Containers in the World of QA
This overview of the role of containers in QA explores how they've synergized with cloud environments and how testers and devs can make the most of them.
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Software application development has evolved to deal with market challenges and enhance application quality. Docker was introduced to the application development scene in 2013, which generated a lot of enthusiasm in the technology sphere. Docker, promoted by Docker Inc., is a software company providing container technology, enabling phenomenal changes in the application development space.
The concept of container technology is expected to change the implementation of IT operations, very much in line with how virtualization technology did. It has been driving conversations and discussions since its inception and has enabled enterprises to shift full-stack deployments onto containers.
What’s so Compelling About Containers?
Literally, a container comprises a runtime environment with applications and related assets such as libraries, other binaries, and configuration files to run the application. By using containers, the application platform, with its other assets/dependencies across various operating systems, can be made independent from any physical environment. Containers are dominating the application development scene, particularly in cloud computing environments.
When it comes to cloud computing, there is a massive gap related to the portability of the application due to proprietary issues. Moreover, the technology of containers abstracts applications within virtual containers, enabling them to move from one cloud to another. The architecture of containers is a key highlight and a compelling factor. Containers help to break down applications and provide the ease of placing them across different physical and virtual machines, though not necessarily only on the cloud. This flexibility provides benefits related to workload management and helps build fault-proof systems.
With the application of clustering, scheduling, and orchestration technology, teams can ensure that applications loaded within containers can scale up and stay robust within any test environment.
In order to support future development teams, many cloud vendors have also started supporting Docker within their service domain. While Docker is a service provider, the idea of containers is changing the way applications are being built, tested, and deployed. Containers offer solutions for problems related to portability of the application/software from one computing environment to another. For instance, from the developer’s laptop to another staging environment, or from a physical machine within a data center to a cloud environment.
Relevance of Containers in QA
Quality assurance and software testing have been maturing rapidly to catch up with the needs of software development and the pace of deployments. It has shifted away from linear processes to support non-linear deployments. Software testing and QA work together to deliver quality products on a continuous basis, enabling continuous testing and integration. Containers as a concept have been adopted by QA to work in tandem with the application development process.
Moreover, it cannot be ignored, as it will result in a rift between what the development teams have to deliver and how the QA teams decide to approach it. To avoid this bottleneck, it is important for QA to adopt the technology and work toward rapid deployments.
The underlying goal of application development is to enable testing and deployment of services at any given point of time, where the role of QA is inevitable. The need for deployment is unpredictable, but teams need to be ready for it at any given point of time when there is a business requirement. It is equally compelling to understand how containers can support QA in the overall development and deployment phase and why they should be embraced.
Reporting Made Easy
During the development and testing process, if there is an issue or a bug, the images can be shared instantaneously. Instead of just reporting the error/bug, the actual images of the application can be shared in real time. For instance, system-level bugs are very difficult to detect, and it is critical to understand the root cause of these errors/bugs. By implementing containers, there is a solution to this process, as the configuration of the systems is based on the image that was shared during deployment. In this way, images are created with orchestration tools, and these images enable QA to understand the system-level changes and the exact root cause of the bug.
Going Back to the Source
In a test environment with containers, it is possible to pin frameworks, libraries, and testing assets. Containers work in absolutes as, irrespective of the number of releases you do, the image will help to go back and check for any kind of replication, inconsistency, or error. In the overall development and testing process, it helps bring consistency and credibility to ensure quality. This further helps to run tests faster, as it is possible to deploy identical containers simultaneously and run multiple tests on them.
For instance, if a test suite is built with smaller fragments of tests, it will help to run subsets of the entire test suite simultaneously at a given point of time on the containers. Additionally, it is also possible to run tests with a few variations, enabling exploratory testing to identify spots in the application for further enhancement.
Enables Better Communication of Issues
One of the greatest highlights of containers is that they boost better communication between teams and further helps QA to communicate issues effectively within the delivery chain. The role of testers has been taxing, and with mechanisms such as these, they are reassured of their position in the overall software development cycle. Transparency and smooth communication channels bring consistency upstream as well as downstream in the system. Consistency is absolutely critical for ease of delivery and assurance of quality.
Development and testing folks across some of the major conglomerates are digging further into DevOps and working toward collaboration between development and operations. The technology of containers has been endorsed to add value to DevOps and brings speed to software development. While the concept has been around since the 1980s, the technology gained momentum when the open source tool Docker blended free Linux tools, namely Jenkins, Chef, and Puppet, with cloud services to make containers that could be easily and effectively adopted within the development and testing cycle.
There are multiple ways in which QA can work on container-driven applications, but what boosts it further is automation. With the growing need for speed and modern-day development challenges, it is important for QA to embrace the technology of containers along with test automation.
Published at DZone with permission of Subhendu Pattnaik, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
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