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Column Alteration with Minimal Downtime

Andy Mallon shows how you can turn an integer column into a bigint column without disrupting your users:

Changing a column from int to bigint has gotten a lot easier since I started working on SQL Server back at the turn of the century. SQL Server 2016 introduced the ability to do ALTER TABLE...ALTER COLUMN as an online operation using the WITH (ONLINE=ON) syntax. This wonderful syntax now allows you to alter a column from int to bigint without causing major blocking. The int to bigint conversion is one of the most popular data type changes I see–A developer inevitably creates the table thinking they will never have more than 2 billion rows… then some years or months later 2 billion becomes a reality.

The DBA is left with the task of implementing that data type change, and now that it has almost 2 billion rows, it’s a well-established table and uptime during the change is a major consideration.

This is a great post from Andy. If you want to dig into the concept of near-zero downtime in more detail, I’ve got a series on the topic.