07 May 2014

Automating deployments with the SQL Compare command line

In my previous article, “Five Tips to Get Your Organisation Releasing Software Frequently” I looked at how teams can automate processes to speed up release frequency. In this post, I’m looking specifically at automating deployments using the SQL Compare command line.

SQL Compare compares SQL Server schemas and deploys the differences. It works very effectively in scenarios where only one deployment target is required – source and target databases are specified, compared, and a change script is automatically generated and applied.


But if multiple targets exist, and pressure to increase the frequency of releases builds, this solution quickly becomes unwieldy.


compscriptimg2.pngThis is where SQL Compare’s command line comes into its own. I’ve put together a PowerShell script that loops through the Servers table and pulls out the server and database, these are then passed to sqlcompare.exe to be used as target parameters. In the example the source database is a scripts folder, a folder structure of scripted-out database objects used by both SQL Source Control and SQL Compare. The script can easily be adapted to use schema snapshots.




Here’s the PowerShell script you can adapt for yourself as well.

It’s worth noting that the above example generates the deployment scripts dynamically. This approach should be problem-free for the vast majority of changes, but it is still good practice to review and test a pre-generated deployment script prior to deployment. An alternative approach would be to pre-generate a single deployment script using SQL Compare, and run this en masse to multiple targets programmatically using sqlcmd, or using a tool like SQL Multi Script.  You can use the /ScriptFile, /report, and /showWarnings flags to generate change scripts, difference reports and any warnings.  See the commented out example in the PowerShell:

There is a drawback of running a pre-generated deployment script; it assumes that a given database target hasn’t drifted from its expected state. Often there are (rightly or wrongly) many individuals within an organization who have permissions to alter the production database, and changes can therefore be made outside of the prescribed development processes. The consequence is that at deployment time, the applied script has been validated against a target that no longer represents reality.

The solution here would be to add a check for drift prior to running the deployment script. This is achieved by using sqlcompare.exe to compare the target against the expected schema snapshot using the /Assertidentical flag. Should this return any differences (sqlcompare.exe Exit Code 79), a drift report is outputted instead of executing the deployment script.  See the commented out example.

Any checks and processes that should be undertaken prior to a manual deployment, should also be happen during an automated deployment. You might think about triggering backups prior to deployment – even better, automate the verification of the backup too.



You can use SQL Compare’s command line interface along with PowerShell to automate multiple actions and checks that you need in your deployment process.

Automation is a practical solution where multiple targets and a higher release cadence come into play. As we know, with great power comes great responsibility – responsibility to ensure that the necessary checks are made so deployments remain trouble-free.

 (The code sample supplied in this post automates the simple dynamic deployment case – if you are considering more advanced automation, e.g. the drift checks, script generation, deploying to large numbers of targets and backup/verification, please email me at Jonathan.Hickford@red-gate.com for further script samples or if you have further questions)


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Jonathan Hickford is a product manager at Red Gate, working on creating tools to support automation of the database delivery process. Before he joined Red Gate he worked running the web technology team of an international broadcaster, who provided new features and the operational management for the consumer facing TV network websites.

View all articles by Jonathan Hickford