In 2021, the DevOps market was valued at just over $7 billion—by 2030, it’s projected to be worth more than $51 billion. More and more businesses are discovering the benefits of DevOps and transforming their development processes to take advantage of them.
What’s driving the popularity of DevOps is how effective it is for developing and deploying software, through its streamlined set of practices, focus on automation, and culture of continuous improvement.
And a big part of this approach is continuous testing.
What is continuous testing in DevOps?
Continuous testing is an integral aspect of the DevOps method of software development and is designed to assess the quality of software ‘little and often’, as part of a continuous integration and continuous delivery process. Critical to the success of DevOps, it allows for faster and more frequent software releases while maintaining high quality and reliability.
Rather than testing all in one go at the end of the software development lifecycle, as is typical in traditional methods of development, continuous testing involves reviewing code early, often, and continuously throughout the process.
Testing and development take place at the same time, allowing DevOps professionals to spot and rectify bugs sooner and reducing the time and cost involved in fixing defects. Because when issues can be identified and flagged at any stage in the software development lifecycle, they can be nipped in the bud before causing further issues.
Faster delivery is a key goal for every business that develops software; traditional methods of testing often prove too time-consuming, labour-intensive, and siloed to keep up with the expected pace.
Continuous testing offers an alternative approach that gets feedback to developers much faster. It also alleviates much of the burden of manual testing as it is largely automated, using testing tools to check and validate any changes.
How does continuous testing work?
Broadly speaking, continuous testing involves creating a build and running regular automated tests every time changes are pushed to the code repository.
There are various types of continuous testing practices that DevOps professionals use to expose issues. Here are the most common ones:
- Shift-Left Testing which involves carrying out testing activities earlier in the development cycle, allowing for earlier detection and remediation of defects
- Integration Testing to assess the integration of various software components and systems to ensure that they work together seamlessly
- Performance Testing to see how the software runs under different conditions and that it meets performance and scalability requirements
- Security Testing to review the security of the software, identifying and mitigating potential security vulnerabilities
- Test Automation using automated testing tools and practices, which allow for faster and more efficient testing of software changes
- Unit Testing: used to test individual units or components of code to ensure that they function correctly in isolation.
In this post, we’re going to focus on one particular aspect of Continuous Testing: Test Automation.
What is Test Automation?
Test automation is a method of testing code that uses automated testing tools and practices to execute checks and compare the actual outcomes with expected outcomes. This allows for faster and more efficient testing of software changes.
Any continuous testing strategy should include a plan to automate as much testing as possible, from UI reviews to API integration tests.
Test automation should be applied to frequent, repeatable, or time-consuming testing scenarios, complex testing that is likely to be impacted by human error, or situations where you need to run more than one test simultaneously.
Automated testing can be used to cover many of the areas we mentioned earlier, such as integration, performance, and security.
It can also be used to test individual units of code (known as unit testing) to make sure they are functioning as per the technical requirements.
Top Benefits of Test Automation
So why use test automation? Typically, anything in software development that you can automate so developers can spend their time doing other things is a clear win.
But for those not already sold on the use of test automation as part of their DevOps strategy, here are a few more reasons to give it a try.
1. Speed, speed, speed
Even the most experienced, fast-coding developer can only do so much at once. Thorough testing takes time; you need to cover all workflows, check all fields, and anticipate all potential negative scenarios for testing to be effective. Needless to say, an automated tool or script can run tests faster than any human being ever could; more than one test at once, even.
Automated testing simply gets it done faster. And that means bugs and bottlenecks get identified more quickly and can be rectified sooner, speeding up delivery of software. It also means that your team can use their time more effectively and work on other things while the testing is running in the background.
2. Wider coverage and grander scales
Automated testing increases the coverage of your tests. Since they can be run on a large number of configurations and platforms, automated tests cover more ground than humans could, making sure no corner of the code is left untested.
You can run automated tests on a huge range of potential situations, including negative scenarios and edge cases, enabling you to flag potential issues in areas you might otherwise have missed. So it stands to reason that the comprehensive results automated testing yields make for better quality software.
3. Greater consistency
Let’s face facts: manual testing can be boring. And the more disengaged a human tester is, the more likely they are to make mistakes.
Human testers are prone to errors, and they can have biases that affect the outcome of their testing. Automated testing isn’t plagued by such shortcomings, and offers more accurate, consistent results.
Plus, automated testing is repeatable, and can be executed over and over in the same way to produce dependable results, while also saving time.
4. Lower testing costs
While there may be an initial investment needed to set up and maintain your automated testing processes, it’s a far more cost-effective solution in the long run.
Not only does automated testing reduce the need for manual testing by humans, but it also gets software out faster so it can start generating value sooner. And once you’ve set up your tests, they can be run again and again at no additional cost.
5. Improved collaboration
Using testing automation promotes greater collaboration between developers, testers, and other stakeholders in the development process. Automated tests can be folded into the continuous integration and delivery pipeline, allowing for quick feedback and early bug detection so that the relevant teams can get to work together faster to solve any issues.
6. Higher customer satisfaction
More thorough and faster testing means developers can create better software more quickly, getting ahead of bugs and instabilities before they become more costly to fix further into the development process. High-quality software, delivered faster, for a reduced cost? Everyone likes that. And your customers certainly will.
The robust levels of testing that automation offers mean more reliable products, fewer complaints, and greater customer satisfaction overall.
If you’re interested in adopting DevOps, test automation is a truly impactful practice to implement, providing numerous benefits like faster feedback, greater coverage and better accuracy, improved cost-effectiveness, and generally happier customers (and happier developers too.)