Migrating the ZODB

This document describes the process of migrating a ZODB created with Zope 2 into a Zope 4 environment.


As soon as you open a ZODB from Zope 2 under Zope 4 you cannot use it under Zope 2 anymore, regardless of how the ZODB is opened (direct access to a Data.fs file or indirect access through a ZEO server). Always work on a copy of your ZODB so you retain a working copy for Zope 2 if you need to go back.

Python 2

There are no specific ZODB-related migration steps to take when moving to a Python 2-based Zope 4 environment, but the warning shown above still applies.

Python 3

Due to a string/bytes/unicode incompatibilities, additional steps are needed.

Migrating the ZODB from Python 2 to 3

This part describes the process of migrating a ZODB created with Python 2 (using Zope 2 or 4) to Python 3 (using Zope 4). As there are significant changes between the two platforms, there is no automated process to cover all edge cases, so it is necessary to prepare and test your migration well in advance.

The string problem

A ZODB Data.fs which was created under Python 2 cannot be opened under Python 3. This is prevented by using a different magic code in the first bytes of the file. This is done on purpose because str has a different meaning for the two Python versions: Under Python 2, a str is a container for characters with an arbitrary encoding (aka bytes​). Python 3 knows str as a text datatype which was called unicode in Python 2.

Trying to load a str object in Python 3 which actually contains binary data will fail. It has to be bytes, but bytes is an alias for str in Python 2. This means Python 2 replaces bytes with str, making it impossible to give Python 3 the class it expects for binary data. A Python 2 str with any non-ascii characters will break, too.

For more details, read the Saltlab-Sprint notes from Harald Frisnegger

The string solution

The Data.fs has to be migrated: each str which actually contains bytes has to be converted into a zodbpickle.binary object which deserialises as bytes under Python 3. The str objects actually containing text have to be decoded to str (known as unicode in Python 2).

The code problem

Python 3 is not backwards-compatible to Python 2 in terms of its syntax, which is a problem for Persistent objects in the ZODB containing Python code. This is problem might arise with PythonScript objects, and TAL or DTML templates that contain Python statements or expressions.

The code solution

There are several tools that help with getting your code ready for Python 3, especially in large code bases:

  • 2to3 comes with modern Python distributions preinstalled and can be used to convert either extracted code in files or directly on the ZODB through a custom script.
  • gocept.template_rewrite can extract and rewrite code parts of template files (DTML, ZPT).
  • zodbsync is a tool to serialize ZODB objects and store them in a file system tree and restore ZODB them from the same structure.

The migration path heavily depends on your specific use case and can range from manually finding, inspecting and fixing code objects to setting up a large, auditable and automated process. The tooling referenced above even allows users to extract code to a file system, convert it and restoring it back to the ZODB while keeping changes under version control.

Migration example

  • Backup your Data.fs before proceeding.
  • Make all ZODB-persisted code Python 3 compatible (see above), while keeping Python 2 compatibility.
  • Test that converted code works as expected
  • Prepare a Python 3 environment, containing:
  • Prepare a Zope configuration
    • Create a new Zope instance using mkwsgiinstance
    • Update configuration in zope.ini and zope.conf to match previous Zope2 instance configuration.
  • Migrate the database:
    • Make sure no zope instance is running.
    • Dry-run the migration with zodbupdate --pack --convert-py3 --dry-run path/to/Data.fs. This may take a while.
    • If no errors are shown, start the in-place migration of the ZODB zodbupdate --pack --convert-py3 path/to/Data.fs. This may take a while.
  • Check the migrated database:
    • Verify th ZODB by iterative loading every pickle using zodbverify --zodbfile path/to/Data.fs.
    • Start the Application using runwsgi etc/zope.ini. Data.fs.index will be discarded at the first start, you can ignore the error message telling that it cannot be read.
    • Verify that the Application works as expected.
    • If there are problems with one of the ZCatalogs in the ZODB, do a clear and rebuild.

In case of UnicodeDecodeError

If zodbupdate or the Application raises a UnicodeDecodeError after the start, there are several things to consider:

If the error happens on an object of a Product that is not migrated yet, you can add an entry_point in setup.py for the package containing the persistent Python classes. The entry point has to be named "zodbupdate.decode" and needs to point to a dictionary mapping paths to str attributes to a conversion (binary resp. a specific encoding). For details, see zodbupdate documentation and or a code example in PythonScripts.

Further reading

The Plone project documentation contains a section Migrate a ZODB from Python 2.7 to Python 3