Continuous testing in DevOps: Overview and best practices
We’re pretty sure you know this already, but just in case: Continuous testing is a key part of DevOps. But what does that mean? How does it work in practice?
If you need it, here’s a basic overview of continuous testing. You’ll also find some ideas on how you could begin integrating it into the way your organization works.
What is continuous testing?
So first, down to the basics: Continuous testing is a software development practice which includes consistent, automated software evaluation. It’s used throughout a software development process, from early stages to deployment.
The point of continuous testing is to discover and address any issues as they come up. The idea is to make sure the software performs optimally and at a high quality. The process itself is designed to aid efficiently
Usually continuous testing uses automated tools to run predefined QA scripts at all stages of production. This cuts down on the need for regular human intervention. Plus it minimizes human error.
A big benefit of this approach is that software development teams are able to receive immediate feedback on any issues that arise. They can then adjust the source code as necessary before it impacts the work of other teams.
Continuous testing is a big part of the CI/CD process. The goal is to speed up software development timelines by improving code quality, reducing bottlenecks, and streamlining DevOps processes.
Continuous testing in DevOps – why is this so important?
Traditionally, software testing is done after the software development process is complete. It’s a risky choice. A lot of times bugs are discovered pretty late, leading to delayed releases.
Obviously this doesn’t work with a DevOps mentality.
The point of DevOps is to deliver high-quality software quickly, cut down on time-to-market, and accelerate release cycles. Continuous testing is a good way to get there.
How it works: User tests begin with integration testing. Later, system testing, regression testing, and user-acceptance testing come in.
In the meantime, dedicated teams analyze data feeds from each application module. They’re checking to make sure all modules impacted by the new code perform as expected.
If a test fails, the code is sent back to the dev team to correct. Then the testing cycle starts again.
You can see how continuous testing works hand-in-hand with continuous integration. It’s a great way to quickly validate new code integrated into an application. The vast majority of issues are then dealt with as soon as they arise.
5 big reasons continuous testing is great for an organization
Continuous testing can be hugely beneficial to your organization for a ton of reasons. Here’s five of them:
- Faster software delivery that responds well to the market. When organizations automate tests and integrate them into their development process, features come out a lot faster. At the same time, the code quality stays the same, if not improves.
This is a great way to stay ahead of the competition and respond more quickly to the changing demands of the market.
- Better collaboration. Immediate feedback means better feedback cycles. Dev, testing, and operations teams work better together almost organically with continuous testing. This means less silos and better coordination on shared goals.
- A lot less testing time. Continuous testing is great for distributed projects. A lot of contemporary development architectures are diverse, with many layers of complexity.Continuous Testing breaks down these layers by integrating an automated and scalable testing solution. Timelines for discovering and remedying errors improve. Dev processes become a lot more efficient and effective. Devs, and dev leaders, are happy.
- Reduced risk of errors and increased trust: Automating testing processes enables teams to detect and address defects early in the development process, reducing the risk of defects being released into production. High-quality software leads to increased confidence in its reliability and performance among users.
- Smooth incorporation into DevOps. Continuous testing is a big part of DevOps culture. Even better, continuous testing can be customized to a project’s specific needs. And it easily scales up or down to accommodate changes in market demand.
Continuous testing – best practices
Choose the right continuous testing tools:
For continuous testing to work, you need to choose the right tools. This helps streamline testing and make it a lot more efficient.
Ideally your tools will integrate well with your dev toolchains so you can automate tasks and cut down on manual overhead. You’ll want the tools to simplify the everyday work for your testers. That way they can concentrate on what they do best: testing.
The most robust test automation frameworks cover all layers of the testing pyramid, from unit to UI tests. Obviously you should keep your organization’s primary objectives in mind when choosing a continuous testing tool.
Monitor the metrics that matter
It’s important to keep track of how well your testing strategy is working. Part of that is making sure you’re tracking the right metrics.
Some tangible metrics could include the number of bugs you detect in each test, or the pass/fail rate of fixed code. You’ll want the metrics to help you understand both your organization’s own progress, as well as your return on investment. Plus it’s just good feedback on whether your tests are working.
Keep communication transparent
For continuous testing to work, your teams need to be talking to each other. Conflicts and bottlenecks will slow down your development process. They’ll also get in the way of your team seeing any benefits in the testing pipeline.
It’s good to make sure your stakeholders are invested and aligned from the beginning. All cross-functional teams should agree on policies for test coverage and creation. This probably includes Dev, QA, security, and Ops team members.
You might also consider adding a test architect role if you haven’t already. They can provide expertise in CT practices. They can also help cross-functional teams out in understanding and applying those practices.
Utilize the Continuous Integration (CI) pipeline
Again, continuous testing and continuous integration are a great fit for one another. This means you really should incorporate a continuous integration pipeline into your testing strategy.
You can then automate the entire build and deployment process, and run automated tests at each stage.
A well-developed automation strategy with reliable, consistent, and reproducible results will really pay off long-term. It should include a maintenance schedule and a specific test timeline for automating along the delivery pipeline.
DevOps doesn’t do much without continuous testing. Your dev teams will find it helps a ton in maintaining software quality and quickly dealing with software challenges. With the right tools and metrics, plus deliberate collaboration, CT can help your DORA metrics thrive.