Working with Branches

Note

Alembic 0.7.0 features an all-new versioning model that fully supports branch points, merge points, and long-lived, labeled branches, including independent branches originating from multiple bases. A great emphasis has been placed on there being almost no impact on the existing Alembic workflow, including that all commands work pretty much the same as they did before, the format of migration files doesn’t require any change (though there are some changes that are recommended), and even the structure of the alembic_version table does not change at all. However, most alembic commands now offer new features which will break out an Alembic environment into “branch mode”, where things become a lot more intricate. Working in “branch mode” should be considered as a “beta” feature, with many new paradigms and use cases still to be stress tested in the wild. Please tread lightly!

New in version 0.7.0.

A branch describes a point in a migration stream when two or more versions refer to the same parent migration as their anscestor. Branches occur naturally when two divergent source trees, both containing Alembic revision files created independently within those source trees, are merged together into one. When this occurs, the challenge of a branch is to merge the branches into a single series of changes, so that databases established from either source tree individually can be upgraded to reference the merged result equally. Another scenario where branches are present are when we create them directly; either at some point in the migration stream we’d like different series of migrations to be managed independently (e.g. we create a tree), or we’d like separate migration streams for different features starting at the root (e.g. a forest). We’ll illustrate all of these cases, starting with the most common which is a source-merge-originated branch that we’ll merge.

Starting with the “account table” example we began in Create a Migration Script, assume we have our basemost version 1975ea83b712, which leads into the second revision ae1027a6acf, and the migration files for these two revisions are checked into our source repository. Consider if we merged into our source repository another code branch which contained a revision for another table called shopping_cart. This revision was made against our first Alembic revision, the one that generated account. After loading the second source tree in, a new file 27c6a30d7c24_add_shopping_cart_table.py exists within our versions directory. Both it, as well as ae1027a6acf_add_a_column.py, reference 1975ea83b712_add_account_table.py as the “downgrade” revision. To illustrate:

# main source tree:
1975ea83b712 (create account table) -> ae1027a6acf (add a column)

# branched source tree
1975ea83b712 (create account table) -> 27c6a30d7c24 (add shopping cart table)

Above, we can see 1975ea83b712 is our branch point; two distinct versions both refer to it as its parent. The Alembic command branches illustrates this fact:

$ alembic branches --verbose
Rev: 1975ea83b712 (branchpoint)
Parent: <base>
Branches into: 27c6a30d7c24, ae1027a6acf
Path: foo/versions/1975ea83b712_add_account_table.py

    create account table

    Revision ID: 1975ea83b712
    Revises:
    Create Date: 2014-11-20 13:02:46.257104

             -> 27c6a30d7c24 (head), add shopping cart table
             -> ae1027a6acf (head), add a column

History shows it too, illustrating two head entries as well as a branchpoint:

$ alembic history
1975ea83b712 -> 27c6a30d7c24 (head), add shopping cart table
1975ea83b712 -> ae1027a6acf (head), add a column
<base> -> 1975ea83b712 (branchpoint), create account table

We can get a view of just the current heads using alembic heads:

$ alembic heads --verbose
Rev: 27c6a30d7c24 (head)
Parent: 1975ea83b712
Path: foo/versions/27c6a30d7c24_add_shopping_cart_table.py

    add shopping cart table

    Revision ID: 27c6a30d7c24
    Revises: 1975ea83b712
    Create Date: 2014-11-20 13:03:11.436407

Rev: ae1027a6acf (head)
Parent: 1975ea83b712
Path: foo/versions/ae1027a6acf_add_a_column.py

    add a column

    Revision ID: ae1027a6acf
    Revises: 1975ea83b712
    Create Date: 2014-11-20 13:02:54.849677

If we try to run an upgrade to the usual end target of head, Alembic no longer considers this to be an unambiguous command. As we have more than one head, the upgrade command wants us to provide more information:

$ alembic upgrade head
  FAILED: Multiple head revisions are present for given argument 'head'; please specify a specific
  target revision, '<branchname>@head' to narrow to a specific head, or 'heads' for all heads

The upgrade command gives us quite a few options in which we can proceed with our upgrade, either giving it information on which head we’d like to upgrade towards, or alternatively stating that we’d like all heads to be upgraded towards at once. However, in the typical case of two source trees being merged, we will want to pursue a third option, which is that we can merge these branches.

Merging Branches

An Alembic merge is a migration file that joins two or more “head” files together. If the two branches we have right now can be said to be a “tree” structure, introducing this merge file will turn it into a “diamond” structure:

                            -- ae1027a6acf -->
                           /                   \
<base> --> 1975ea83b712 -->                      --> mergepoint
                           \                   /
                            -- 27c6a30d7c24 -->

We create the merge file using alembic merge; with this command, we can pass to it an argument such as heads, meaning we’d like to merge all heads. Or, we can pass it individual revision numbers sequentally:

$ alembic merge -m "merge ae1 and 27c" ae1027 27c6a
  Generating /path/to/foo/versions/53fffde5ad5_merge_ae1_and_27c.py ... done

Looking inside the new file, we see it as a regular migration file, with the only new twist is that down_revision points to both revisions:

"""merge ae1 and 27c

Revision ID: 53fffde5ad5
Revises: ae1027a6acf, 27c6a30d7c24
Create Date: 2014-11-20 13:31:50.811663

"""

# revision identifiers, used by Alembic.
revision = '53fffde5ad5'
down_revision = ('ae1027a6acf', '27c6a30d7c24')
branch_labels = None

from alembic import op
import sqlalchemy as sa


def upgrade():
    pass


def downgrade():
    pass

This file is a regular migration file, and if we wish to, we may place Operations directives into the upgrade() and downgrade() functions like any other migration file. Though it is probably best to limit the instructions placed here only to those that deal with any kind of reconciliation that is needed between the two merged branches, if any.

The heads command now illustrates that the multiple heads in our versions/ directory have been resolved into our new head:

$ alembic heads --verbose
Rev: 53fffde5ad5 (head) (mergepoint)
Merges: ae1027a6acf, 27c6a30d7c24
Path: foo/versions/53fffde5ad5_merge_ae1_and_27c.py

    merge ae1 and 27c

    Revision ID: 53fffde5ad5
    Revises: ae1027a6acf, 27c6a30d7c24
    Create Date: 2014-11-20 13:31:50.811663

History shows a similar result, as the mergepoint becomes our head:

$ alembic history
ae1027a6acf, 27c6a30d7c24 -> 53fffde5ad5 (head) (mergepoint), merge ae1 and 27c
1975ea83b712 -> ae1027a6acf, add a column
1975ea83b712 -> 27c6a30d7c24, add shopping cart table
<base> -> 1975ea83b712 (branchpoint), create account table

With a single head target, a generic upgrade can proceed:

$ alembic upgrade head
INFO  [alembic.migration] Context impl PostgresqlImpl.
INFO  [alembic.migration] Will assume transactional DDL.
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running upgrade  -> 1975ea83b712, create account table
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running upgrade 1975ea83b712 -> 27c6a30d7c24, add shopping cart table
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running upgrade 1975ea83b712 -> ae1027a6acf, add a column
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running upgrade ae1027a6acf, 27c6a30d7c24 -> 53fffde5ad5, merge ae1 and 27c

merge mechanics

The upgrade process traverses through all of our migration files using a topological sorting algorithm, treating the list of migration files not as a linked list, but as a directed acyclic graph. The starting points of this traversal are the current heads within our database, and the end point is the “head” revision or revisions specified.

When a migration proceeds across a point at which there are multiple heads, the alembic_version table will at that point store multiple rows, one for each head. Our migration process above will emit SQL against alembic_version along these lines:

-- Running upgrade  -> 1975ea83b712, create account table
INSERT INTO alembic_version (version_num) VALUES ('1975ea83b712')

-- Running upgrade 1975ea83b712 -> 27c6a30d7c24, add shopping cart table
UPDATE alembic_version SET version_num='27c6a30d7c24' WHERE alembic_version.version_num = '1975ea83b712'

-- Running upgrade 1975ea83b712 -> ae1027a6acf, add a column
INSERT INTO alembic_version (version_num) VALUES ('ae1027a6acf')

-- Running upgrade ae1027a6acf, 27c6a30d7c24 -> 53fffde5ad5, merge ae1 and 27c
DELETE FROM alembic_version WHERE alembic_version.version_num = 'ae1027a6acf'
UPDATE alembic_version SET version_num='53fffde5ad5' WHERE alembic_version.version_num = '27c6a30d7c24'

At the point at which both 27c6a30d7c24 and ae1027a6acf exist within our database, both values are present in alembic_version, which now has two rows. If we upgrade to these two versions alone, then stop and run alembic current, we will see this:

$ alembic current --verbose
Current revision(s) for postgresql://scott:XXXXX@localhost/test:
Rev: ae1027a6acf
Parent: 1975ea83b712
Path: foo/versions/ae1027a6acf_add_a_column.py

    add a column

    Revision ID: ae1027a6acf
    Revises: 1975ea83b712
    Create Date: 2014-11-20 13:02:54.849677

Rev: 27c6a30d7c24
Parent: 1975ea83b712
Path: foo/versions/27c6a30d7c24_add_shopping_cart_table.py

    add shopping cart table

    Revision ID: 27c6a30d7c24
    Revises: 1975ea83b712
    Create Date: 2014-11-20 13:03:11.436407

A key advantage to the merge process is that it will run equally well on databases that were present on version ae1027a6acf alone, versus databases that were present on version 27c6a30d7c24 alone; whichever version was not yet applied, will be applied before the merge point can be crossed. This brings forth a way of thinking about a merge file, as well as about any Alembic revision file. As they are considered to be “nodes” within a set that is subject to topological sorting, each “node” is a point that cannot be crossed until all of its dependencies are satisfied.

Prior to Alembic’s support of merge points, the use case of databases sitting on different heads was basically impossible to reconcile; having to manually splice the head files together invariably meant that one migration would occur before the other, thus being incompatible with databases that were present on the other migration.

Working with Explicit Branches

The alembic upgrade command hinted at other options besides merging when dealing with multiple heads. Let’s back up and assume we’re back where we have as our heads just ae1027a6acf and 27c6a30d7c24:

$ alembic heads
27c6a30d7c24
ae1027a6acf

Earlier, when we did alembic upgrade head, it gave us an error which suggested please specify a specific target revision, '<branchname>@head' to narrow to a specific head, or 'heads' for all heads in order to proceed without merging. Let’s cover those cases.

Referring to all heads at once

The heads identifier is a lot like head, except it explicitly refers to all heads at once. That is, it’s like telling Alembic to do the operation for both ae1027a6acf and 27c6a30d7c24 simultaneously. If we started from a fresh database and ran upgrade heads we’d see:

$ alembic upgrade heads
INFO  [alembic.migration] Context impl PostgresqlImpl.
INFO  [alembic.migration] Will assume transactional DDL.
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running upgrade  -> 1975ea83b712, create account table
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running upgrade 1975ea83b712 -> ae1027a6acf, add a column
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running upgrade 1975ea83b712 -> 27c6a30d7c24, add shopping cart table

Since we’ve upgraded to heads, and we do in fact have more than one head, that means these two distinct heads are now in our alembic_version table. We can see this if we run alembic current:

$ alembic current
ae1027a6acf (head)
27c6a30d7c24 (head)

That means there’s two rows in alembic_version right now. If we downgrade one step at a time, Alembic will delete from the alembic_version table each branch that’s closed out, until only one branch remains; then it will continue updating the single value down to the previous versions:

$ alembic downgrade -1
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running downgrade ae1027a6acf -> 1975ea83b712, add a column

$ alembic current
27c6a30d7c24 (head)

$ alembic downgrade -1
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running downgrade 27c6a30d7c24 -> 1975ea83b712, add shopping cart table

$ alembic current
1975ea83b712 (branchpoint)

$ alembic downgrade -1
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running downgrade 1975ea83b712 -> , create account table

$ alembic current

Referring to a Specific Version

We can pass a specific version number to upgrade. Alembic will ensure that all revisions upon which this version depends are invoked, and nothing more. So if we upgrade either to 27c6a30d7c24 or ae1027a6acf specifically, it guarantees that 1975ea83b712 will have been applied, but not that any “sibling” versions are applied:

$ alembic upgrade 27c6a
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running upgrade  -> 1975ea83b712, create account table
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running upgrade 1975ea83b712 -> 27c6a30d7c24, add shopping cart table

With 1975ea83b712 and 27c6a30d7c24 applied, ae1027a6acf is just a single additional step:

$ alembic upgrade ae102
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running upgrade 1975ea83b712 -> ae1027a6acf, add a column

Working with Branch Labels

To satisfy the use case where an environment has long-lived branches, especially independent branches as will be discussed in the next section, Alembic supports the concept of branch labels. These are string values that are present within the migration file, using the new identifier branch_labels. For example, if we want to refer to the “shopping cart” branch using the name “shoppingcart”, we can add that name to our file 27c6a30d7c24_add_shopping_cart_table.py:

"""add shopping cart table

"""

# revision identifiers, used by Alembic.
revision = '27c6a30d7c24'
down_revision = '1975ea83b712'
branch_labels = ('shoppingcart',)

# ...

The branch_labels attribute refers to a string name, or a tuple of names, which will now apply to this revision, all descendants of this revision, as well as all ancestors of this revision up until the preceding branch point, in this case 1975ea83b712. We can see the shoppingcart label applied to this revision:

$ alembic history
1975ea83b712 -> 27c6a30d7c24 (shoppingcart) (head), add shopping cart table
1975ea83b712 -> ae1027a6acf (head), add a column
<base> -> 1975ea83b712 (branchpoint), create account table

With the label applied, the name shoppingcart now serves as an alias for the 27c6a30d7c24 revision specifically. We can illustrate this by showing it with alembic show:

$ alembic show shoppingcart
Rev: 27c6a30d7c24 (head)
Parent: 1975ea83b712
Branch names: shoppingcart
Path: foo/versions/27c6a30d7c24_add_shopping_cart_table.py

    add shopping cart table

    Revision ID: 27c6a30d7c24
    Revises: 1975ea83b712
    Create Date: 2014-11-20 13:03:11.436407

However, when using branch labels, we usually want to use them using a syntax known as “branch at” syntax; this syntax allows us to state that we want to use a specific revision, let’s say a “head” revision, in terms of a specific branch. While normally, we can’t refer to alembic upgrade head when there’s multiple heads, we can refer to this head specifcally using shoppingcart@head syntax:

$ alembic upgrade shoppingcart@head
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running upgrade 1975ea83b712 -> 27c6a30d7c24, add shopping cart table

The shoppingcart@head syntax becomes important to us if we wish to add new migration files to our versions directory while maintaining multiple branches. Just like the upgrade command, if we attempted to add a new revision file to our multiple-heads layout without a specific parent revision, we’d get a familiar error:

$ alembic revision -m "add a shopping cart column"
  FAILED: Multiple heads are present; please specify the head revision on
  which the new revision should be based, or perform a merge.

The alembic revision command is pretty clear in what we need to do; to add our new revision specifically to the shoppingcart branch, we use the --head argument, either with the specific revision identifier 27c6a30d7c24, or more generically using our branchname shoppingcart@head:

$ alembic revision -m "add a shopping cart column"  --head shoppingcart@head
  Generating /path/to/foo/versions/d747a8a8879_add_a_shopping_cart_column.py ... done

alembic history shows both files now part of the shoppingcart branch:

$ alembic history
1975ea83b712 -> ae1027a6acf (head), add a column
27c6a30d7c24 -> d747a8a8879 (shoppingcart) (head), add a shopping cart column
1975ea83b712 -> 27c6a30d7c24 (shoppingcart), add shopping cart table
<base> -> 1975ea83b712 (branchpoint), create account table

We can limit our history operation just to this branch as well:

$ alembic history -r shoppingcart:
27c6a30d7c24 -> d747a8a8879 (shoppingcart) (head), add a shopping cart column
1975ea83b712 -> 27c6a30d7c24 (shoppingcart), add shopping cart table

If we want to illustrate the path of shoppingcart all the way from the base, we can do that as follows:

$ alembic history -r :shoppingcart@head
27c6a30d7c24 -> d747a8a8879 (shoppingcart) (head), add a shopping cart column
1975ea83b712 -> 27c6a30d7c24 (shoppingcart), add shopping cart table
<base> -> 1975ea83b712 (branchpoint), create account table

We can run this operation from the “base” side as well, but we get a different result:

$ alembic history -r shoppingcart@base:
1975ea83b712 -> ae1027a6acf (head), add a column
27c6a30d7c24 -> d747a8a8879 (shoppingcart) (head), add a shopping cart column
1975ea83b712 -> 27c6a30d7c24 (shoppingcart), add shopping cart table
<base> -> 1975ea83b712 (branchpoint), create account table

When we list from shoppingcart@base without an endpoint, it’s really shorthand for -r shoppingcart@base:heads, e.g. all heads, and since shoppingcart@base is the same “base” shared by the ae1027a6acf revision, we get that revision in our listing as well. The <branchname>@base syntax can be useful when we are dealing with individual bases, as we’ll see in the next section.

The <branchname>@head format can also be used with revision numbers instead of branch names, though this is less convenient. If we wanted to add a new revision to our branch that includes the un-labeled ae1027a6acf, if this weren’t a head already, we could ask for the “head of the branch that includes ae1027a6acf” as follows:

$ alembic revision -m "add another account column" --head ae10@head
  Generating /path/to/foo/versions/55af2cb1c267_add_another_account_column.py ... done

More Label Syntaxes

The heads symbol can be combined with a branch label, in the case that your labeled branch itself breaks off into multiple branches:

$ alembic upgrade shoppingcart@heads

Relative identifiers, as introduced in Relative Migration Identifiers, work with labels too. For example, upgrading to shoppingcart@+2 means to upgrade from current heads on “shoppingcart” upwards two revisions:

$ alembic upgrade shoppingcart@+2

This kind of thing works from history as well:

$ alembic history -r current:shoppingcart@+2

The newer relnum+delta format can be combined as well, for example if we wanted to list along shoppingcart up until two revisions before the head:

$ alembic history -r :shoppingcart@head-2

Working with Multiple Bases

Note

The multiple base feature is intended to allow for multiple Alembic versioning lineages which share the same alembic_version table. This is so that individual revisions within the lineages can have cross-dependencies on each other. For the simpler case where one project has multiple, completely independent revision lineages that refer to separate alembic_version tables, see the example in Run Multiple Alembic Environments from one .ini file.

We’ve seen in the previous section that alembic upgrade is fine if we have multiple heads, alembic revision allows us to tell it which “head” we’d like to associate our new revision file with, and branch labels allow us to assign names to branches that we can use in subsequent commands. Let’s put all these together and refer to a new “base”, that is, a whole new tree of revision files that will be semi-independent of the account/shopping cart revisions we’ve been working with. This new tree will deal with database tables involving “networking”.

Setting up Multiple Version Directories

While optional, it is often the case that when working with multiple bases, we’d like different sets of version files to exist within their own directories; typically, if an application is organized into several sub-modules, each one would have a version directory containing migrations pertinent to that module. So to start out, we can edit alembic.ini to refer to multiple directories; we’ll also state the current versions directory as one of them:

# version location specification; this defaults
# to foo/versions.  When using multiple version
# directories, initial revisions must be specified with --version-path
version_locations = %(here)s/model/networking %(here)s/alembic/versions

The new directory %(here)s/model/networking is in terms of where the alembic.ini file is, as we are using the symbol %(here)s which resolves to this location. When we create our first new revision targeted at this directory, model/networking will be created automatically if it does not exist yet. Once we’ve created a revision here, the path is used automatically when generating subsequent revision files that refer to this revision tree.

Creating a Labeled Base Revision

We also want our new branch to have its own name, and for that we want to apply a branch label to the base. In order to achieve this using the alembic revision command without editing, we need to ensure our script.py.mako file, used for generating new revision files, has the appropriate substitutions present. If Alembic version 0.7.0 or greater was used to generate the original migration environment, this is already done. However when working with an older environment, script.py.mako needs to have this directive added, typically underneath the down_revision directive:

# revision identifiers, used by Alembic.
revision = ${repr(up_revision)}
down_revision = ${repr(down_revision)}

# add this here in order to use revision with branch_label
branch_labels = ${repr(branch_labels)}

With this in place, we can create a new revision file, starting up a branch that will deal with database tables involving networking; we specify the --head version of base, a --branch-label of networking, and the directory we want this first revision file to be placed in with --version-path:

$ alembic revision -m "create networking branch" --head=base --branch-label=networking --version-path=model/networking
  Creating directory /path/to/foo/model/networking ... done
  Generating /path/to/foo/model/networking/3cac04ae8714_create_networking_branch.py ... done

If we ran the above command and we didn’t have the newer script.py.mako directive, we’d get this error:

FAILED: Version 3cac04ae8714 specified branch_labels networking, however
the migration file foo/model/networking/3cac04ae8714_create_networking_branch.py
does not have them; have you upgraded your script.py.mako to include the 'branch_labels'
section?

When we receive the above error, and we would like to try again, we need to either delete the incorrectly generated file in order to run revision again, or we can edit the 3cac04ae8714_create_networking_branch.py directly to add the branch_labels in of our choosing.

Running with Multiple Bases

Once we have a new, permanent (for as long as we desire it to be) base in our system, we’ll always have multiple heads present:

$ alembic heads
3cac04ae8714 (networking) (head)
27c6a30d7c24 (shoppingcart) (head)
ae1027a6acf (head)

When we want to add a new revision file to networking, we specify networking@head as the --head. The appropriate version directory is now selected automatically based on the head we choose:

$ alembic revision -m "add ip number table" --head=networking@head
  Generating /path/to/foo/model/networking/109ec7d132bf_add_ip_number_table.py ... done

It’s important that we refer to the head using networking@head; if we only refer to networking, that refers to only 3cac04ae8714 specifically; if we specify this and it’s not a head, alembic revision will make sure we didn’t mean to specify the head:

$ alembic revision -m "add DNS table" --head=networking
  FAILED: Revision 3cac04ae8714 is not a head revision; please
  specify --splice to create a new branch from this revision

As mentioned earlier, as this base is independent, we can view its history from the base using history -r networking@base::

$ alembic history -r networking@base:
109ec7d132bf -> 29f859a13ea (networking) (head), add DNS table
3cac04ae8714 -> 109ec7d132bf (networking), add ip number table
<base> -> 3cac04ae8714 (networking), create networking branch

At the moment, this is the same output we’d get at this point if we used -r :networking@head. However, that will change later on as we use additional directives.

We may now run upgrades or downgrades freely, among individual branches (let’s assume a clean database again):

$ alembic upgrade networking@head
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running upgrade  -> 3cac04ae8714, create networking branch
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running upgrade 3cac04ae8714 -> 109ec7d132bf, add ip number table
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running upgrade 109ec7d132bf -> 29f859a13ea, add DNS table

or against the whole thing using heads:

$ alembic upgrade heads
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running upgrade  -> 1975ea83b712, create account table
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running upgrade 1975ea83b712 -> 27c6a30d7c24, add shopping cart table
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running upgrade 27c6a30d7c24 -> d747a8a8879, add a shopping cart column
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running upgrade 1975ea83b712 -> ae1027a6acf, add a column
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running upgrade ae1027a6acf -> 55af2cb1c267, add another account column

Branch Dependencies

When working with multiple roots, it is expected that these different revision streams will need to refer to one another. For example, a new revision in networking which needs to refer to the account table will want to establish 55af2cb1c267, add another account column, the last revision that works with the account table, as a dependency. From a graph perspective, this means nothing more that the new file will feature both 55af2cb1c267, add another account column and 29f859a13ea, add DNS table as “down” revisions, and looks just as though we had merged these two branches together. However, we don’t want to consider these as “merged”; we want the two revision streams to remain independent, even though a version in networking is going to reach over into the other stream. To support this use case, Alembic provides a directive known as depends_on, which allows a revision file to refer to another as a “dependency”, very similar to an entry in down_revision from a graph perspective, but different from a semantic perspective.

To use depends_on, we can specify it as part of our alembic revision command:

$ alembic revision -m "add ip account table" --head=networking@head  --depends-on=55af2cb1c267
  Generating /path/to/foo/model/networking/2a95102259be_add_ip_account_table.py ... done

Within our migration file, we’ll see this new directive present:

# revision identifiers, used by Alembic.
revision = '2a95102259be'
down_revision = '29f859a13ea'
branch_labels = None
depends_on='55af2cb1c267'

depends_on may be either a real revision number or a branch name. When specified at the command line, a resolution from a partial revision number will work as well. It can refer to any number of dependent revisions as well; for example, if we were to run the command:

$ alembic revision -m "add ip account table" \\
    --head=networking@head  \\
    --depends-on=55af2cb1c267 --depends-on=d747a --depends-on=fa445
  Generating /path/to/foo/model/networking/2a95102259be_add_ip_account_table.py ... done

We’d see inside the file:

# revision identifiers, used by Alembic.
revision = '2a95102259be'
down_revision = '29f859a13ea'
branch_labels = None
depends_on = ('55af2cb1c267', 'd747a8a8879', 'fa4456a9201')

We also can of course add or alter this value within the file manually after it is generated, rather than using the --depends-on argument.

New in version 0.8: The depends_on attribute may be set directly from the alembic revision command, rather than editing the file directly. depends_on identifiers may also be specified as branch names at the command line or directly within the migration file. The values may be specified as partial revision numbers from the command line which will be resolved to full revision numbers in the output file.

We can see the effect this directive has when we view the history of the networking branch in terms of “heads”, e.g., all the revisions that are descendants:

$ alembic history -r :networking@head
29f859a13ea (55af2cb1c267) -> 2a95102259be (networking) (head), add ip account table
109ec7d132bf -> 29f859a13ea (networking), add DNS table
3cac04ae8714 -> 109ec7d132bf (networking), add ip number table
<base> -> 3cac04ae8714 (networking), create networking branch
ae1027a6acf -> 55af2cb1c267 (effective head), add another account column
1975ea83b712 -> ae1027a6acf, Add a column
<base> -> 1975ea83b712 (branchpoint), create account table

What we see is that the full history of the networking branch, in terms of an “upgrade” to the “head”, will include that the tree building up 55af2cb1c267, add another account column will be pulled in first. Interstingly, we don’t see this displayed when we display history in the other direction, e.g. from networking@base:

$ alembic history -r networking@base:
29f859a13ea (55af2cb1c267) -> 2a95102259be (networking) (head), add ip account table
109ec7d132bf -> 29f859a13ea (networking), add DNS table
3cac04ae8714 -> 109ec7d132bf (networking), add ip number table
<base> -> 3cac04ae8714 (networking), create networking branch

The reason for the discrepancy is that displaying history from the base shows us what would occur if we ran a downgrade operation, instead of an upgrade. If we downgraded all the files in networking using networking@base, the dependencies aren’t affected, they’re left in place.

We also see something odd if we view heads at the moment:

$ alembic heads
2a95102259be (networking) (head)
27c6a30d7c24 (shoppingcart) (head)
55af2cb1c267 (effective head)

The head file that we used as a “dependency”, 55af2cb1c267, is displayed as an “effective” head, which we can see also in the history display earlier. What this means is that at the moment, if we were to upgrade all versions to the top, the 55af2cb1c267 revision number would not actually be present in the alembic_version table; this is because it does not have a branch of its own subsequent to the 2a95102259be revision which depends on it:

$ alembic upgrade heads
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running upgrade 29f859a13ea, 55af2cb1c267 -> 2a95102259be, add ip account table

$ alembic current
2a95102259be (head)
27c6a30d7c24 (head)

The entry is still displayed in alembic heads because Alembic knows that even though this revision isn’t a “real” head, it’s still something that we developers consider semantically to be a head, so it’s displayed, noting its special status so that we don’t get quite as confused when we don’t see it within alembic current.

If we add a new revision onto 55af2cb1c267, the branch again becomes a “real” branch which can have its own entry in the database:

$ alembic revision -m "more account changes" --head=55af2cb@head
  Generating /path/to/foo/versions/34e094ad6ef1_more_account_changes.py ... done

$ alembic upgrade heads
INFO  [alembic.migration] Running upgrade 55af2cb1c267 -> 34e094ad6ef1, more account changes

$ alembic current
2a95102259be (head)
27c6a30d7c24 (head)
34e094ad6ef1 (head)

For posterity, the revision tree now looks like:

$ alembic history
29f859a13ea (55af2cb1c267) -> 2a95102259be (networking) (head), add ip account table
109ec7d132bf -> 29f859a13ea (networking), add DNS table
3cac04ae8714 -> 109ec7d132bf (networking), add ip number table
<base> -> 3cac04ae8714 (networking), create networking branch
1975ea83b712 -> 27c6a30d7c24 (shoppingcart) (head), add shopping cart table
55af2cb1c267 -> 34e094ad6ef1 (head), more account changes
ae1027a6acf -> 55af2cb1c267, add another account column
1975ea83b712 -> ae1027a6acf, Add a column
<base> -> 1975ea83b712 (branchpoint), create account table


                    --- 27c6 --> d747 --> <head>
                   /   (shoppingcart)
<base> --> 1975 -->
                   \
                     --- ae10 --> 55af --> <head>
                                    ^
                                    +--------+ (dependency)
                                             |
                                             |
<base> --> 3782 -----> 109e ----> 29f8 ---> 2a95 --> <head>
         (networking)

If there’s any point to be made here, it’s if you are too freely branching, merging and labeling, things can get pretty crazy! Hence the branching system should be used carefully and thoughtfully for best results.