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    Django Migrations and Database Connectivity

    Django is an awesome framework. It abstracts the most trivial tasks and allows for rapid development. Since Django has an active community, they are constantly adding new features to it. These features give Django an edge in web development.

    One such feature was added with the introduction of Django version 1.7, that is, Migrations which was pretty much required everywhere. It is important for defining the database schema. We also use them to maintain complex databases whenever changes are performed in them.

    We will learn about Django migrations and various other concepts related to it.

    Databases and Django

    A database is a collection of data arranged in an efficient way. It ensures fast and secure storage, access and update of data. That is, the main concept of every type of database is both paper registers and MySQL.

    There are many types of databases out there. We will be narrowing them down to relational databases. Now, what’s that? A relational database is a collection of tables having a number of columns and rows.

    Yes, there are databases that actually don’t use columns and rows. So, whatever databases we have worked with on the web is a relational database. These databases can have relational tables or fields.

    SQL (Structured Query Language) is a very popular language for databases. Almost all the popular databases use SQL. The databases like PostgreSQL, MySQL, SQLite, etc. are some of many examples.

    The databases mentioned above are relational databases. Yes, the majority of SQL databases are relational and are extensively used in the industry.

    What’s special about PostgreSQL, MySQL, etc. is that they have native support from Django. SQLite3 is the one that comes installed out of the box, although, you will have to install the software for other databases. Django ORM will handle the rest according to the backend engine used.

    Configuring Settings for Django Database

    These are common settings you should know to connect database with Django project.

    Basically, database settings for your project reside in a Python Dictionary. The name of the dictionary is DATABASE. This dictionary and some of its attributes are pre-defined.

    The default key is pre-defined, which contains configuration settings for a default database. Since Django can work with multiple databases, you can have multiple database configurations.

    The default key is required to configure a single or multiple databases. Inside the default value, key resides the configuration for the database.

    The configuration can vary for different types of the database you are using.

    The default value is:

    DATABASES = {
    'default': {
    'ENGINE': 'django.db.backends.sqlite3',
    'NAME': 'mydatabase',
    }
    }
    

    Now, these keys have different values for different databases. This configuration is for SQLite database.

    The ENGINE Key is used to specify the database backend. This will connect the Django project to SQLite Database. You can use other backends too. For that, you have to provide additional keys. We will configure these databases in a separate article.

    Django comes with these four database backends natively. These databases will require their database software but the backend is in-house.

    PostgreSQL:

    django.db.backends.postgresql

    MySQL:

    django.db.backends.mysql

    SQLite:

    django.db.backends.sqlite3

    Oracle:

    django.db.backends.oracle

    How these Databases Work with Django

    When we start our Django project, it loads the settings.py file on the server. This file contains all information and even database configurations.

    Then Django will load the Database Backend. That backend will connect to the default database configured in settings. It is done by passing appropriate key values to the Database Software.

    The database then verifies the values and the connection is established. The connection is between the Database Backend and Database. The backend becomes a mediator between Database and Django.

    All the built-in backends are very efficient and are used in a production environment.

    Now, the database is connected and we can easily migrate our models and create tables in the same. The backend also handles all the CRUD operations from Django on the database.

    Migrations were not present in Django versions before version 1.7.

    Django Migrations

    In the previous section, we learned that SQL is used to create a Database Schema. That has to be the same as Models that we defined in our application. Writing SQL with the same constraints as our Models is difficult. It requires a decent knowledge of SQL.

    Django solved this problem with the introduction of Django ORM or Object-relational Mapper. An ORM as its name will map the Model Fields to Database Table Fields/ Columns.

    The model has 3 fields namely date, price, volume. These are defined in Python with model class attributes. Django ORM generates the table. It also defines corresponding fields and constraints.

    The example table has fields mapped to the table. There is an extra field that works as a primary key. This is an awesome feature of Django ORM. It defines a primary key automatically if we haven’t defined our own. This has saved a lot of developers from database errors.

    Django ORM does this via migrations. So, what are migrations?

    Django migrations are nothing but Python Files. They contain Python code which is used by Django ORM to create and alter tables and fields in the database.

    Django implements Models and changes to them on the database via migrations. Django generates migrations automatically. This is a key feature and you should also take care of these. Migrations are not meant to be corrected in normal conditions.

    You can modify them but the file is accurate most of the time. We have used migrations every time we used a Model.

    Key Benefits of Django Migrations

    Migrations had a huge impact on the development process of web apps. They have greatly reduced the errors in one of the most error-prone areas by migrations.

    This has made it easier for beginners to work with a database with no experience in SQL or databases. It has also increased the utility of Django and made the developer’s life easier. Some of these main benefits of migrations are as follows:

    • Creating tables without SQL

      We have used MySQL and phpMyAdmin which is a graphical tool for databases. If we had used SQL instead, then making tables would become more complex.

      For beginner developers, this could pose a real problem. Migrations had made Django more fun to use. It lets us bypass the whole SQL writing and makes tables automatically.

    • Models and Database Schema are always synchronized

      This was the most error-prone zone for backend developers. Since they had to make the Database Schema same as the Models. It would take complex SQL and thus, resulting in errors. Sometimes, they can be real security threats but this is not the case with migrations.

      Since migrations generate SQL automatically, it is always correct. That SQL contains the same constraints, we define in Models. We can see that SQL is generated by Django ORM in a later section.

    • Don’t Repeat Yourself (DRY) philosophy

      DRY philosophy is one of the core principles in which Django is based on. Since Django is a framework for rapid development, this feature is an essential pillar.

      Django migrations automatically generate SQL. This means developers won’t need to write the same code again. Not repeating the code makes the whole development fast.

    • Easier Version Control for Database Scheme

      Migrations are Python files. Django generates a new migration file every time we modify a model. These files are not deleted and stored inside the app directory.

      These files contain very simple codes. It is easy for a developer to understand what changes were made. This also makes it easy to revert back to previous Models.

      Django migrations have several benefits, these were some important ones. We can now learn some very basic operations on migrations. We have used most of them in our previous Django tutorials.

     

     

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