A Complete Continuous Testing Tutorial: Comprehensive Guide With Best Practices
A comprehensive continuous testing tutorial that covers what continuous testing is, its importance, benefits, best practices, and more.
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Continuous testing is the software testing process of continuously ensuring the quality of the product at every stage of development. An integrated part of continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) process, continuous testing methodology enables early detection of issues, reduces developer feedback times, improves visibility of product quality, and accelerates goto market.
In older development models like waterfall, developers were siloed into separate teams focused on specific tasks. This led to a hand-off approach, where one team would finish its tasks and pass the software to another group. Quality was emphasized because each team had time to focus on its task without worrying about other aspects of the project.
With demand increasing for faster development speeds, this older model proved problematic. A newer development model evolved to address the demand for increased development velocity. Organizations continuously introduce incremental activities in this model to ensure greater customer satisfaction.
Today, most organizations have adopted DevOps, which uses an environment of collaboration and shared responsibility. This shift from older practices has enabled teams to embrace automation testing and continuous activities such as continuous testing.
What Is Continuous Testing?
Continuous testing is a vital part of the software delivery pipeline that provides feedback on business risks as soon as possible before releasing a new product. It provides organizations with a more automated and secure way to ensure that applications remain secure and effective in a complex, fast-paced environment.
Traditional testing methods involve a project handed off between teams, with a clearly defined development and quality assurance (QA) phase. The QA team would have ample time to ensure the highest quality, which would mean sacrificing project deadlines.
The market for continuous testing is expected to grow from $1.15 billion in 2018 to $2.41 billion by 2023, representing an annual growth rate of 16%. This indicates a growing need for the timely delivery of high-quality software.
Today's businesses, however, require faster development and delivery of software to end users. The new software is more marketable than older versions and, therefore, more likely to offer companies an opportunity for improved revenues. In a continuous DevOps process, a release candidate (software change) continually moves from development to testing to deployment.
Continuous testing requires collaboration between many stakeholders, including the development team, DevOps staff, QA personnel, and technical support staff.
Learn how to implement continuous testing in DevOps like a pro!
How Is Continuous Testing Different?
In the past, testing was done by handing off the software from one team to another. The Development phase would end, and then QA would begin. The QA teams always wanted more time and were slow in their testing because they wanted to ensure quality.
Continuous testing refers to a software testing cycle that is continuous or uninterrupted. A software change (release candidate) is delivered, tested, and deployed without interruption in a continuous DevOps process. In other words, software code is developed, tested, and deployed continuously.
As an example, whenever a developer checks in code to a source code repository like Jenkins, automated unit tests are run against it. Builds that fail testing are rejected, and the developers are notified. Builds that pass testing is deployed to performance and quality assurance (QA) servers for parallel exhaustive functional and load testing. If these tests pass, the software is deployed into production.
Continuous Testing is a necessary part of the Continuous Development, Integration, and Deployment Cycle.
Why Continuous Testing Is Important: Adoption Drivers
As software has become a key business differentiator in recent years, organizations expect faster delivery of new capabilities. Development teams have turned to lean approaches like Agile and DevOps to meet these demands to shorten delivery cycles. Still, after accelerating other aspects of the delivery pipeline, they often find that their testing process prevents them from achieving the expected benefits of their SDLC acceleration initiative. Here are some of the reasons:
- Agile, DevOps, and Continuous Delivery have brought about a change in the testing process. The old methods of testing, which rely heavily on manual testing and automated GUI tests that require frequent updating, cannot keep pace with these new development cycles. While these more recent approaches to software development can speed up the iteration cycle, many organizations recognize the need to extend their test automation strategies.
- Although the role of automated testing in continuous delivery is important, managers lack adequate insight into the risk level of applications at any given time. To ensure that you are communicating effectively with your business stakeholders about acceptable levels of risk, you must design your tests based on their tolerance for vulnerabilities such as security flaws and performance issues. This can lead to a release candidate who passes all the available tests, but the business leaders would not consider ready for release.
- Without a coordinated end-to-end testing quality process, teams will find it difficult to satisfy business expectations within today's compressed delivery cycles. Defect prevention strategies such as development testing can help ensure quality is built into the product, making it faster and less resource-intensive to remove risks at the end of each iteration.
Organizations adopt continuous testing because they recognize problems caused by their traditional testing approaches. They recognize the growing importance of software and see that they can't afford to make a tradeoff between time, scope, and quality because of the rising cost of software failure.
Continuous Testing and Testing Automation
Automated testing increases the speed at which you can perform tasks and provides consistency throughout your testing. It allows developers to focus on more complicated, creative projects and frees up time for testing. It also allows you to do many more tests than you could manually, saving you a lot of time and effort.
On the other hand, Continuous testing is an approach to quality assurance that improves the quality of a product by using feedback to test throughout the development process. This approach can employ many practices and tools, including automation and monitoring. Continuous testing is about the veracity, so don't mistake data for quality just because you have massive amounts of it; you need clean, consolidated, and consistent data to take action to mitigate risk.
Continuous Testing vs. Automated Testing
In the software development world, automated testing and continuous testing are two concepts that people often confuse because they are used so frequently together. However, they have very different roles to play in DevOps and Continuous Delivery.
Both automated testing and continuous testing have a monumental impact on DevOps and Continuous Delivery, but neither is a prerequisite nor a post-requisite for the other. Regardless of your role, you can choose to perform automated testing or continuous testing on its own.
Check out this table for a better understanding:
|Parameters||Continuous Testing||Automated Testing|
|Definition||Continuous testing is a software testing process that helps you continually improve the quality of your products.||Automated testing is a process that involves the use of tools or software to perform repetitive tasks.|
|Purpose||A continual testing process can help you find risks early in the development of a product and address them before the product is released.||Performs a set of repetitive tasks that can reduce the time to run tests from days to hours.|
|Prerequisite||Continuous testing can not be implemented successfully without test automation.||Integrating continuous testing into your automated testing framework is an important step toward a more efficient and effective automated testing process.|
|Time||Software may be released weekly, hourly, or even more often.||Software release can take a long time.|
|Feedback||The feedback at each stage of a project needs to be immediate.||Regular feedback from testing each release will help us improve the software.|
Continuous Test-Driven Development
Test-driven development has been used to give programmers rapid feedback on whether the code they write works correctly.
- Functioned properly and
- Unintentionally changed or broke existing functionality. Automated testing is a process that involves running unit tests and acceptance or smoke tests on an application as part of an automated build.
Tests are written before the implementation of a project. Passing these tests proves that the implementation was successful.
Continuous test-driven development (CTDD) is a software development practice that provides the benefits of TDD and allows for the automatic execution of tests, providing testers with continuous feedback on whether their code works.
Along with this, one of the bottlenecks of Test-driven development or TDD was slow developer feedback and an overall slow software development rate. To overcome this, continuous Test-driven development was introduced as it provides faster developer feedback and ensures a fast software development process.
Continuous Testing, Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery and DevOps
In a competitive environment, enterprises can no longer afford to prioritize either speed or quality when delivering software. Both are critical to success. Now that organizations have matured in adopting agile practices and DevOps initiatives for enabling quality at speed, Continuous Integration (CI), Continuous Testing, and Continuous Delivery (CD) have emerged as key catalysts. Among these three, Continuous Testing is by far the most challenging.
Continuous Testing is a cross-functional activity that involves teams of people using tools, individuals using their testing tools, and services such as automated regression testing that work in conjunction with the other elements. While Continuous Integration is primarily a tool-driven process, and Continuous Delivery is both tool-driven and team-driven, Continuous Testing relies on a combination of tools, teams, individuals, and services.
While building and integrating code changes are essential to the software development process, the automated delivery process must also identify how these changes impact business risk or disrupt the end-user experience. Otherwise, increased frequency and speed of Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery can become more of a liability than an asset.
When done correctly, Continuous Testing became the centerpiece of the delivery pipeline. It is essential for controlling business risk, given the increased complexity and pace of modern application delivery. Automated tests are part of the software delivery pipeline, providing risk-based feedback as rapidly as possible.
How Does Continuous Testing Work Within DevOps / DevSecOps?
In this fast-paced development environment, software release cycles are getting shorter, so organizations need to adjust their practices to keep up. DevOps practices and tools should be in place for continuous testing to ensure the product's quality is high.
DevOps and DevSecOps are based on speeding up all development activities by performing security testing as soon as possible. Continuous testing is critical to speeding up the DevOps pipeline. It allows security testing to be performed early and continuously across all stages of the SDLC, from development to deployment.
By implementing continuous testing, you can ensure that your software releases are of the highest quality and that development moves forward unhindered.
Benefits of Continuous Testing
Continuous testing involves many benefits to ensure that QAs and testers get the best out of it. Here are some:
Using continuous testing, you can find bugs in your code and fix them before you ship. Actionable feedback from automated tools makes this possible. This is more effective than manual testing, which is time-intensive and misses essential defects. Risk-based insights from automated tools help you strengthen your coverage of business risk factors by finding as many problems as possible in advance.
Instant feedback helps developers make better design decisions, giving managers all the data they need to assess a release.
Smarter Release Decisions
The adoption of Agile, DevOps, and Continuous Delivery has shortened the timeline for the design, development, and delivery of software updates. These methods allow for regular releases to occur as quickly as every two weeks to thousands of times per day.
Business risk is increasing, and the only way to keep up with the accelerated release schedules of modern software companies is by using automated testing. A thorough understanding of business risk is essential before release candidates are deployed.
Continuous testing using a risk-based feedback approach can help software developers decide when and how to release changes. Companies that rely on automated tools to find opportunities for increasing code quality are finding that more time is spent looking at code complexity than looking for code defects.
More Efficient Testing
Continuous testing helps developers and managers determine whether a shift left testing or a shift right is necessary for their delivery pipeline.
End-to-end testing with automated tools helps eliminate false positives and timeouts. Such testing at each stage of software development allows developers to be confident that they’re building a secure, highly-flexible framework.
Software companies can avoid redundancy and save valuable time by continually testing their applications. This ensures that they have the most robust architecture in place for the future expansion of their programs—especially as users demand new features.
More Stable User Experience
The most important aspect of continuous testing is to ensure that faulty code doesn’t reach users and disrupt their experience. A balance between delivering new features users want and not disrupting the experience they’ve grown to love must be found.
Because businesses rely on software to communicate with customers, a poor user experience is detrimental to the business's success. In-depth testing ensures that every element of the user experience is accounted for and preserved, which helps maintain a vendor's brand and reputation once their software is ready for primetime.
Continuous testing creates a more efficient development pipeline, ensuring that each team member works together effectively. Modern software development is a collaborative process, and long gone are the days of handing off production-ready code to siloed QA testers.
By integrating quality assurance into all phases of the software development cycle, teams are more aware of each step in the pipeline and are better able to deliver high-quality code from the very beginning. Continuous testing ensures that high-quality code is being built from the moment development teams start to code.
Methodologies of Continuous Testing
Continuous testing involves a range of tests to ensure the reliability, security, and usability of an application. These tests include:
- Shift-Left Testing: By prioritizing software and system testing early in the software development life cycle (SDLC), companies can help reduce or prevent significant debugging problems down the road. Shifting left is a software testing paradigm that refers to the practice of acting earlier within a process. For example, shifting-left testing means testing your software and moving it to the left in the delivery pipeline—or testing your software earlier in the development lifecycle than is historically typical.
- Shift-Right Testing: Shift-right is a software development methodology in which testing, quality control, and performance evaluation are performed by developers closest to the code. Shift-right is the movement toward testing an application in production with real users. This ensures that applications running in production have been tested and that the same high levels of quality are maintained.
- Smoke Tests: Smoke testing is a process used to determine whether the software build you have deployed is stable or not. It is a confirmation that the quality assurance (QA) team will proceed with further testing on the build. Smoke testing consists of a minimal set of tests run on each build to test software functionalities. The name “smoke testing” comes from the idea that if a single piece of software works, then it can be assumed that everything else will also work.
- Unit Testing: Unit testing is a software development process that ensures each component of an application works as expected. By isolating and verifying individual functions, methods, procedures, and objects, unit testing allows developers to find and fix bugs early in the development process.
- Integration and Messaging Testing: Integration and messaging tests ensure that all of the software modules, when working together, are error-free. Virtualization of missing dependencies allows teams to test how well the end-to-end processes and scenarios perform collectively. Composite code is used to test whether they perform as expected when compiled and executed at run time.
- Performance Testing: When you test application software in a lab that uses different hardware and middleware from what will be used in the final production environment, the results may not accurately predict the solution's performance. To effectively assess the overall performance of a solution, integrated testing is required.
- Functional Testing: Functional testing checks whether the software is ready to deliver the customer experience. For example, supply-chain software should be able to alert trucks to arrive at factories when inventory is available for shipping. (In contrast, non-functional testing focuses on performance, usability, and reliability and gauges the readiness of the software.)
- Regression Testing: Regression testing enables you to check whether there are any changes in performance, functionality, or dependencies after correcting errors in any dependent software.
Frameworks Used for Continuous Testing
Continuous testing tools are designed to help you with your testing efforts. They ensure your success by guaranteeing positive results as you phase through the continuous testing process. Although many tools are available for continuous testing, very few are worth pursuing. Some prominent, continuous testing tools include:
Selenium is a software framework that developers with extensive programming skills can use for QA testing. To implement Selenium, it’s vital to understand how frameworks work. In addition, Selenium supports a wide range of popular operating systems (Windows, macOS, Linux) and browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari), making it ideal for cross-environment testing.
However, there are several hurdles when Selenium is used in conjunction with other tools in the CI/CD pipeline. The greatest hindrance is finding an infrastructure that supports your desired tools and plugins and allows you to seamlessly run Selenium test scripts at scale.
Cloud testing ensures that Selenium tests can be run at scale on a secure, scalable Selenium Grid. LambdaTest is such a platform that provides a scalable cloud Selenium grid that lets you run Selenium tests on various browser and platform combinations. In addition, continuous testing can be done in an organization's CI/CD Pipeline by integrating with the best CI/CD tools already used by organizations.
According to a report, 33.3% of dev teams use Jenkins as their CI/CD tools. You’ll be able to run a series of automated tests and builds after the Jenkins server is set up, ensuring that only stable (and tested) code makes it to production.
Using a tool like Jenkins can simplify the process of assuring high code quality and successful builds. It’s beneficial when working on a single project with a large development team, as traditional approaches might result in many conflicting code commits that may require a lot of troubleshooting.
Appium is an open-source test automation framework for mobile web apps. It allows you to create cross-browser tests for both desktop and mobile devices. Many cloud device providers now offer Appium-based testing services.
Appium is a tool for developing, uploading, executing, and examining test results directly in the cloud. Not only does Appium allow you to automate tests on both physical devices and simulators or emulators, but it also allows you to do so without recompiling your app. Appium uses a JSON wire protocol to communicate with the application being tested.
Eggplant is a continuous testing tool that provides a one-of-a-kind approach to testing: an image-based solution. Rather than presenting raw test scripts, Eggplant interacts with the Application Under Test (AUT) that simulates users’ points of view.
Eggplant provides a test lab that gives you 24/7 access to continuous testing and deployment. It integrates with other CI/CD tools like Jenkins and Bamboo. This integration allows Eggplant users to perform comprehensive testing, including unit, functional, and performance tests.
Challenges of Continuous Testing
Continuous testing allows for faster continuous delivery (CD). However, there are challenges that must be overcome:
- Lack of Test Support in Software: Continuous testing becomes more difficult to achieve when testability support is not built into legacy products. Implementing testability features in these products is expensive and hinders the success of continuous testing.
- Absence of Standard Tools: Although there are no standard tools for the continuous testing of many different products, teams usually use in-house automation tools or frameworks that lack proper documentation and maintenance. This adds to the problems of the testing team, which will now have to struggle with issues related to the tool/framework.
- Insufficient Testing Infrastructure: Continuous testing requires an investment in additional test environments, which must be maintained, kept up to date, and running around the clock. Advanced tools can help teams implement faster feedback loops, but these costs aren’t high compared to the price incurred due to the poor quality of the product. There is a need for organizational commitment to continuous testing instead of a halfway journey without adequate infrastructure, only adding to the problems your testers face.
- Scaling: All testing frameworks/tools do not scale equally. Slow test execution and lack of support for large test suites can become severe blockers to the dream of achieving continuous testing. These problems are not always apparent at first; they become visible only after many tests have been added to the system and the test system starts to get highly loaded.
How To Adopt Continuous Testing?
Embedding quality in applications can be achieved by adding modern testing practices, such as small quality checks performed throughout the application pipeline. This enables small sections of code to be tested continuously. It's not always the case that test automation is the first thing to be tackled. For example, even after API and GUI tests have been automated and integrated into a Continuous Integration agent, those tests have dependencies—test data, interfaces, and environments—that must be satisfied before they can be executed.
Continuous testing is a process of frequently testing your code. To try more often, you must hit multiple environments more regularly. Virtualizing those environments allows you to test code without worrying about things that aren't changing (i.e., other systems and environments).
The testing pyramid is a concept that promotes the proper use of software testing in an organization. As per the concept, organizations should test as much as possible at the unit and API levels and minimize their reliance on UI testing. To adopt continuous testing, you need to embrace this concept and strengthen your unit and API testing; you should also reduce your dependence on UI testing.
Test Data Management
To achieve continuous testing, you need the right data and the appropriate diversity of data for positive and negative scenarios. Diversity in production is difficult to achieve, and that is critical. You cannot bring data from production into an application pipeline at the speed it requires. Synthetic data generation allows continuous testing with the highest confidence levels because no personally identifiable information is at risk in the data.
In a continuous testing environment, today’s scripts fail due to things unrelated to the application code, and no one trusts the results. To achieve reliable test automation, you must adopt continuous testing.
A robust continuous testing pipeline requires a solid, integrated automation suite tied to the backbone of your application. Knowing how it works and how to interpret results will make you more efficient and scalable. You must ensure that it’s transparent and that everyone has complete visibility into what’s running through the pipeline. It is an automated workflow tool that runs all the tests in the pipeline and fully integrates with code deployment activities. As part of any DevOps adoption initiative, it is unrealistic to expect to get to continuous testing without a standardized and automated pipeline.
Acceptance of TDD and BDD
Ensure that acceptance criteria are met by developing tests that check each criterion. This keeps testing focused within the sprints, ensuring developers develop what the business expects. Over time, teams will define much more detailed acceptance criteria, which requires tests also to be more comprehensive.
To be successful, continuous testing must be automated and provide real-time data within dashboards that enable the whole team to have access. Along with this, feedback loops are critical across the entire SDLC, not just production, as a compass for navigating continuous testing transformation.
Common Practices for Continuous Testing
Continuous testing is an effective strategy because it encourages testing early and often. Here are a few best practices to get the best out of continuous testing:
Adopt More Test Automation
While continuous testing is still achievable with manual testing, automation increases the speed and error coverage at which testing can function. Automating as much as possible in the development lifecycle will help you achieve faster releases. Keep in mind that if you are shifting from a manual testing process, it will take time to set up automation. However, once you do, customers will see the time-saving benefits, and your team will be able to get new features out faster than ever before.
Continuous testing is not just about automation. It's about using the right tools to make testing more accessible, faster, comprehensive, and more effective. Tools that work with your dev toolchain to remove manual overhead (where possible) and tools that remove/reduce mundane operations for testers by automating them so testers can focus on what is essential, i.e., testing.
Quantifiable metrics can let you know how well your testing is going. Continuous testing provides immediate results to see if the software works as expected. Complex data help measure progress, quality outputs, and your business value ROI. Monitoring how many bugs are found and corrected offers continuous validation for your business value.
Save Time With Headless Execution
Headless execution is a method of running automated tests that do not use the head (i.e., no browser UI or GUI). The process reduces the number of unnecessary caches, cookies, or resources that are sifted through to obtain results that matter: does the application run as expected?
Integrate Performance Testing into the Delivery Cycle
Performance testing is beneficial because it checks your application's speed, responsiveness, and stability. It's an investigative process that observes how the system runs and finds solutions to overcome those observations. As such, performance testing should be an integral part of continuous testing.
Continuous testing has become essential for businesses to stay competitive in the modern age. To fully utilize its benefits, businesses must have the correct software. Modern-day businesses cannot afford to view continuous testing as optional but as a necessary element of software development and release.
With this Continuous testing tutorial, we hope you understand in-depth what continuous testing is and how you can use a continuous testing strategy to speed up development and achieve agility.
So, get familiar with the code and implement Continuous testing in full swing!
Published at DZone with permission of Rhea Dube. See the original article here.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.
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