Why Continuous Testing is crucial to DevOps

ecs-admin 1st December 2017

Getting testing right – or wrong – can have enormous consequences for businesses in all walks of life, from both reputational and financial perspectives. Take British Airways, who suffered a disastrous datacenter outage in May 2017 that led to flights from Heathrow and Gatwick being grounded for almost 48 hours. Or market-making firm Knight Capital Group, who lost $440 million in 30 minutes in August 2012, owing to a bug in its trading software.

While most software testing goes unnoticed by consumers unless something goes wrong, there are companies who proactively enhance their reputations by sharing what they do. Netflix’s Tech Blog contains a remarkable amount of detail on the streaming giant’s continuous testing practices.

Continuous testing and automation is a crucial piece of the DevOps jigsaw, where the full benefits can only be realised if everything is in place, with automation and monitoring at all stages of software development and operations.

Worldwide, more and more companies are trying to implement DevOps across their software development and operations – the State of Testing Report 2017 saw a 12% increase in DevOps use compared to 2015.

This is a significant rise but, from our experience, problems often occur when DevOps is implemented but testing is left behind. Continuous testing and automation should be seen as a precursor for a DevOps implementation, rather than something to fit in as and when.

Automated testing

If the ultimate aim of DevOps is to have the confidence to release at any given moment, knowing that neither your infrastructure nor application will fall apart, then testing based on old working practices just won’t cut the mustard.

Ideally, all the required elements for DevOps are ready before any kind of development begins but businesses usually need to implement DevOps on to an existing organisation, full of processes and tools that are at different stages of readiness. DevOps is more often an upgrade, not a clean install.

For release on a regular basis, whether that’s daily or another timescale, you need a set of tests you can automate and have confidence in. An old-fashioned testing cycle of two weeks, say, ties your hands; you can either release quickly or be confident about the quality of the release, but not both.

It’s also important to remember that ensuring things are working is only part of a good testing model. A major aspect often overlooked by methodologies outside of continuous testing is the role that testing plays in helping to communicate, define and deliver the original business objectives using techniques such as Behaviour Driven Development (BDD).

Getting it right 

Good infrastructure and platforms are integral to successful testing and a DevOps mindset can help make this happen. A good example of where these worlds come together to enable more effective and quicker testing is containerisation. One of the many benefits is that you can have a production-like environment that you can start up and bring down quickly and easily. You also have complete control over that environment, so you can change the data, simulate network interruptions, simulate load and so on, with complete safety.

Many organisations have tried to adopt Test Automation with varying degrees of success. According to the State of Testing Report 2017, 85% of businesses are using automation to some extent in their testing processes but under a quarter of those are applying it to the majority of their test cases.

Ultimately, implementing a DevOps process is futile without backing it up with good continuous testing and automation. The rewards are there to be claimed. Getting testing right is the key to achieving the full benefits of DevOps and actualising business value.

Over the coming months we will be posting more articles where we delve deeper into the relationship between DevOps and continuous testing, and the benefits it can bring to your business.

Here at ECS Digital we’re always happy to talk about what we do, why and how. If you’re interested in finding out how we can help you, please do get in touch.

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