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A Tool to Compare PostgreSQL Database Schema Versions

Selvakumar arumugam

By Selvakumar Arumugam
February 11, 2020

Parcel sorting Photo by @kelvyn on Unsplash

The End Point development team has completed a major application migration from one stack to another. Many years ago, the vendor maintaining the old stack abandoned support and development. This led to a stack evolution riddled with independent custom changes and new features in the following years.

The new application was developed by a consortium that created migration scripts to transfer data to a fresh stack resulting in a completely restructured database schema. While we could not directly use those consortium migration scripts to our client application, attempting to create migration scripts from scratch would be tedious due to the many labor-intensive and time-consuming tasks. We looked to reuse and customize the scripts in order to ensure an exact match of the customized changes to the client’s application.

Liquibase: A Schema Comparison Tool

After an arduous hunt for a suitable solution, we came across Liquibase, an open-source schema comparison tool that utilizes the diff command to assess missing, changed, and unexpected objects.

Installation and Usage

Let’s see how to use Liquibase and review the insights and results offered by the diff command.

Before beginning, download the latest version of Liquibase. As the default package doesn’t have its own driver, it would be wise to add the PostgreSQL driver to the Liquibase lib folder. (You’ll need to do this with any other database types and their necessary libraries and drivers.)

$ wget https://github.com/liquibase/liquibase/releases/download/v3.8.5/liquibase-3.8.5.tar.gz
$ tar xvzf liquibase-3.8.5.tar.gz
$ wget https://repo1.maven.org/maven2/org/postgresql/postgresql/42.2.5/postgresql-42.2.5.jar -P lib/

$ ./liquibase \
--classpath="/path/to/home/apps/liquidiff/lib" \
--outputFile=liquibase_output.txt \
--driver=org.postgresql.Driver \
--url=jdbc:postgresql://localhost:5432/schema_two \
--username=postgres \
--password=CHANGEME \
--defaultSchemaName=public \
Diff \
--referenceUrl=jdbc:postgresql://localhost:5432/schema_one \
--referenceUsername=postgres \
--referencePassword=CHANGEME \

Comparison Results

The following output shows the list of all sections with missing, changed, and newly added objects to each section.

$ cat liquibase_output.txt

Reference Database: postgres @ jdbc:postgresql://localhost:5432/schema_one (Default Schema: public)
Comparison Database: postgres @ jdbc:postgresql://localhost:5432/schema_two (Default Schema: public)
Compared Schemas: public
Product Name: EQUAL
Product Version: EQUAL
Missing Catalog(s): NONE
Unexpected Catalog(s): NONE
Changed Catalog(s): 
          name changed from 'schema_one' to 'schema_two'
Missing Column(s): 
Changed Column(s): 
          type changed from 'varchar(20 BYTE)' to 'varchar(255 BYTE)'     
          defaultValue changed from 'null' to 'now()'
          nullable changed from 'false' to 'true'
          order changed from '4' to '22'
Missing Foreign Key(s): 
     one_two_id_fkey(one[two_id] -> two[id])
Unexpected Foreign Key(s): 
Changed Foreign Key(s): 
Missing Index(s): 
Unexpected Index(s): 
     table_pkey UNIQUE  ON public.table(id)
Changed Index(s): 
     index_events_on_record_number ON public.table(record_number)
          unique changed from 'false' to 'true'
Missing Primary Key(s): ...
Unexpected Primary Key(s): ...
Changed Primary Key(s): ...
Missing Schema(s): NONE
Unexpected Schema(s): NONE
Changed Schema(s): NONE
Missing Sequence(s): ...
Unexpected Sequence(s): NONE
Changed Sequence(s): NONE
Missing Stored Procedure(s): NONE
Unexpected Stored Procedure(s): NONE
Changed Stored Procedure(s): NONE
Missing Table(s): ...
Unexpected Table(s): ...
Changed Table(s): NONE
Missing Unique Constraint(s): NONE
Unexpected Unique Constraint(s): NONE
Changed Unique Constraint(s): NONE
Missing View(s): ...
Unexpected View(s): NONE
Changed View(s): NONE
Liquibase command 'Diff' was executed successfully.


Although comparing and contrasting the 100+ tables from the old application was beneficial, the data migration was still challenging due to volume and variety of data. However, with the help of Liquibase, we became more familiar with differences in the schema, including table level, columns, references, indexes, views, etc.

This led to an increase in accuracy which was very helpful during the migration process. We hope that by sharing our findings, others will also benefit from this tool and all that it offers.

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