control.

The UI and middle-tier stuff has long been easy to manage as we mostly use Visual Studio which has integration with source control systems built in.  But the SQL code has been a little harder to deal with.  I have been doing this for many years, well before Microsoft came up with Data Dude, so I had already established a methodology that, while not as smooth as VS, nonetheless let me keep things well controlled, and allowed doing my database development in my tool of choice, Query Analyzer in days gone by, and now SQL Server Management Studio.  It just makes sense to me that if I’m going to do database development, let’s use the database tool set.  (Although, I have to admit I was pretty impressed with the demo of Juneau that Don Box did at the PASS Summit this year.)  So as I was saying, I had developed a methodology that worked well for us (and I’ll probably outline in a future post) but it could use some improvement.

When Solutions and Projects were first introduced in SQL Management Studio, I thought we were finally going to get our same experience that we have in Visual Studio.  Well, let’s say I was underwhelmed by Version 1 in SQL 2005, and apparently so were enough other people that by the time SQL 2008 came out, Microsoft decided that Solutions and Projects would be deprecated and completely removed from a future version.  So much for that idea.

Then I came across SQL Source Control from Red-Gate.  I have used several tools from Red-Gate in the past, including my favorites SQL Compare, SQL Prompt, and SQL Refactor.  SQL Prompt is worth its weight in gold, and the others are great, too.  Earlier this year, we upgraded from our earlier product bundles to the new Developer Bundle, and in the process added SQL Source Control to our collection.  I thought this might really be the golden ticket I was looking for.  But my hopes were quickly dashed when I discovered that it only integrated with Microsoft Team Foundation Server and Subversion as the source code repositories.  We have been using SourceGear’s Vault and Fortress products for years, and I wholeheartedly endorse them.  So I was out of luck for the time being, although there were a number of people voting for Vault/Fortress support on their feedback forum (as did I) so I had hope that maybe next year I could look at it again.

But just a couple of weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to receive notice in my email that Red-Gate had an Early Access version of SQL Source Control that worked with Vault and Fortress, so I quickly downloaded it and have been putting it through its paces.  So far, I really like what I see, and I have been quite impressed with Red-Gate’s responsiveness when I have contacted them with any issues or concerns that I have had.  I have had several communications with Gyorgy Pocsi at Red-Gate and he has been immensely helpful and responsive.

I must say that development with SQL Source Control is very different from what I have been used to.  This post is getting long enough, so I’ll save some of the details for a separate write-up, but the short story is that in my regular mode, it’s all about the script files.  Script files are King and you dare not make a change to the database other than by way of a script file, or you are in deep trouble.  With SQL Source Control, you make your changes to your development database however you like.  I still prefer writing most of my changes in T-SQL, but you can also use any of the GUI functionality of SSMS to make your changes, and SQL Source Control “manages” the script for you.  Basically, when you first link your database to source control, the tool generates scripts for every primary object (tables and their indexes are together in one script, not broken out into separate scripts like DB Projects do) and those scripts are checked into your source control.  So, if you needed to, you could still do a GET from your source control repository and build the database from scratch.  But for the day-to-day work, SQL Source Control uses the same technique as SQL Compare to determine what changes have been made to your development database and how to represent those in your repository scripts.  I think that once I retrain myself to just work in the database and quit worrying about having to find and open the right script file, that this will actually make us more efficient.

And for deployment purposes, SQL Source Control integrates with the full SQL Compare utility to produce a synchronization script (or do a live sync).  This is similar in concept to Microsoft’s DACPAC, if you’re familiar with that.

If you are not currently keeping your database development efforts under source control, definitely examine this tool.  If you already have a methodology that is working for you, then I still think this is worth a review and comparison to your current approach.  You may find it more efficient.  But remember that the version which integrates with Vault/Fortress is still in pre-release mode, so treat it with a little caution.  I have found it to be fairly stable, but there was one bug that I found which had inconvenient side-effects and could have really been frustrating if I had been running this on my normal active development machine.  However, I can verify that that bug has been fixed in a more recent build version (did I mention Red-Gate’s responsiveness?).

Legacy Comments

Thx for your post !

It sounds definitely easier to use than VSTS Database Edition... (which is a nightmare to deal with on large & complex databases !)

Could you please develop a bit on your current deployment procedures using SQL Source Control ? (sync between dev to beta, beta to prod, etc.)

Ajarn Mark Caldwell
re: Using SQL Source Control with Fortress or Vault – Part 1
Vince, I will be glad to expand on that. Keep an eye on the RSS feed or blog home page over the next couple of weeks as I will be expanding on this topic quite a bit.

The short story is I use the tools to produce a deployment script so I can ensure that the changes made to PROD are the same ones that were made to (and tested in) TEST.

re: Using SQL Source Control with Fortress or Vault – Part 1
Currently reading part 2 ;-)

Thx in advance for these posts which are definitely too rare on internet (shame on me, I should also share my experience on VSTS...).

Ajarn Mark Caldwell
re: Using SQL Source Control with Fortress or Vault – Part 1
Vince, I'm glad you are finding these valuable. I would love to hear your experienced with VSTS Data Projects as I have only looked at it briefly. Do you have a blog? If not, we could probably work out a way to post your stories here as a sort of guest author.

Sam Brace
re: Using SQL Source Control with Fortress or Vault – Part 1
Excellent article, Ajarn! The staff at SSWUG.org has listed it as one of the site's featured posts.