Testing is essential, but it can be cumbersome. Doing it well and quickly requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. Specialists can supplement an organization’s in-house team to help move testing forward by creating a faster feedback loop. However, automation remains a crucial part of the process.
Automation within a testing strategy isn’t necessarily about bug count, but rather about finding issues earlier in the project life cycle. This means teams can remedy any issues early on and eliminate the chance of bugs making it into production.
As with any other automated process, test automation is accomplished with a particular set of tools and systems. The best solutions combine a suite of modern and integrated technologies to automate and orchestrate software testing at scale without the need for human intervention.
These technologies are critical for organizations to eliminate testing bottlenecks and create ecosystems that feature faster feedback, faster validation, and ultimately a reduced Time to Value (TTV).
Constructing the Pipeline to Eliminate the Bottleneck
No matter how well-intentioned a team may be, achieving true test coverage and desired quality is simply not achievable without a full and comprehensive toolset.
There are a plethora of tools available to accomplish a variety of automation goals. Typically, organizations want to increase development velocity, maximize productivity, and achieve testing sustainability. So what technology is best suited to achieve these goals?
At an enterprise level, most businesses are moving away from homegrown solutions and toward “best-of-breed” applications (or “best-in-breed technology”). This technology can be leveraged as needed, unlike all-or-nothing integrated applications.
Bringing these two challenges together is a toolset with a broad application: one that spans teams and technologies. Organizations need to construct what is known as a pipeline. This pipeline can be viewed as a technology landscape puzzle consisting of six pieces:
1. Automation Framework
The first puzzle piece in this pipeline is the automation framework. This is the very first decision any organization must make, keeping in mind the fundamental question: What tool are we using to articulate our automated test cases?
Especially at the enterprise level, it’s necessary to provide a framework that works across multiple technologies. The technologies that power the business must be compatible with the framework.
In an ideal world, organizations could use the same framework for everything from legacy to modern systems, which would grow with their businesses as solutions evolve.
Testing issues are frequently rooted in early miscommunications. A focus on executable specifications constructed earlier in the pipeline can prevent problems through better alignment with business expectations. A testing framework that provides inherent traceability to the underlying business requirement is therefore a necessity.
When tests provide context for the business scenario under evaluation, they provide more value to the organization. Ultimately, this decision can make or break a testing project.
The best framework is one that fits into an existing workflow, streamlines the work of the teams within the organization, and ultimately provides alignment without additional work.
2. Revision Control
The next piece of the puzzle in the automation landscape is revision control. This provides revision-based tracking for the assessment of a target application or system. Managing configuration, source, rollouts, and hotfixes all fall under the bracket of revision control.
Revision control is a convenient home for all projects, especially those with parallel work streams. Because it allows for branching, revision control supports multiple variations on a core solution. Ultimately, a given pipeline can follow these different branches.
The branches might represent various deployment permutations or facility types. (The latter is typical for Cycle Labs clients.) Manufacturing and fulfillment facilities within different ecosystems may require different core configurations. This can all be managed in an organized manner with the revision control solution.
3. Automation Server
The third puzzle piece is the automation server, which is the primary engine in a pipeline. It’s the console, mission control, and central point of integration.
A strong automation server integrates with task management solutions and sends email or chat alerts.
The server pulls the test in the configuration from revision control in order to orchestrate the test across the platform. This provides the ability to view and interact with jobs, results, and reports all in one place.
Puzzle piece number four concerns containers. Containerization is a form of operating system virtualization through which applications are run in an isolated space called a container. All of the containers use the same shared operating system.
A container is essentially a fully packaged and portable computing environment that dramatically simplifies testing infrastructure.
Containerization helps to minimize OS licensing and componentize application stacks. Through containerization, technicians can even spin up disposable test agents in instances of a particular system under test.
Most importantly, containers allow for repeatable deployment and testing.
5. Cluster Management
Containers are managed in what is known as a cluster management solution, the fifth part of the puzzle.
Cluster management solutions monitor containers’ startup, execution, and teardown. These solutions also create scalable clusters, which allow for infinite possibilities. Imagine simulating a full day’s warehousing staff at peak volume (or even double), but with minimal dedicated infrastructure to manage.
Containers managed in such a cluster allow endless simulations without the need for dedicated machines, licensing, or even maintenance.
The final puzzle piece of the technology landscape: compute.
All of the above solutions need to “live” where the tests are run. There are quite a few different options to house the required compute power, ranging from physical or virtual servers to private or public clouds.
An array of out-of-the-box and commercial solutions exist in the marketplace, including hypervisors or infrastructure-as-a-service providers like Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services.
Organizations should focus on just one pipeline solution that best fits their needs and resources, including team expertise, budget, and organizational policies.
With any given pipeline, tests should run on a regular (not necessarily daily) basis, which justifies the purpose of test automation.
Putting the Puzzle Pieces Together
Choosing the right technology will ultimately help construct a pipeline that satisfies the objectives and goals an organization aims to achieve.
If increasing deployment velocity and achieving regular iterative deployment with higher quality is the goal, automation-powered testing can maximize productivity and enable decision-making more quickly than ever before.
Reducing repetitive testing, data setup work, and stress ultimately reduces bottlenecks and achieves testing sustainability. Talented employees gain the energy and focus they need to tackle greater business challenges. It’s a win-win.