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Automatic migration planning for golang-migrate


  • golang-migrate is a popular database migration CLI tool and Go library that's widely used in the Go community.
  • Atlas is an open-source tool for inspecting, planning, linting and executing schema changes to your database.
  • Developers using golang-migrate can use Atlas to automatically plan schema migrations for them, based on the desired state of their schema instead of crafting them by hand.

Automatic migration planning for golang-migrate

Atlas can automatically plan database schema migrations for developers using golang-migrate. Atlas plans migrations by calculating the diff between the current state of the database, and it's desired state.

For golang-migrate users, the current state can be thought of as the sum of all up migrations in a migration directory. The desired state can be provided to Atlas via an Atlas schema HCL file or as a connection string to a database that contains the desired schema.

In this guide, we will show how Atlas can automatically plan schema migrations for golang-migrate users.


  • An existing project with a golang-migrate migrations directory.
  • Docker
  • Atlas (installation guide)

Dev database

To plan a migration from the current to the desired state, Atlas uses a Dev Database, which is usually provided by a locally running container with an empty database of the type you work with (such as MySQL or PostgreSQL).

To spin up a local MySQL database that will be used as a dev-database in our example, run:

docker run --rm --name atlas-db-dev -d -p 3306:3306 -e MYSQL_DATABASE=dev -e MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD=pass mysql:8

As reference for the next steps, the URL for the Dev Database will be:


Migration directory integrity

To ensure migration history is correct while multiple developers work on the same project in parallel Atlas enforces migration directory integrity using a file name atlas.sum.

For this example, we will assume your migrations are stored in a directory named migrations in your current working directory:

To generate this file run:

atlas migrate hash --dir file://migrations

Observe a new file named atlas.sum was created in your migrations directory which contains a hash sum of each file in your directory as well as a total sum. For example:

1_init.down.sql h1:0zpQpoUZcacEatOD+DYXgYD1XvfWUC7EM+agXIRzKRU=
1_init.up.sql h1:kOM+4u8UsYvvjQMFYAo2hDv5rbx3Mdbh9GvhmbpS0Ig=

Convert your migrations directory to an Atlas schema file

With Atlas, users can describe their desired schema using an HCL-based configuration language. As a new user coming from an existing project, you may not want to learn this new language and prefer that Atlas will generate a schema file that reflects your existing schema.


If you want to read the desired state from a database instead of an Atlas HCL schema file, have a look here.

Let's see how you can get your current schema from golang-migrate to the Atlas schema format.

1. Open a MySQL shell inside our running container:

docker exec -it atlas-db-dev mysql -ppass

2. Create a new database named migrate-current:

CREATE DATABASE `migrate-current`

The database is created successfully:

Query OK, 1 row affected (0.01 sec)

3. Close the shell and run golang-migrate to run all migrations on our new database:

migrate -source file://migrations -database 'mysql://root:pass@tcp(localhost:3306)/migrate-current' up

All migrations are executed successfully:

1/u init (35.601678ms)

4. Next, use Atlas's schema inspect command to write a file named schema.hcl with an HCL representation of your migration directory. Notice that we exclude the schema_migrations table which contains golang-migrate's revision history.

atlas schema inspect -u mysql://root:pass@localhost:3306/migrate-current --exclude '*.schema_migrations' > schema.hcl

Observe that a new file named schema.hcl was created:

table "users" {
schema = schema.migrate-current
column "id" {
null = false
type = int
column "name" {
null = true
type = varchar(100)
primary_key {
columns = []
schema "migrate-current" {
charset = "utf8mb4"
collate = "utf8mb4_0900_ai_ci"

Plan a new migration

Next, let's modify the desired state of our database by modifying the schema.hcl file to add a new table blog_posts that has a foreign key pointing to the existing users table:

table "blog_posts" {
schema = schema.migrate-current
column "id" {
type = int
column "title" {
type = varchar(255)
column "body" {
type = text
column "author_id" {
type = int
foreign_key "blog_author_fk" {
columns = [column.author_id]
ref_columns = []

Now, let's use Atlas's migrate diff command to plan a migration from the current state as it exists in the migrations directory to the desired state that is defined by the schema.hcl file:

atlas migrate diff add_blog_posts \
--dir "file://migrations?format=golang-migrate" \
--dev-url "mysql://root:pass@localhost:3306/dev" \
--to "file://schema.hcl"

Notice that we used the format query parameter to specify that we're using golang-migrate as the directory format.

Hooray! Two new files were created in the migrations directory:

├── migrations
│ ├── 1_init.down.sql
│ ├── 1_init.up.sql
│ ├── 20220922123326_add_blog_posts.down.sql
│ ├── 20220922123326_add_blog_posts.up.sql
│ └── atlas.sum
└── schema.hcl

An up migration:

-- create "blog_posts" table
CREATE TABLE `blog_posts` (`id` int NOT NULL, `title` varchar(255) NOT NULL, `body` text NOT NULL, `author_id` int NOT NULL, INDEX `blog_author_fk` (`author_id`), CONSTRAINT `blog_author_fk` FOREIGN KEY (`author_id`) REFERENCES `users` (`id`) ON UPDATE NO ACTION ON DELETE NO ACTION) CHARSET utf8mb4 COLLATE utf8mb4_0900_ai_ci;

And a down migration:

-- reverse: create "blog_posts" table
DROP TABLE `blog_posts`;

Alternative: use an existing database as the desired state

In some cases, it is convenient to use the schema of an existing database as the desired state for your project, instead of defining it in HCL. Atlas's migrate diff command can plan a migration from your current migration directory state to an existing schema. Suppose such a database was available at mysql://, a migration to the state of that database could be planned by running:

atlas migrate diff migration_name \
--dir "file://migrations?format=golang-migrate" \
--dev-url "mysql://root:pass@localhost:3306/dev" \
--to "mysql://"


We began our demo by explaining how to set up a dev-database and atlas.sum file for your project. Next, we showed how to use Atlas's schema inspect command to extract the current desired schema of your project from an existing migration directory. Finally, we showed how to automatically plan a schema migration by modifying the desired schema definition and using Atlas's migrate diff command.

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