In recent years, Development and Operations has become the most popular approach for developing large scale software systems. DevOps is grounded on several principles that drive effectiveness in software development and deployment, as well as in team collaboration. For instance, DevOps emphasizes the importance of communication and seamless flow of information among the developers of the team, while fostering an agile, iterative approach to software development and operations. At the same time, the practical implementation of a DevOps project is based on several development, deployment and operations best practices.
One of these best practices concerns software testing and recommends that tests are properly automated as part of a testing automation approach. Automated testing is a process in which software testing is performed by computer programs rather than engaging developers and testers in manual testing processes. Testing automation is typically used to validate that an application or system meets its specifications and requirements, as well as to detect quality issues and defects in the software system. Automated testing involves performing repeated checks on a software system to ensure that it works as intended. Sometimes automated testing is also called automated checking and is used in conjunction with other DevOps practices like continuous integration (CI) and continuous deployment (CD).
Automated tests are often written in an executable specification language such as JBehave or Concordion. These test automation tools allow for the creation of test cases that are easy to maintain, run quickly and provide high coverage with minimal effort from developers and testers alike. Nevertheless, writing tests incurs some additional development effort, as tests are new software units.
DevOps methodologies advocate the use of automated testing approaches to increase software quality and productivity. In particular, the main benefits of automated testing include:
Based on the above-listed benefits, automated testing helps teams to deliver new features and software updates faster, while reducing the risk of introducing bugs into production systems. Also, the use of automated testing tools can free up time for developers to focus on new features instead of fixing old ones. At the end of the day, this leads not only to improved software quality, but to more innovation as well.
In most cases automated tests belong to one of the following categories:
No matter the type of tests that one writes and applies, it is important to set realistic goals. Teams must define test cases and their expected results, in ways that cover key functionalities of software system i.e., notably the most used features. Accordingly, then must create the data that will enable the team to run the specified test cases. One of the most important best practices for automated testing is to use automation tools that are easy to learn and maintain. Another best practice concerns the use of multiple environments: local, staging and production environments should all be tested with automated tests before code is deployed into them.
Despite the proclaimed benefits of automated checks, it is important to note that test automation is not a magic bullet. It’s an investment, and you should expect to see a return on that investment over time. Therefore, it is important that you understand what you’re getting into before jumping into the implementation of automated tests. The cost of automation can be high if you don’t plan ahead or have the right resources in place to make it happen smoothly. Companies must certainly consider maintenance costs as well as training costs for the team members that will be working with the tests on a day-to-day basis. This is also the reason why having experienced testers can be important. Note also that automated tests aren’t always perfect. In fact, they can sometimes fail just like manual ones do. Hence This means that when something goes wrong with an automated test suite, it may take longer than usual for someone to figure out why things aren’t working correctly. This is because there is not any feedback from testers themselves explaining what went wrong or how they would fix things differently next time around. Overall, an enterprise must consider the challenges of automated testing when planning a DevOps infrastructure and doing relevant Return on Investment (ROI) calculations. Industry best practices are usually the right thing to do, but do not work always and for everyone.
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