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This x infinity. Any time you have a thought to do something that will lock an entire table that is active in production you should think about another way to do it. The read-through "cache" with rolling back-compatability method is a great way to make such breaking changes without causing significant downtime.

No matter what you end up doing it'll be extra work. It's best to find a way of working that provides enough flexibility to continue developing at a good pace without being an operational nightmare. Generally that means you'll have to take things a bit slower, but that'd be true almost regardless of the technology you're using, schema changes rarely have a trivial impact.

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