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How to Effectively Automate Tests in the DevOps Lifecycle

auto_awesome Development   •   June 17, 2022   •   perm_identity Nithya Rachel
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In today’s fast-paced world, businesses need to continuously innovate to meet the ever changing customer expectations. Traditional software development models like waterfall are now a history. And companies have switched to agile software development models that favor adaption. Frequent and faster delivery of high-quality software systems requires a smooth collaboration between the development and operations teams. This is why devops has emerged as one of the biggest game changers in recent years.

In this article, we’ll be discussing the best practices and tools that enable a successful DevOps implementation.

Overview

What is DevOps?

The word DevOps stems from a combination of the two words, development and operations. The goal of DevOps is to shorten the development life cycle and allow frequent updates to the software. DevOps tools, technologies and best practices are the bridge between the developers and operation teams to pull off successful software development and delivery at a fast pace. Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) are two DevOps strategies that support rapid software releases.

DevOps has a lot of benefits in principle, but in fact, some people aren’t getting the results they want. Poor devops implementation and a lack of best practices can actually slow down the software delivery lifecycle.

Traditionally, software testing was done manually. The testing phase began only after the entire software module was completed. The entire process was time-consuming and error-prone. The software testers worked in silos, and had less interaction with the development team. Overall, it was time-consuming and expensive to go back and fix any bugs discovered during the testing stage.

Traditional testing methodologies are hardly used these days and are only suitable for projects where the requirements are fixed and precise. The advent of modern agile testing practices and devops, allows both the developers and testing teams to work collaboratively.

The DevOps Cycle

The DevOps lifecycle can be broadly classified into seven stages: continuous development, continuous integration, continuous testing, continuous deployment, and continuous monitoring.

Continuous Development

This is the stage where developers plan and code the functionalities. The designers and UI developers start building up the user interface at this phase. Rather than looking at the program process as a whole chunk, development tasks are broken into smaller chunks and done piece by piece. DevOps tools are not required for the planning phase but version control tools are used for maintaining the code (aka source code management). Popular tools used at this stage are Git, SVN, Mercurial and JIRA. Some tools like Ant, Maven, Gradle can also be used at this phase for packaging the code into an executable file.

Continuous Integration

At this phase, the developers commit changes to the source code more frequently (daily or weekly basis). Every commit is then built and code review is done and tests are performed. New code is continuously integrated with the existing code. Jenkins is a popular tool used at this phase. When developers commit a code to the central repository, Jenkins fetches the updated code and prepares a build and forwards it to the test server or the production server.

Continuous Testing

In this stage, the program is tested for bugs using automation testing tools like Selenium, TestNG, JUnit. Quality Analysts test multiple code-bases in parallel at this phase. This entire testing phase is automated with continuous integration tools like Jenkins. Docker Containers are normally used for simulating the test environment and Selenium is used for automation testing. The reports are usually generated by TestNG. Automation testing saves time and effort and you can also schedule the execution of the test cases.

Continuous Deployment

After testing, the code is deployed to the production servers at this stage. Configuration management tools such as Puppet, Chef, SaltStack, and Ansible  and containerization tools such as Docker and Vagrant are used for deploying new code on a continuous basis. At this stage, these tools are also used to ensure consistency across all environments – development, test, staging and production environments.

Continuous Monitoring

Continuously monitoring the performance of an application is crucial. Security issues, system errors, and server issues can hamper the availability of services. Continuous monitoring tools such as Splunk, ELK Stack, Nagios, NewRelic and Sensu detect unusual behavior of the system and can check the overall health of the application.

Continuous Operations

Continuous Operations reduces planned downtime. Code changes and even hardware upgrades are performed in a non-disruptive manner to the end users. When a server is taken offline for planned maintenance, customers can still use the previous versions of the application and be switched to the newer version once it has been deployed.

Continuous Feedback

It is important to evaluate the feedback of each release. By evaluating the user experience in each release, the DevOps team can improve future releases. This feedback can be gathered through surveys and focus groups. Some key parameters to watch out for include the mean time to resolution (MTTR) and dev, fix and full cycle time. With continuous feedback, teams can improve the outcomes.

Benefits of testing in a DevOps environment

Testing in a DevOps environment more agile. Some of the obvious benefits are:

  • Testing process is continuous and automated. 
  • It enables faster delivery of software.
  • Every step of the SDLC is tested. This minimizes bugs and allows easy backtracking in the case of bugs.
  • Testing is a shared responsibility. From the QA to the operations team and stakeholders everyone collaborates and contributes to the testing.

While DevOps facilitates better testing, the success or failure of a test strategy depends on how well DevOps testing best practices are implemented by the organization. In the next section, we will go through some best practices for testing in a DevOps environment.

DevOps Testing Best Practices

Early Tests Automation

In a DevOps environment, testing is possible at an early stage. After developers commit the code to the central repository, the code is continuously integrated in the server. Tests such as unit tests, functional tests, acceptance tests and integration tests can be automated at this stage. In the later stage of SDLC, API tests, performance tests, load tests and endurance tests can be automated. Some tests are more effective and less time consuming when performed manually. Trained automation test engineers can identify test cases that are good candidates for automation. By utilizing test automation intelligently, you can save time and identify more bugs.

Choose the Right Tools

There are plenty of test automation tools available but many of these tools require a decent level of programming skills. The first thing you need to evaluate when choosing a tool is if your team has the required skills and expertise. The other things you need to consider are the cost of the tool, training costs, updates, and maintenance. Here is a list of the most popular test automation tools:

  • Selenium is an open-source framework that provides a suite of software for different testing needs. It is mostly used for automating web application testing. The automation scripts can be written in multiple programming languages in Selenium.
  • Katalon Studio, is used for automated web, API, desktop, and mobile testing. The tool comes in paid as well as free versions.
  • JMeter is a Java-based open-source software that is used for performance and load testing.
  • SoapUI is an open-source, cross-platform automation tool that allows you to test REST, SOAP, and GraphQL APIs.

Use Metrics to Evaluate Performance

Getting a clear picture of the test results will help you understand the areas of improvement. Tracking key metrics such as the number of passed and failed test cases, number of bugs identified and test automation time is very important. It allows teams to foresee potential issues in future and innovate solutions to overcome failures. Test execution metrics help in planning the release timeline effectively.

Maintain proper documentation

While this one is obvious, many organizations end up neglecting it. Maintaining proper documentation is important for arriving at process improvements and creating transparency in the organization.  Using consistent document formats or templates preserve the document quality. Some testing-related documents to create are:

  • Quality Management Plans (QMP)
  • Test summary reports
  • Test case specifications
  • Risk assessment reports
  • Regression test reports

Final Thoughts

DevOps is the ideal solution to become competitive in this demanding market. The core focus of CI and CD pipelines is to deliver frequent, high-quality software. The success of continuous testing is greatly impacted by the best practices you adopt in DevOps culture.  SolutionChamps Technologies is a leading DevOps Consulting Service Provider in India. We help clients to smoothly transition into modern DevOps operations.