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Integration of Automation Testing with CI/CD Pipelines: Best Practices

The emergence of CI/CD has significantly impacted the landscape of automation testing. The need for rapid feedback in software updates has compelled testing teams to reassess their existing approaches to test automation. They are challenged to expedite their delivery process while maintaining the integrity of their testing quality. Balancing speed and thoroughness is often a paradox for testers, particularly in pursuing comprehensive testing coverage.

In light of this substantial transformation, how can teams adapt to ensure the delivery of high-quality automated tests while meeting the expectation of swift feedback from the CI pipeline? Addressing this requires a shift in perspective. The solutions are more rooted in cultural adaptations than significant technical enhancements to testing frameworks.

What exactly requires testing?

It’s important to note that automating every test isn’t feasible and can significantly prolong the execution time of CI/CD pipelines. Hence, identifying which scenarios need appropriate unit or integration testing for automation purposes is critical to avoid unnecessary duplication of testing efforts.

Before delving into specific tests, it’s essential to acknowledge that while the goal is to minimize duplication, a certain level of duplication might always be necessary across tests to ensure adequate coverage. Attempting to reduce duplication is ideal, but in cases where achieving the required test coverage is challenging, erring on the side of duplication is safer.

Areas Suitable for Unit Testing:

During pipeline construction, unit tests and scans should typically align with the CI phase, as they can be assessed while the code is being built.

Key areas for unit testing include:

  • Entry and exit points: Testing all inputs and outputs to guarantee the correct output significantly reduces failures upon integration.
  • Isolated functionality: Functions handling internal computation independently can be exclusively unit-tested. Aim for complete unit test coverage for such code portions, particularly in microservice architectures.
  • Boundary value validations: Verifying code behavior with valid and invalid arguments is crucial and can largely be covered in unit tests.
  • Clear data permutations: When inputs and outputs are clear, code or components are ideal candidates for unit testing. However, complex data permutations are better handled at an integration level due to difficulties in mocking and potential slowdowns in the coding pipeline.
  • Security and performance: Although load, performance, and security testing primarily occur at an integration level, these aspects can also be tested at the unit level. Ensuring code efficiently handles authentication errors, redirections, or security vulnerabilities is vital for overall system effectiveness.

Areas for Integration Automation:

Tests executed post-deployment into a larger environment, possibly leveraging containers, should focus on areas not fully covered by unit tests.

Crucial areas for integration automation include:

  • Positive integration scenarios: Automate integration points but avoid exhaustive error validation, as these issues can often be caught through unit testing.
  • Backend testing over frontend: Prioritize automating backend components over frontend components due to the higher functional complexity in the backend, leading to faster and more efficient test automation execution.
  • Security: Avoid relying solely on security scans. Automate critical penetration tests, especially for access, payment, or data privacy functionalities, as these areas cannot be compromised and require comprehensive coverage.

The ‘Deployment Pipeline’ and the Role of Automated Testing in CI/CD

Within the CI/CD framework, an automated system known as the Deployment Pipeline automates the testing of incremental builds stored on the server. As this entire process is automated, it significantly reduces the overall Turn-around Time (TAT) compared to manual testing.

However, complete automation of testing might not be feasible in most scenarios. Specific test scenarios could necessitate manual intervention or observations to determine test pass/fail status. While automation remains a fundamental best practice in the CI/CD pipeline, identifying test scenarios that yield optimal results is a critical best practice in CI/CD.

Despite the various benefits of employing automated testing, some key advantages within the CI/CD pipeline include:

  • Expedited Bug Resolution – Detecting, fixing, and closing issues.
  • Efficient Utilization of Available Resources – Such as testers, testing infrastructure, etc.
  • Ability to Conduct Parallel Testing.
  • Consistency in Test Planning and Execution.
  • Reduced Requirement for Advanced Technical Skills in Automated Test Execution.

Best practices for integration of Automation testing with CI/CD pipelines

Below are some of the best practices within the CI/CD realm that elevate the capabilities of test automation:

●      Test Identification and Categorization

Not all tests are suitable for automation; some are better handled manually. It is essential to identify and categorize test cases based on their frequency and skill requirements.

  • Based on frequency: Automating tests with high-frequency streamlines processes, enhances efficiency, and reduces potential human errors.
  • Based on skill set: Tests demanding specialized skills present dependency challenges. Automation reduces dependency and simplifies execution by anyone once automated.

●      Automate Tests Effectively

Craft a comprehensive testing strategy to understand all processes. Categorize test cases based on manual and automated requirements. Prioritize automating frequent and skill-intensive test cases.

●      Parallel Test Execution

Conducting tests concurrently boosts speed and reduces the overall testing duration. If infrastructure limitations exist, consider cloud-based testing to run multiple tests simultaneously.

Many companies have adopted automation to streamline their operations, a trend expected to endure. Automation tools are pivotal in testing codes, elevating the development process by improving its quality and speed.

LambdaTest stands out as an AI-powered platform for test orchestration and execution, enabling efficient manual and automated testing on a broad scale. It offers parallel testing, and through this platform, users can conduct real-time and automated tests across an extensive spectrum of over 3,000 environments, including real browsers and mobile devices.

●      Start with Simplicity

Commence testing with lightweight tests that are quicker to run. Subsequently, we move on to heavyweight tests that are more complex and time-consuming.

●      Opt for a Clean Test Environment

Utilize a clean testing environment that avoids residual effects from previous tests. Temporary environments can be discarded for new tests, employing containers to mitigate residual effects and integrate components via standard APIs.

●      Implement Version Control

Use a version control system to manage issues and flaws found in previous releases, facilitate root cause analysis, and prevent the recurrence of missed features in production.

●      Single-click Code Migration

Simplify code migration between environments by automating processes like single-click code migration, reducing conflicts, and boosting operational efficiency.

●      Leverage CI/CD Pipeline

The CI/CD pipeline ensures code changes move through automated testing cycles seamlessly, from staging to production. Establish robust testing practices within the pipeline for reliability and efficiency.

●      Secure CI/CD Environment

Safeguard the CI/CD environment from cyber threats by isolating and controlling access to assets to prevent significant losses or process disruptions.

●      Central Code Repository

Use a central repository to manage source code, ensuring timely updates and synchronization with the latest codebase.

●      Continuous Learning

Learn from previous projects by analyzing, evaluating, and documenting techniques, best practices, and gaps to streamline and improve future processes.

●      One-way Mechanism

Operate within the CI/CD pipeline to maintain uniformity and adherence to standard practices, ensuring clean code progression to production.

●      Continuous Feedback

Establish a continuous feedback system to monitor automation tool performance, identify bugs, rectify test scripts, and refine code for optimal production quality.

●      Transparency

Enhance team collaboration and process transparency by regularly updating test case statuses and practicing continuous integration.

●      Appropriate Tool Selection

Choose CI/CD tools capable of performing diverse testing functions, ensuring seamless test automation throughout the product development lifecycle.

Are there tests that should be excluded from the CI/CD pipelines?

In automation, it’s crucial not only to discern what should be automated but also to identify tests that might not fit within the CI/CD pipelines. The objective is to shift left as much as possible, but for certain architectural setups, achieving this might be challenging, necessitating additional validation to ensure the required test coverage.

It doesn’t imply that these tests should remain unautomated or excluded entirely from the pipelines. Rather, it’s about segregating them from the CI/CD processes and executing them separately on a daily schedule, not as part of the regular code delivery.

Here are some types of tests that might not be ideal for inclusion in CI/CD pipelines:

  • End-to-end tests with complex data requirements: Tests demanding intricate data scenarios should be conducted in a dedicated test environment outside the pipeline. While automatable, these tests are often too intricate or specific for regular pipeline execution, consuming a substantial amount of time for execution and validation.
  • Visual regression testing: Validating visual consistency across various devices, browsers, and resolutions is crucial but doesn’t directly address functional behavior. Hence, executing visual regression tests outside the core CI/CD pipelines is beneficial, even though they remain a prerequisite before significant releases or UI updates.
  • Mutation testing: This method is excellent for evaluating unit test coverage by altering code decisions to identify potential omissions. However, due to its time-consuming nature, it’s more suitable for review processes than pipeline integration.
  • Load and stress testing: Assessing code performance under various loads and stresses is essential but not feasible within a pipeline. To execute such tests effectively, a dedicated environment with specific conditions to stress the application under test is required, making it unsuitable for inclusion in the pipelines.

Benefits of pairing continuous integration with automated testing

Continuous integration paired with automated testing brings numerous advantages to organizations:

  • Swift Feedback: Developers receive rapid insights regarding their code alterations’ quality, functionality, or broader system impact. This early detection of defects facilitates easier and more cost-effective fixes.
  • Reduced Merge Conflicts: Regularly integrating small changes minimizes the likelihood of encountering extensive merge conflicts, simplifying their resolution when they do arise. This streamlined process enhances collaboration among developers working on the same application code.
  • Enhanced Team Awareness: Every team member gains a comprehensive understanding of the build’s status, fostering transparency and collaboration.
  • Always Accessible “Good Build”: A current and reliable version of the application is consistently accessible for testing, demonstrations, or potential release, ensuring a dependable reference point.
  • Routine Release Practices: Frequent releases become the norm in a successful release process. Updates transition from being potential risks to routine events within a healthy software development lifecycle (SDLC), promoting consistent and structured development practices.

Conclusion

Automated testing is an indispensable component of a CI/CD pipeline, essential for adhering to its fundamental principles. Beyond facilitating quicker feedback, it enables the consistent gathering of performance metrics, given that the testing environment closely mirrors the production setting and resources are comparable. Additionally, it aids in maintaining multiple validated versions of the code, permitting iterative shipment to customers.

For developers, test automation serves as a valuable asset by providing immediate insights into their code’s performance. In a rapidly evolving technological landscape where requirements frequently change, automated test suites play a pivotal role in significantly reducing cycle times and enhancing adaptability. Moreover, they ensure a high level of product stability upon release.

Consequently, automation becomes instrumental in fostering an organization’s confidence in its software and cultivating a robust development and release environment.

IEMA IEMLabs
IEMA IEMLabshttps://iemlabs.com
IEMLabs is an ISO 27001:2013 and ISO 9001:2015 certified company, we are also a proud member of EC Council, NASSCOM, Data Security Council of India (DSCI), Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The company was established in 2016 with a vision in mind to provide Cyber Security to the digital world and make them Hack Proof. The question is why are we suddenly talking about Cyber Security and all this stuff? With the development of technology, more and more companies are shifting their business to Digital World which is resulting in the increase in Cyber Crimes.
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