03 May 2016

Feature flagging to mitigate risk in database migration

There comes a time in every developer’s life when you realize you need to migrate from one database to another. Maybe you started off with MongoDB, and it was great while your app was small, but it just can’t handle the load now that you made it to the big leagues. Maybe it’s time you bit the bullet and put that huge events database in DynamoDB (or Cassandra, or…).

Moving databases is no small task, but it doesn’t need to be so risky.

One of the common misconceptions is that feature flags are only useful for new features, or for cosmetic changes. It turns out they are extremely useful for doing things like database migrations. I won’t say that feature flagging your database migration will make everything easy, but it will make it easier to test it with real, live data (for a subset of your user base), and much easier to roll it back if something goes wrong.

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