Blog/industry expertise/DevOps Continuous Testing to Accelerate Software Delivery

DevOps Continuous Testing to Accelerate Software Delivery

8 min readpublished 30 June 2022updated 14 March 2023
  • Continuous testing (CT) in DevOps is a powerful technique to speed up development, improve code quality, reduce business risks and make your users happy.
  • CT is about running automated tests every time you change your application’s code.
  • This kind of testing is designed as part of DevOps
  • Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) is the best practice of DevOps, and CT is a critical element of this practice.
  • Before introducing continuous testing, you need to make sure you can handle its challenges.

What Role Continuous Testing Plays in DevOps

Continuous testing (CT) is all about running automated tests as you develop a product. CT is designed to be part of DevOps (development and operations), a model where all elements are combined in a software delivery pipeline.

By including continuous testing in DevOps, you nip technical issues in the bud. However, CT is deemed more a powerful technique to boost the software development process than a default practice.

In this article, we’ll see why that’s the case and consider how to adopt CT as a smart testing strategy.

The Benefits of Continuous Testing

Like any other quality assurance (QA) practice, continuous testing is meant to improve code quality. But its benefits go beyond that.

Reduce Business Risks

The main reason why companies use continuous testing is business risk reduction. Quality assurance (QA) and DevOps engineers check the software on a regular basis. As the software grows in complexity and the business situation changes, they adapt their test suite.

This approach helps engineers prevent even minor glitches which can disrupt both the customer experience and business processes.

Enhance Security

The scenarios used in continuous testing typically include those where some software systems fail. So, if an attacker breaks something, the application will carry on running and the data will be safe.

Build Fast

Continuous testing is an early detection and prevention practice. This is the opposite of scrutinizing an application before launch and then tracking issues back to their source. And, as such, CT makes it easier to fix bugs and glitches, cutting the time prior to the software release getting into production.

Get Everyone Engaged

If you use continuous testing with DevOps, you need to involve quality assurance engineers from the development process early on. They will help your team work with user behavior in mind and, in turn, involve developers in QA. As a result, you’ll have a cohesive group where everyone owns the product quality.

Win Users’ Love

You’ll likely invest in marketing your new application. But no marketing works better than word of mouth. Delight people with seamless user experiences and they will recommend your app to friends and family and even leave positive reviews.

However, word of mouth is a double-edged sword. It can also trash your business if people struggle to use your app — because negative emotions are more likely to make people act than positive ones. In that case, expect low app store ratings and overall user avoidance.

The Challenges of DevOps Continuous Testing

DevOps continuous testing is a powerful technique. And, as such, it’s not easy to introduce — here’s why.

It Has Multiple Moving Parts

DevOps is built upon a set of practices, including the three interconnected ones: continuous integration (CI), continuous delivery (CD) and continuous testing.

The first focuses on tools, and the second is centered around tools and how teams are using those tools. For the latter, though, all things matter: tools, services, teams and individuals.

Everyone must have a clearly defined role, and there needs to be specific tools and services for each task.

It’s an Investment

Continuous development and testing in DevOps saves you money in the long run, but requires quite an investment to introduce it.

You’ll likely need to set up additional test environments — and keep them up and running. This will cost you both developer and tester hours, as well as cloud resources. Fail to invest enough at that point, and your journey towards CT will defeat its stated purpose.

You Need to Store Valid Data Efficiently

Every continuous test in DevOps requires valid test data to run on. Store your data locally, and you risk creating two different versions of it by failing to synchronize and update the data. Alternatively, you may keep your test data in a central repository — but then you’ll need to take care of other possible side effects (e.g. network latency).

Balancing Coverage and Agility Is Required

To achieve the consistency that comes with continuous testing, you’ll need to test every feature, every time. But as you add more features, you need to run more tests, which will eventually slow down the feedback and the entire process.

On the other hand, dropping some automated tests to make the process less time consuming will make the hours you’ve spent on writing those tests a waste of time. You really need to strike a balance here.

You Need to Introduce It Early

We can’t emphasize enough the importance of introducing continuous testing early on. If a product’s component hasn't been designed to be tested, you may never be able to test it automatically. With that being said, you need to think about future testing as you design the software.

You’ll Have to Build Custom Tools

In many cases, you’ll have to develop custom test automation tools, practices and frameworks. This means you should calculate very carefully whether continuous testing would be a good investment of developer hours. For instance, if you are in the early stages and your software is simple, you likely won’t need to write automated tests.

Fast Feedback Is a Must

Continuous automated tests require fast feedback on an ongoing basis. Feedback is the response your application gives once you’ve changed its code. And to establish the collection of such responses, you need to introduce feedback loops.

Feedback loops include application performance management, log management, error tracking, deployment tracking and code profilers. But setting up those loops in a way that allows engineers to gather feedback in real-time is almost always a challenge.

Your Organization Needs to Be Agile

Continuous testing requires organizational agility. And that's where the challenge is more of an advantage if you're a startup. It's easier to adapt when your organization is still light-weight and your processes aren't overloaded with bureaucracy.

Your Efforts Need to Be Consistent

Yes, you should consider continuous testing for DevOps in startups and other situations when requirements may change frequently. However, if project specifications are too vague from the start, and they keep changing, your engineers will have a hard time adjusting the tests.

The challenges of continuous testing may sound overwhelming. But you don’t need to do it yourself in order to reap the benefits of the approach. Let EPAM Anywhere Business handle those challenges for you.

The Two Major Components of Continuous Testing

As we have previously mentioned, the continuous testing process in DevOps includes many elements. You can look at them as the following two major areas:

DevOps Tools and Services

There are choices when it comes to which DevOps services and tools to use in continuous software testing. You need to put together a toolset that meets your project requirements and provides the relevant test automation features.

You probably already know Jira and Jenkins. Here are some more options to start from:

DevOps Teams and Individuals

The boundaries between roles blur in continuous testing. You need to get both developers and DevOps engineers into the same room whenever the team needs to discuss the project.

Nevertheless, you need to assign tasks to team members and ensure that everyone knows what part of the job they own.

If you doubt you can choose the right tools and organize the process for effective continuous testing, no worries. EPAM Anywhere Business has you covered with proven workflows and human resources.

If you doubt you can choose the right tools and organize the process for effective continuous testing, no worries. EPAM Anywhere Business has you covered with proven workflows and human resources.

9 Steps for Continuous Testing in DevOps

Continuous testing can only function as an integral part of your DevOps pipeline. It includes the same steps as others in that pipeline, as well as a few of its own.

Step 1: Gather Requirements

Start by outlining the functionality of the software and gather requirements, respectively.

Step 2: Describe User Stories

Once you know what your application needs to do, you can put yourself in your users’ shoes. Imagine how people would interact with your app and describe this in several user stories.

Step 3: Design Test Cases

At this step, you need to model the testing within each user story by splitting it into cases. You can use flowcharts to model multiple flows and paths of the user journey, as well as alternate and negative scenarios. And don’t forget to specify acceptance criteria and the definition of “done.”

Step 4: Prepare Test Data

You should think about test data early on. Based on project specifics, you’ll need to locate or create that data and put it somewhere close, so you can check every test case.

Step 5: Virtualize Services

You may need to perform a lot of tests at the same time. And the best way to do so is by replicating production environments where you can mimic the application behavior and data. This is called service virtualization, and you can do it using products by Tricentis Tosca, Traffic Parrot, Mountebank, and similar tools.

Step 6: Automate Tests

Developers and DevOps engineers need to work together to turn requirements, user stories, test cases and test data into automated tests. The scripts they write need to be spotless, as they’ll be run more than once throughout the development lifecycle.

Step 7: Deploy New Code to the QA Environment

To get the new code ready for testing, DevOps engineers need to deploy it to the quality assurance (QA) environment every time. This is known as continuous deployment.

Step 8: Run Your Test Automation Scripts

You can test each new release candidate using the test automation scripts you’ve written before. As you do so, you will study the feedback and request code changes from developers if necessary.

Step 9: Maintenance

As requirements change, you’ll need to update your user stories, test cases, data and virtual systems.

The Best Way to Do DevOps and Continuous Testing

Putting it all in a nutshell, continuous automation is a powerful practice that’s also a challenge to establish. It requires resources, consistency and proven workflows. Fail at any step, and you’ll risk creating more trouble than value.

If you’re not sure whether you can do it yourself, it’s better to outsource it. And EPAM Anywhere Business could be such a partner.

We have 47,000 best-in-class engineers, including developers and QA and DevOps experts, to help you get the most out of continuous testing. The teams we build work on the big picture, writing quality code and suggesting ideas that move you forward.

Ready to tap into the benefits of continuous testing?