One of the notable changes in the software development process of recent years is the working speed of teams. Organizations that used to deploy new versions of their apps twice a year now do this every day; or, like Amazon, every 11.7 seconds. To ensure the best product quality and keep up with the times, manual testing is not enough. Therefore, more and more companies are turning to continuous testing. What nuances must be taken into account in order to successfully implement it in the work of a team?
Benefits of continuous testing
In the traditional development process, testing is carried out at the very end. With this approach, software errors can often get into production and become an unpleasant surprise for users and customers.
Although Agile methodologies have accelerated time to market for an application, continuous testing using the CI/CD approach guarantees even greater prospects. Among the companies that have successfully implemented it, 80% have found that fewer defects penetrate into production while developers are able to run more tests. In addition, 83.7% of organizations have shortened their software release cycles by switching to continuous testing.
With the above approach, an application is checked continuously and from the very beginning of the software development life cycle. This allows programmers to constantly receive useful data. In the course of work, a team is looking for answers to the following questions:
- Is the written code of good quality?
- Is the application functioning correctly?
- Can application code successfully pass through the CI/CD pipeline between environments and given tests?
- Do users see the value of the finished software?
Thus, continuous testing is about constantly executing different kinds of tests in different environments, as predefined in the CI/CD pipeline.
What is required for the success of continuous testing
In order to organize a continuous testing process, one needs the four basic elements.
- Continuous integration tool
In DevOps, a continuous automated delivery cycle is the basis of the workflow. A well-established CI/CD combination helps to make the best use of the automation function and create a reliable pipeline.
A basic continuous integration tool allows the team to introduce fresh code for creating a new program build. Before submitting it to the central repository, developers can independently work on a new feature without affecting the version used by other team members.
The top five CI/CD tools of 2020 include such software solutions as Jenkins, CircleCI, TeamCity, BamBoo, and GitLab. The final choice of a tool depends on a company’s requirements, the existing infrastructure, and the outlined prospects.
- Test environments
The absence of access to internal and external services can slow down the testing process. According to the Sogeti 2019 Continuous Testing report, test environments are one of the most problematic issues on the way to continuous testing. Respondents highlighted the waiting time and costs for preparing the environment (36%), the complexity of applications (36%), and the inability to identify defects early in the testing process (33%).
The need to create a test environment every time a specialist wants to test the performance of a function adds unnecessary steps (application or database updating, service restarting, etc.). These actions significantly slow down the work of programmers and releases of software.
Platforms like Docker can make this process simpler and faster. By using them, a team is able to single out software from infrastructure and treat the infrastructure like a managed application. Engineers publish code faster, test it more efficiently, and launch releases sooner.
- End-to-end testing
An appropriate environment and continuous integration tool allow team members to check changes more closely. Combining test scripts and automation tools into a single platform, end-to-end testing ensures software quality by checking the app operation from beginning to end. Developers use the results to find software errors, which allows them to quickly fix bugs.
In order to ensure that each release of the application is properly tested, experts automate end-to-end testing. This approach leaves no room for human error and guarantees the reliability of the results.
A successful continuous testing process is impossible without teamwork. Collaboration between developers, QA engineers, and operations teams is critical for testing in the context of continuous delivery.
Developers automate unit tests and integrate them with the CI/CD pipeline. QA specialists provide the pipeline with automated integration and functional and non-functional tests. An operating group deals with production infrastructure, monitoring, and other related activities. In short, everyone involved in the delivery of software is responsible for its quality.
Continuous testing gives life to the continuous feedback approach that is the foundation of Agile methodologies and one of the first steps to DevOps. The DevOps culture requires testing to be embedded throughout the development process. In light of higher software complexity, the increased requirements for quality, and the accelerated pace of product delivery to the market, a team applying this approach will be able to identify business risks in advance and prevent them.