What Makes Test Automation the Cornerstone of DevOps?
September 30, 2020

Irina Demianchuk
Oxagile

In the modern software delivery landscape, success comes to those businesses that can keep up with an aggressive release schedule and respond to consumer feedback by implementing new features and fixing issues in a matter of days. The quicker the team can push new code into production, the sooner it can start bringing value. On the other hand, teams can't afford to compromise on quality — updates that make it harder to use the solution leave users frustrated and push them into the arms of competitors.

The Challenges of Testing in DevOps

To build and deploy state-of-the-art software quickly and effectively, many teams follow the DevOps approach that tightly integrates the activities of developers and IT specialists. CI and CD, both important elements of DevOps, rely on automation to build, test, and deploy software seamlessly and continuously.

"In a world of nightly or weekend regression runs, the volume of testing has increased substantially," said Heather Krebsbach from Atlassian. "And with this increased volume of testing comes the need for test automation. DevOps can simply not succeed if it still requires a large number of test cases to be run manually."

A common feature of modern apps is complex, multi-level architecture that includes multiple microservices, APIs, various types of storage, third-party integrations, web and mobile client apps, and more. Every solution update brings a great amount of regression tests and complicates the task of detecting and resolving bugs.

Another challenge is the decreasing length of a typical release cycle. The high pace of production requires extensive test coverage, and manual testing often proves to be too slow and costly to meet the demands of DevOps-driven projects.

In these conditions, software problems become more likely, instantly affecting the user base and hurting the reputation of the brand.

The Value of Test Automation Services for DevOps

The chief advantage of automated testing over manual testing is that it ensures repeatability. Repeatable tests create a stable basis for managing multiple testing environments that are a trait of long-term, evolving projects.

With test automation services, the QA team can deploy new environments faster, streamline test planning, and execute more tests in parallel. Meanwhile, stakeholders can appreciate access to detailed test effort reports that are also generated automatically.

Test automation helps DevOps experts minimize risks while deploying new code, meaning that software updates behave as expected and start bringing value to the business right away.

Here are the steps of a typical test automation workflow:

1. The development team, QA specialists, and stakeholders discuss user behavior and formulate user stories.

2. Developers and QA specialists cooperate to design the necessary unit and integration tests based on the user stories. These tests are deployed to the shared repository together with the code.

3. The team's DevOps experts set up the continuous integration process so the tests could be executed in a shared repository.

4. QA and AQA engineers design new tests to meet the needs of the project, including functional tests, performance tests, end-to-end tests and so on.

5. The team can reuse any tests from the repository when necessary, for example at the end of every release cycle to ensure the overall health of the solution.

The Role of Test Automation Frameworks

The value of test automation frameworks for DevOps-led projects can hardly be overestimated. AQA frameworks converge the benefits of standardized tools, the flexibility of custom drivers and connectors, and the transparency of 24/7 reporting.

Frameworks speed up test design, enabling teams to create and then reuse entire blocks of test cases. A well-designed framework can be set up for testing any kind of solution, including web and mobile apps and APIs. Reusability frees up time for other important QA activities and reduces the cost of testing.

"Test automation is technically complex and the main pitfall for the majority of DevOps projects," Krebsbach adds. "A test automation engineer needs to have a good understanding of not only application functionality but the underlying technical landscape, test automation tools, and how scripts can be created in parallel with development. They also need to know how scripts can be executed with the help of CI/CD tools and collaborate well with both development and operations."

Last Thoughts

Unlike CI and CD, test automation services and test automation frameworks in particular get less attention in discussions about DevOps. However, test automation is absolutely crucial for teams that aim to deliver high-quality software at a punishing pace, reacting promptly to changing market conditions.

Irina Demianchuk is a Technology Copywriter at Oxagile
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