Automation is key to maintaining the speed of a DevOps or continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) lifecycle, especially when it comes to testing. Automated testing allows you to achieve continuous testing, which is essential for delivering high-quality software at a fast pace. Let’s dive deeper into automated testing and its benefits, before discussing the best practices for building and implementing an automated test framework to streamline deployments.
What is Automated Testing?
Automated testing is, simply put, performing tests in an automated fashion. Some examples of testing that can be automated include:
- Unit testing – testing the individual components of the software.
- Smoke testing – determining whether or not the build is stable.
- Integration testing – making sure all the individual components work well together.
- Regression testing – ensuring the software hasn’t regressed after changes are made.
- API testing – determining the functionality of the application programming interface (API).
- Security testing – making sure vulnerabilities are secured at every step of the SDLC (software development life cycle).
- Performance testing – testing the stability and responsiveness of software at varying stress levels.
- Acceptance testing – determining how end-users will respond to the final product.
- UI testing – replicating end-user actions to ensure the user interface works as it should.
Automating these tests allows you to maintain the quality and security of your applications without sacrificing speed.
The Benefits of Automated Testing
Automated testing unlocks numerous benefits for businesses, especially those trying to embrace a DevOps, agile, and/or a CI/CD methodology.
Fast and Continuous Feedback
Development teams using an automated test framework receive test data and feedback quickly, because they don’t need to wait for a human to compile and communicate that feedback for them.
Automated testing is quick and can be performed continuously throughout the SDLC, allowing developers to fix issues as soon as they arise and deliver a high-quality product in less time.
Though implementing automated testing may require a larger up-front investment, it results in higher productivity and quicker releases, ultimately saving companies money in development costs.
Higher Test Coverage
With automated testing, you can execute more tests, more often, which ultimately leads to higher test coverage than a manual approach.
Automated test cases can be reused and adapted to fit a variety of different scenarios, saving even more time.
Humans make mistakes, which is one of the limitations of manual testing. Automated testing thus reduces the amount of human error involved in QA.
Enables Shifting Left
Since automated testing doesn’t slow down development, it can be implemented earlier in the SDLC (known as shifting left), which means bugs are caught early in the process before they affect code further down the pipeline.
Automated testing increases the speed of not just the testing process, but the entire SDLC. Automation also reduces the amount of human error involved in the testing process.
Best Practices for Building an Automated Test Framework
Now that you understand how automated testing can benefit your development teams and your organization as a whole, how do you get started? Your first step should be mapping out your release pipeline, which involves:
- Identifying all the stages of your release
- Identifying all the gates and requirements for your build to reach production
- Determining the feedback mechanism for error detection and remediation
- Listing the procedures, services, and actions involved in the release cycle
Mapping your release pipeline will help you determine where and what kind of automated testing you need to implement.
You will also need to find the right automated testing tools that can integrate seamlessly into your pipeline and run on your infrastructure. Your automated testing tools will provide you with the framework to configure test cases and build automation flows.
Once you have a tool in place, you should gradually build your automation flows by testing one thing at a time and slowly increasing coverage. By limiting the complexity of your first test flows, you’ll have an easier time detecting the problem when a test case fails. Rather than bundling multiple tests into one test case, it’s best practice to build smaller reusable components. That way, it’s easier to reuse the test logic in future test cases as needed.
Then, when you build your automated test cases, you should strive to keep them independent and self-contained. Though you can reuse the structure or template of automated flows across multiple test cases, it’s best to keep the test cases themselves separate (i.e. not interdependent or sharing flows). That way, you can schedule multiple test cases to run simultaneously across different environments as needed.
Implementing an Automated Test Framework to Streamline Deployment
The speed of automated testing empowers you to shift left by executing tests earlier in the SLDC, so bugs are caught before they can impact code and interdependencies further down the pipeline. This means embracing automated testing by implementing an automated test framework will increase both the speed and quality of your end product.