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DevOps Testing Strategy

By Sourojit Das, Community Contributor -

DevOps for testing encourages close partnerships between software development and IT operation teams to create a frictionless software development process. In the traditional waterfall models, and sometimes even Agile, developers usually write the code and run unit tests before handing it over to the QA teams. If the QA team finds bugs, it goes back to the developers and IT operations.

Since Ops teams have a limit to how much change they can introduce to the system, there are often system crashes and production delays. This leads to all parties blaming each other and subsequently causes great friction between teams.

CI/CD in DevOps

DevOps, as a principle, seeks to reduce this misalignment by introducing a set of tools, practices, and an overarching mindset that eliminates this gap between the different teams. 

Two commonly used processes for this include: 

  • Continuous Integration (CI) – necessitates code to be integrated into the main codebase often, and each commit is vetted in an automated pipeline to provide a quick feedback loop.
  • Continuous Delivery (CD) follows CI and is the stage where the code built in the previous step is pushed to production. This processes the build through stages like QA, Staging, etc., and automatically tests and verifies the code before being pushed. 

However, for the successful execution of any DevOps pipeline, the code being integrated through CI and pushed through CD needs to be tested for any bugs. This is where the need for a thorough DevOps Testing Strategy comes in.

Though different organizations may have different DevOps testing strategies, they all pivot on three key elements:

  1. Continuous Testing
  2. Test Automation
  3. Continuous Monitoring

However, this is not enough, and several other factors must be considered while creating an optimal DevOps testing strategy. The following sections will discuss this in greater detail.

Components of a successful DevOps Testing Strategy 

An optimal DevOps test strategy depends on a thorough assessment of the application under test and several cultural aspects that need to be figured out before the testing is to take place.

1. Induct the Correct Skillsets

DevOps was envisaged to eliminate miscommunications between development and operations teams and create a smooth end-to-end process. Soft skills such as empathy and clear communication are vital in bringing about a culture where testers take an active role in different stages of the development cycle.

  • For instance, testers should be able to actively participate in planning meetings and communicate clearly what needs to be done and how it needs to be done to all stakeholders so that all the teams are on the same page.
  • Soft skills aside, testers also need to focus on being able to acquire enough technical skills to be able to participate actively.
  • The QA team is responsible for maintaining the product quality and the overall quality of the process so that the product is delivered in the shortest period possible.

In this scenario, the QA team is the gatekeeper who grants access for the project to move from one stage to another, and it is imperative.

2. Create an optimal Continuous Testing pipeline

Continuous Testing is central to the execution of a successful DevOps Testing Strategy. At the Continuous Integration stage, tests are conducted to ensure the code is valid before integrating it into the existing codebase. This is the primary step for ensuring that the software keeps working as per the requirements.

  • After these automated tests have been successfully run, the code is sent to the QA team for further validation.
  • The QA team concerns itself mainly with functionality testing, and then the code is moved to a staging environment.
  • A final round of tests is executed in this environment before the code is shifted to production servers.
  • Continuous Testing ensures that the code is tested thoroughly at every step, and this process needs to be as fully automated as possible.
  • Not only does this ensure that the codebase remains fully functional and valid after every code push, it also helps accelerate the release velocity of the product.

Thus, it is imperative to ensure that this process is optimized as much as possible. Some guidelines to achieve the same are given below:

  • Do the Market Research 

The ultimate goal of DevOps is to prevent business risks by accelerating the release of flawless software. It is vital to investigate all the stages of the software workflows and understand those most critical to the target audience. 

These workflows need to implement an optimized CI/CD pipeline as the top priority. It is not reasonably possible to optimize everything simultaneously, so it is essential to understand the hierarchy of business preferences to design automated test procedures and set up end-to-end pipelines to alleviate risks in those sectors first.

  • Get Expert Opinion

Continuous Testing encompasses the entire scope of test procedures, including writing test cases, manual or automated tests, and deciding the order of test execution. It is essential to seek advice from specialists to perform risk assessments, understand critical points of failures, and determine DevOps for testing that offers quick results for a rapid turnaround.

  • Adopt a Shift-Left Testing procedure

Continuous testing is the opposite of traditional test management processes, where the testing happens at the end of the software development lifecycle. 

Shift-left is the philosophy that promotes that testing should be implemented across the SDLC from the creation of unit tests when code is being written and relevant testing at each stage of the life cycle.  It aims to identify defects as early as possible and resolve these bugs as soon as they are detected. This leads to better software quality and reduces the time and effort in resolving bugs if they are detected late in the day. 

  • Get the Correct Test Data

Accurate test data forms the backbone of any robust DevOps for testing process. Continuous Testing depends on data that can replicate all the different scenarios that may occur when testing a particular scenario and is as close to real-time data as possible. It is usually not possible to get real-time production data, but the test data can be made as suitable to actual scenarios as possible through mocking and masking.

  • Select the Right Testing Tools

Software must be fully accessible and functional in various environments and real-world devices. With websites and apps being accessed by users worldwide, they must be tested for optimality across all scenarios. The right testing tools must be selected for this task.

Using real mobile and desktop devices for testing is highly recommended, as emulators and simulators cannot fully replicate software’s functionality on real devices. Using real devices for testing allows you to take real user conditions into account while testing and ensure more accurate test results.

BrowserStack supports a variety of testing frameworks like Selenium, Cypress, Playwright, Appium, Espresso, etc. It offers access to 3000+ real browsers and devices. It is fully compatible with CI/CD tools like JIRA, Jenkins, TeamCity, CircleCI, and Travis CI, among others, and offers in-built debugging tools that allow for quick bug resolution.

3. Leverage the Power of Automation

DevOps process looks to ensure close-knit communication between the development and operations teams, and that means quick turnaround times. Thus, automation testing is key in any optimal DevOps Testing Strategy.

  • One of the most common examples comes from regression testing, where after any change is pushed to the system, the entire system has to be tested to ensure that the core functionality has not been broken.
  • Automation tests reduce the time required for execution and increase test efficiency.
  • Automation testing on a Cloud-based Grid makes it easier to update and maintain the test suite since that part is managed by the organization supporting the grid.

BrowserStack offers a Cloud Selenium Grid of 3000+ real devices and browsers that allows users to start testing after simply signing up.

Run Automation Tests on Real Devices

  • Leverage the power of Parallel Testing

An optimized test grid should enable parallel testing to allow multiple tests to be carried out side by side. Testers would be able to cut down on test times and offer quicker turnarounds to meet shorter deadlines. For example, If a single test on 45 browsers takes two minutes each, running 3 of them in parallel would reduce this time from 90 to 30 mins.

  • Automate Visual Testing

Visual Testing or Visual UI testing seeks to validate that the software UI appears as expected to all users regardless of the page they are on. It checks whether every web element is represented on the screen in the correct dimensions and functions as expected.

Testers usually compare browser snapshots to perform these tests manually, but tools like Percy by BrowserStack can automate this laborious process by saving screenshots and comparing them to baseline images. It provides automated reporting on any visual changes. It makes it possible to commit code to production, knowing that the look and feel of the site are as valid as the functionality within.

Run Automated Visual Tests on Percy

4. Setup Continuous Monitoring Processes

Once the CI/CD pipeline has been set up and the Continuous Testing process optimized using automated testing, the third pillar of the DevOps testing strategy comes into play, viz. Continuous Monitoring (CM). 

This is an automated process for DevOps engineers to observe and monitor any issues that may fall foul of compliance regulations and detect any security threats to the pipeline.

After the software has been deployed to production servers, CM is expected to be able to keep Development and QA teams abreast of any issues in the environment. The feedback on the issues allows dedicated teams to work out fixes for a quick turnaround and allows the DevOps team to stay on top of things.

Continuous Monitoring has three varieties

  1. Infrastructure Monitoring: This collects and analyses data about the infrastructure on which the software runs, including data centers, servers, networks, storage, and the like.
  2. Application Monitoring: This monitors software performance, including uptime, system and API responses, transaction times, etc.
  3. Network Monitoring: This is in charge of tracking firewalls, routers, switches, and other network components on which the deployed software depends.

Ensuring CM is successfully implemented allows for

  • Better visibility into the network metrics to preempt outages and discover trends.
  • Allow for quicker response time to issues in production
  • Reduces the risk of system downtime as there is a continuous overwatch on the system components at all times

Best Practices for an efficient DevOps Testing Strategy

It is often not enough to plan for an efficient DevOps testing strategy. The lack of an optimal understanding of the best practices in implementing this strategy can seriously hamper the results.

Use easily understandable language to communicate test plans.

Testing is usually performed with some combination of scripting/programming languages. This is not always understandable to non-technical stakeholders. Using a construct like Gherkin, which allows QA teams to explain tests in layperson terms, helps bring all stakeholders on the same page.

Use Pair Testing Strategies for Manual Tests

While an optimal DevOps testing strategy leverages the power of automated tests to the hilt, there is always a certain amount of manual tests that need to be performed. A pair of testers work simultaneously, with one tester executing the tests while the other verifies the results. Any two DevOps team members can make a pair, especially with developers reviewing tests performed to better resolve bugs in the code.

Automate as many tests as possible 

DevOps can only work efficiently when there is a quick turnaround for issues found during development. Using parallel testing to speed up regression test suites and automating visual tests saves time and money and allows developers to close any loopholes before they affect the application.

Cover as many platforms as possible

Mobile and Web applications today are deployed on a plethora of devices. It is important to test the application continuously on all expected devices to ensure the best performance. Emulators and Simulators fail to mimic actual software performance on real devices. Thus, real device testing is critical to ensure that the DevOps Testing Strategy implemented works seamlessly.

Test on 3000+ Real Devices and Browsers

Summing Up DevOps for Testing

The rapid adoption of DevOps for testing by software organizations speaks volumes about its efficiency and efficacy as a software development process. With release cycles getting shorter and shorter and the onus to produce optimally working products increasing, it is vital to have a sound DevOps testing strategy that saves time and effort while maintaining high product quality.

Automation Testing DevOps

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