The Role of QA in DevOps
Shreya Bose, Technical Content Writer at BrowserStack - November 19, 2020
At this point, it seems like DevOps has become a catchphrase for all things related to software engineering. However, despite the term approaching cliche status, its significance in software development cannot be understated. DevOps facilitates speed, innovation, and collaboration, all of which have shifted the gears of software development and release to new quality and acceleration levels.
However, with website and app users expecting new features and products at breakneck speed, quality often takes a backseat to speed. This has long-term consequences since digital users are quick to dismiss software that does not meet their standards.
Almost 1 in every 2 apps are uninstalled within 30 days. In 2019, the average app lost about $33,000 a month due to uninstallation. When it comes to websites. 30% of mobile shoppers have abandoned buying from a site because it wasn’t optimized for the mobile device. Additionally, a one-second delay in webpage load speed can cost 7% in sales, 11% fewer page views, and 16% lower customer satisfaction.
Even though it does not feature in the name Continuous Integration/Continuous Development (CI/CD) AKA, the development methodology used to implement DevOps in a team or organization, QA holds a vital place in this ecosystem. An important step in the DevOps pipeline is Continuous Testing.
This article will explore the role of QA in DevOps, highlighting the place DevOps testers hold in the ecosystem.
Let’s begin with defining some of the relevant terms:
- DevOps: DevOps applies Agile practices to QA and Ops teams, thus streamlining the build, validation, deployment, and development of software. For this purpose, DevOps prioritizes integration, collaboration, and automation between Dev and Ops teams. It seeks to standardize development environments and improve predictability, efficiency, and security in the software development lifecycle.
Refer to this detailed article on DevOps for greater clarity.
- CI/CD: CI/CD refers to practices for software engineering and deployment.
CI or Continuous Integration is an engineering practice in which team members integrate their code at a very high frequency. Teams implementing CI aim to integrate code daily or, in some cases, even hourly.
CD or Continuous Delivery is the practice of ensuring that code is always in a deployable state. This means that all code changes – new features, bug fixes, experiments, configuration changes – are always ready for deployment to a production environment.
CD can also mean Continuous Deployment – a practice in which all changes are automatically deployed into production. Unlike Continuous Delivery, there is no final manual approval step before releasing into production.
Refer to this detailed article on CI/CD for more information.
- Continuous Testing: Continuous Testing refers to a set of automated tests that are executed every time a new code build is pushed to the repository. Basically, every time new code is pushed, a series of tests are run to verify code for errors or issues before being moved to the production environment.
Continuous Testing facilitates repeated, thorough verification of software at individual developer levels in early stages, as well as testing of the integrated code. The intention is to minimize the appearance of larger, more complex bugs in later phases.
The Role of QA in DevOps
The very foundation of DevOps is built on eliminating barriers between developer and QA roles.
DevOps primarily refers to a mindset that focuses on communication and collaboration between developers and testers. This was necessary because, in non-DevOps setups, devs are often unaware of QA and Ops roadblocks ( “It works fine on my machine”). Moreover, QAs and Ops personnel often lack context on the business requirement of any software since they work across multiple projects.
The point of DevOps is to ensure that developers and QAs are on the same page at all stages of a project. In a non-DevOps setup, devs throw code “over the wall” to QAs. QAs find bugs and bring them to devs to be debugged. Devs blame QAs and the testing environment for the bugs.
When bugs are finally resolved, QA throws the code “over the wall” to Ops. Since Ops teams have to limit changes to their system, there is a high possibility of their system crashing when the code is released. Ops blames QAs and devs, and the development. sprint cycle continues.
In DevOps, QA and dev roles are blurred. Development strategies are created with testing priorities in mind. QA acts as a bridge between development and operations, implementing the collaborative mechanism at the heart of DevOps.
Testers are included in brainstorming sessions early on. Additionally, developers perform unit tests on their own code before pushing it to the main codebase. On the other hand, QAs actively engage in fixing code when they can.
Naturally, a DevOps software testing setup requires a reliable, defined, and reliable testing strategy to keep the code as clean and error-free as possible. This is where the QA comes in.
The QA as a Consultant
DevOps is all about shifting individual and collective mindsets in more collaborative directions. Developers take on more testing responsibility so that QAs do not have to spend time identifying basic errors in code.
However, to execute this shift, devs will require some training. With devs taking on more testing, QAs will transition to a more consultative role, helping devs create better tests and become better at screening for quality. QAs would also be responsible for helping devs gain a better understanding of testing philosophies and processes. This fundamental shift in the technical approach cannot be performed without serious engagement and input from QA departments.
At the end of the day, developers have not been trained to look for quality issues, only fix them. Even when they care about doing so, they will probably miss issues. In DevOps, QA responsibilities start with imparting knowledge and training to developers.
The QA as a Strategist
The best form of the SCRUM model incorporates QA expertise directly into development blueprints. By involving QA from the start of a sprint, product creation and growth becomes more effortless and evolved.
As a strategist, the QA engineer makes high-level decisions about what standards the software should meet in its final form. Since QAs must have intimate knowledge of how end-users think and interact with software, they are best placed to advise dev teams on what features to include, what common bugs to look out for in unit tests, and what kind of users the software would be targeted towards.
DevOps QA testing also includes crafting the automated test cases that constitute the Continuous Testing part of the CI/CD pipeline. Different software must be tested for different bugs, and it is the prerogative of the QA to decide what tests would be best positioned to identify said bugs.
In successful DevOps environments, QA comes much earlier into the picture. Development sprints do not begin without the specifications being reviewed by the QA team and accounting for their recommendations on questions of security, performance, and stability.
As strategists, QAs are also responsible for selecting the most suitable tools and frameworks for manual testing and automation testing. Remember, successful DevOps implementation relies heavily on automation. It is of utmost importance to use the right test automation frameworks, established in the right toolchains that will automate large sections of the development and deployment pipeline.
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DevOps, for QA testers, provides opportunities to evolve and align with the changing horizons of technology and user priorities. Qa engineers hold a place of power and responsibility in DevOps, but it must start with a change in how they approach their role in the first place.