Thursday, January 17 2013
PostgreSQL, pgloader, catalogs

Automated Setup for pgloader

Another day, another migration from MySQL to PostgreSQL... or at least that's how it feels sometimes. This time again I've been using some quite old scripts to help me do the migration.

That's how I feel for MySQL users

Migrating the schema

For the schema parts, I've been using mysql2pgsql with success for many years. This tool is not complete and will do only about 80% of the work. As I think that the schema should always be validated manually when doing a migration anyway, I happen to think that it's good news.

Getting the data out

Then for the data parts I keep on using pgloader. The data is never quite right, and the ability to filter out what you can't readily import in a reject file proves itself a a must have here. The problems you have in the exported MySQL data are quite serious:

Can I have my data please?

First, date formating is not compatible with what PostgreSQL expects, sometimes using 20130117143218 instead of what we expect: 2013-01-17 14:32:18, and of course even when the format is right (that seems to depend on the MySQL server's version), you still have to transform the 0000-00-00 00:00:00 into NULL.

Before thinking about the usage of that particular date rather than using NULL when you don't have the information, you might want to remember that there's no year zero in the calendar, it's year 1 BC and then year 1.

Then, text encoding is often mixed up, even when the MySQL databases are said to be in latin1 or unicode, you somehow always end up finding texts in win1252 or some other code page in there.

And of course, MySQL provides no tool to export the data to CSV, so you have to come up with your own. The SELECT INTO OUTFILE command on the server produces non conforming CSV ( \n can appear in non-escaped field contents), and while the mysql client manual page details that it outputs CSV when stdout is not a terminal, it won't even try to quote fields or escape \t when they appear in the data.

So, we use the mysqltocsv little script to export the data, and then use that data to feed pgloader.

Loading the data in

Now, we have to write down a configuration file for pgloader to know what to load and where to find the data. What about generating the file from the database schema instead, using the query in generate-pgloader-config.sql:

with reformat as (
   select relname, attnum, attname, typname,
          case typname
               when 'timestamptz'
               then attname || ':mynull:timestamp'
               when 'date'
               then attname || ':mynull:date'
           end as reformat
      from pg_class c
           join pg_namespace n on n.oid = c.relnamespace
           left join pg_attribute a on c.oid = a.attrelid
           join pg_type t on t.oid = a.atttypid
     where c.relkind = 'r'
           and attnum > 0
           and n.nspname = 'public'
 config_reformat as (
  select relname,
	 '['||relname||']' || E'\n' ||
	 'table = ' || relname || E' \n' ||
	 'filename = /path/to/csv/' || relname || E'.csv\n' ||
	 'format = csv' || E'\n' ||
	 'field_sep = \t' || E'\n' ||
	 'columns = *' || E' \n' ||
         'reformat = ' || array_to_string(array_agg(reformat), ', ')
         || E'\n' as config
    from reformat
   where reformat is not null
group by relname
 noreformat as (
   select relname, bool_and(reformat is null) as noreformating
     from reformat
 group by relname
 config_noreformat as (
  select relname,
	 '['||relname||']' || E'\n' ||
	 'table = ' || relname || E' \n' ||
	 'filename = /path/to/csv/' || relname || E'.csv\n' ||
	 'format = csv' || E'\n' ||
	 'field_sep = \t' || E'\n' ||
	 'columns = *' || E' \n'
         || E'\n' as config
    from reformat join noreformat using (relname)
   where noreformating
group by relname
allconfs as (
    select relname, config from config_reformat
 union all
    select relname, config from config_noreformat
select config
  from allconfs
 where relname not in ('tables', 'wedont', 'wantto', 'load')
 order by relname;

To work with the setup generated, you will have to prepend a global section for pgloader and to include a reformating module in python, that I named

# Author: Dimitri Fontaine <>
# pgloader mysql reformating module

def timestamp(reject, input):
    """ Reformat str as a PostgreSQL timestamp

    MySQL timestamps are ok this time:  2012-12-18 23:38:12
    But may contain the infamous all-zero date, where we want NULL.
    if input == '0000-00-00 00:00:00':
        return None

    return input

def date(reject, input):
    """ date columns can also have '0000-00-00'"""
    if input == '0000-00-00':
        return None

    return input

Now you can launch pgloader and profit!


There are plenty of tools to assist you migrating away from MySQL and other databases. When you make that decision, you're not alone, and it's easy enough to find people to come and help you.

While MySQL is Open Source and is not a lock in from a licencing perspective, I still find it hard to swallow that there's no provided tools for getting data out in a sane format, and that so many little inconsistencies exist in the product with respect to data handling (try to have a NOT NULL column, then enjoy the default empty strings that have been put in there). So at this point, yes, I consider that moving to PostgreSQL is a way to free your data:

Free your data!