Continuous Testing: The Catalyst In Continuous Delivery Process
Continuous Delivery is a software development concept in which software updates become smaller and more frequent. Adopting Continuous Delivery leads to happier users because it allows your organization to add new features to software and fix bugs more quickly. It also means that you can push an update any time you like — often within just a few hours — because you’re constantly developing and testing small revisions.
Continuous Delivery meshes well with Continuous Integration. When your organization implements the practice of Continuous Integration, you constantly add new code to a shared repository for testing and verification. The repository merges new verified code with production code automatically according to a schedule that you define. Since Continuous Integration means that there’s little new code to test at any given time, it helps to ensure that you can spot and correct errors quickly.
Combining Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery means that a line of code that your developers have just written can become a part of your live application in hours rather than weeks.
Here at TA Digital, we’ve found that many companies neglect to add testing to their agile software development methodologies. Constant manual testing of code is prohibitively expensive, but testing code manually only once runs the risk that you’ll discover a bug late in the development cycle that forces you to start over.
Automation is the key to Continuous Testing without compromising the quality of the result or the time required to achieve it. We design use cases, add them to an automated testing utility and run the utility in the background throughout the development cycle. The testing utility automatically flags unusual software behavior for further analysis. Removing the manual burden of testing reduces your development costs and allows you to merge new code with your production environment more quickly.
Companies use a variety of different Continuous Testing methods to ensure that users can enjoy problem-free experiences. We believe, though, that automated testing should begin as soon as new code appears in the version control system. Testing new code early and often helps to ensure that your company can maintain a smooth DevOps process and keep the software release cycle as short as possible.
The one potential weakness of automation in Continuous Testing is that some companies incorrectly believe it can replace the human touch. Adding automation to the testing component of your organization’s Continuous Delivery methodology can help you mitigate risk and identify potential problem areas in your code more quickly. At some point, though, developers will still have to get involved, confirm that the flagged code actually does contain bugs and correct those bugs. Automation is a key component of Continuous Testing, but it isn’t the only component.
How to Make Continuous Testing the Catalyst in Your Continuous Delivery Process
Implementing a Continuous Testing methodology means modifying your company’s current testing and QA process to align it with the concepts and methods of agile development. These are some of the methods that we use to ensure that Continuous Testing is a catalyst for — rather than a detriment to — Continuous Delivery.
- Your organization’s developers are the people best equipped to create the protocols for automated testing. They understand how the code works, and they understand the expected performance and functionality characteristics of that code. As the code base becomes more complex, it can be useful to add regression tests to ensure that new modifications to the code aren’t breaking existing features.
- As your organization adds new features to software, you’ll also add steps to your automated test pattern. Adding new tests to your Continuous Integration build pattern shouldn’t increase the length of your release cycle because the tests run seamlessly in the background. When tests pass, your developers won’t need to intervene. When a test fails, the testing platform can send an automated message to your developers.
- The QA team should get involved when it’s time to validate new code prior to deployment. At the final testing stage, the QA team can run function, load, soak and regression tests to confirm that the code is ready for integration with the production environment. As with the rest of the testing protocol, the QA team should use automated tools whenever possible to facilitate quick delivery of the end product. Codifying the testing process for a given product and making extensive use of automation gives you a short testing cycle with predictable results.
- Testing doesn’t end with the integration of new code. Your operations team should use tools to monitor the production environment on an ongoing basis to catch bugs that may have slipped through the testing cycle undetected. Testing code both before and after release is the essence of Continuous Testing. Your operations team should use the tests devised by the QA team to inform their monitoring methodology.
Implementing a true Continuous Testing methodology means that you’re testing your software from end to end — from the development stage to the point at which you integrate new code with your live product. Testing continuously is a key part of your company’s effort to synchronize developers, testers and operations personnel. Most importantly, using an automated testing methodology transforms something that was once time consuming and expensive into a smooth and seamless part of an effective Continuous Delivery process.
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