DevOps is a progressively common approach to agile software development that developers and operations teams use to build, test, deploy, and monitor applications with speed, quality, and control. While focusing on rapid IT service delivery through the adoption of agile and lean practices in the context of a system-oriented approach, DevOps implementation deploys automation tools to control a dynamic and programmable infrastructure from a life-cycle point of view.
Software testing in DevOps has emerged as an automated test process that provides feedback at every checkpoint. It requires integration testing on the build server along with functional testing, regression testing, and many more on the test server. Also, the need for deployment testing on the staging server is something that cannot be ignored. So how does continuous testing fit in the picture? Let us explore what role continuous testing plays in DevOps.
The role of continuous testing in DevOps
In software engineering, continuous testing is a process of testing early, testing often, testing everywhere, and automating. In this form of testing, developers have low-friction testing capabilities and tools and are expected to unit test any new or updated code. With testing shifted all the way left to developers in pre-production, and all the way right to post-production monitoring, organizations now can prove whether a code is ready and will work to acceptable service levels in just a few seconds.
Although continuous testing today has become more of standard practice, it presents a few unique challenges as well for execution. The process involves several stakeholders like an Operational system, DevOps, QA, and a Developer.
In the traditional way of testing, the software was handed off from one team to another. A project would have definite development and QA phases, where the QA teams would always want more time to ensure quality in the project schedule. However, with the advancement in time, business owners started looking for faster delivery of software to the end-user. The newer the software, the higher became the chances of marketing it, and this is how a new way of testing evolved, giving way to continuous testing. Thanks to this form of testing, undisrupted testing can now be done continuously.
In a continuous DevOps process, a software change (release candidate) moves from Development to Testing to Deployment. Here the code is developed, delivered, tested, and deployed continuously.
Implementing a continuous testing policy
Five steps to consider while implementing a continuous testing policy:
Define Tests Early
Lack of scoping and knowing the test requirements can result in wasted time and delays. Behavior-Driven Development (BDD), Acceptance Test-Driven Development (ATDD), and model-based testing tools can help in proper documentation and communication. Defining the test cases along with the creation of test scripts ahead of time, allows a tester to enable continuous testing of code at all stages of production.
Develop Testing Processes
Here the focus is to save time, money, and resources by restricting to what needs to be tested. Visual models allow various paths to be explored and optimized, so that the tests provide maximum coverage, without involving any unnecessary testing. It is also advised to import test cases, by removing duplicates, and distributing and allocating optimized test cases in existing tools.
The Shift-Left and Shift-Right Testing Approach
Shift-left testing refers to running the tests earlier in the development cycle. Developers test as they progress with test automation including functional testing, performance testing, performance monitoring, and security testing. These require developer-friendly tools for easy adoption and use. By deploying the shift-right testing, a tester can continue to test through the production and post-production stage, along with continuous monitoring. According to a recent report from Gartner, the shift-right testing method is now a “must” for adopting DevOps practices.
Prepare Complete Test Environments
Eliminate blocs and reduce wait times by providing complete test environments on-demand, with dev-friendly tools (infrastructure as code, CI/CD integrations, supported open source). The test environment should include test data on demand, ensuring that the teams perform comprehensive tests with production-like data. These environments should be temporarily ready on-demand, only to be decommissioned after use.
Obtain the Right Test Data
To accurately test new functionality, test data should be close to what the application encounters during production. If the test data is deficient in real-world characteristics like data specifications, actual fields, negative scenarios, etc., the test results are likely to have potential issues or the application can break where there are weak points. Understanding data models to extract the right data is the desired skill today, which is high on demand.
Production data is the best data to use for testing, but data privacy regulations and team silos often restrict its availability. The answer to this dilemma is to have a robust test data management tool that lets you copy production data and mask it to protect sensitive information while maintaining the required standards that make it desirable for testing.
Remember, continuous delivery and continuous testing are processes that can take time to implement successfully, but teamwork, continuous feedback based on data, and the right toolset will always help you succeed on your journey.
How is continuous testing different from test automation?
Tools for continuous testing
Query Surge: It is the smart data testing solution that is the first-of-its-kind full DevOps solution for continuous data testing. The key features of this tool include Robust API with 60+ calls, detailed data intelligence and data analytics, seamless integration into the DevOps pipeline for continuous testing, and verifies large amounts of data quickly.
Jenkins: Jenkins is a continuous integration tool, written by using Java language. The tool can be configured via the GUI interface or through console commands.
Travis: Travis is a continuous testing tool hosted on GitHub. It offers hosted and on-premises variants and provides a variety of different languages and good documentation.
Azure DevOps: It is a Microsoft owned, end-to-end DevOps and project management tool. In addition to all the key features of DevOps, Azure DevOps also provides required hardware infrastructure over the cloud to manage the DevOps tasks such as building and testing.
Benefits of continuous testing
- Continuous testing improves code quality
- Helps in assessing exact business risk coverage
- Accelerates time-to-market with a continuous feedback mechanism
- Merges traditionally siloed teams to meet modern enterprise need and dissolves the disconnect between development, testing, and operations teams
- Emphasizes business expectations to mitigate business risks
- Provides abundant test environment access with service virtualization
Challenges in implementing continuous testing
- Lack of DevOps skills and finding the right tools for testing in Agile and DevOps environments
- Heterogenous test environments that never reflects the production environment
- Conventional testing process and loosely defined test data management
- Longer code integration cycles that create integration issues and late defect fixes
- Insufficient and ineffective resources and test environments
- The complex application architecture and the associated business logic restricts DevOps adoption
As organizations chase tight deadlines and faster delivery methods today, adopting the right technique and tools in the early stages will help the testers and developers to solve the complex cases and incidents of continuous testing effectively. Contact us to know more about how to develop the ideal way for continuous testing and ensure a smooth and quick delivery of a quality product.
By: Rajashekher Reddy Tekulapally