The Growing Importance of Test Automation Skills in DevOps

Posted by Scott Fitzpatrick in DevOpsQuality AssuranceSoftware Development & Testing

As the field of software development has evolved to place more importance on delivery speed, the rest of the development process has been forced to evolve as well. In order to improve delivery speed, software development teams have adopted a DevOps culture that prioritizes concepts that support continuous delivery.

One of these concepts is continuous testing. Test automation is a sine qua non of continuous testing. (That’s a fancy way of saying that test automation is an essential component of continuous testing.)

Given this, it’s becoming more and more important for all IT professionals involved in the software development process to familiarize themselves with test automation frameworks and tools. The more proficient the QA specialist or developer can be in assisting the DevOps team in automating their testing for greater delivery efficiency, the more valuable they will make themselves to the organization.

Below we look at how test automation can assist in delivering quality software in a time-efficient manner, as well as how valuable it can be to the career of any DevOps team member to understand test automation frameworks and tools.

Continuous Delivery and Continuous Testing

Continuous delivery (CD) is an approach to application delivery that prioritizes being able to deliver application changes at any point in time. When an organization is properly utilizing a strategy of continuous delivery, its applications always exist in a state that can be deployed. Through the use of this approach the organization would experience a lower level of risk when releasing changes to an application by doing so incrementally with shorter development cycles. This process of CD is made possible through the use of continuous testing, which relies heavily on test automation.

In simple terms, continuous testing is the process of implementing end-to-end automated testing throughout all possible phases of the delivery lifecycle. This process can be utilized with any type of application (mobile, web, etc.) By employing the concept of continuous testing, the DevOps team makes an effort to catch bugs earlier in the development process where they are less expensive to fix, thus lowering the risk posed to the delivery schedule. In addition to lowering risk, continuous testing ensures that the incremental changes made to the application can be reliably deployed at any time, making the application continuously deliverable.

A Proper Definition of Test Automation

As mentioned earlier, continuous testing requires implementing end-to-end automated testing, and so it is not possible without test automation. Test automation is the practice of using automation frameworks and tools to write scripts that automate common testing that needs to be done to properly verify the functionality of an application. These tests can then be run at all points in the software development pipeline where it makes sense to do so. One tactic is to integrate these automated tests with your continuous integration tool.

For instance, Selenium is a popular testing framework for automating browsers. One way to achieve test automation for your web application would be to develop test scripts with Selenium that can then be run in different browsers simultaneously to ensure that features of your web application are working properly. These tests can then be run in conjunction with each CI build, triggered by a commit to trunk. If the tests fail to complete successfully, then the build should fail. Thus, bugs will be identified soon after they are introduced to the codebase and they can be resolved accordingly in a time-efficient manner. As more features are introduced to the application, new automated test scripts can be written with the appropriate framework where it makes sense to do so. This will further the effort to ensure that the code is constantly available for delivery to other environments, including production.

Given all of this praise for test automation, it’s easy to dismiss the thought that manual testing is still necessary. However, this isn’t entirely the case. Manual testing still holds some value in ensuring a high level of software quality. Certain scenarios don’t lend themselves well to automated testing. Many of these cases are often more exploratory than anything else. But the point remains that a tester trying something a little unpredictable when testing the functionality of features such as user registration or user profile changes can still point out issues that aren’t easily identifiable by automated test scripts.

Test Automation: Value for Any IT Professional

Application testing is no longer solely the responsibility of the QA specialists associated with the project. As greater emphasis is placed on building a DevOps culture, communication between Development and Operations is increased, and the responsibility of application quality becomes the responsibility of not only the testers but also the engineers and Ops folks. Developers are responsible for contributing automated test scripts that need to be written and configured to fully test the application, while the Operations side is often responsible for monitoring and smoke testing in environments such as production. So the more intertwined these two sides of the application development process become, the more critical it is for professionals to refine their test automation skills when they are involved in any part of the development process. Doing so can only serve to aid advancement in the field of IT.

Automated testing frameworks and data analysis have also opened the door for AI test automation. It’s safe to assume that the future of automated testing will be at least in some part integrated with artificial intelligence and machine learning. Needless to say, a good understanding of current automated testing frameworks and tools will pay great dividends as this evolution continues.

Conclusion

As software development organizations make the move to processes that prioritize continuous delivery, the value of implementing continuous testing through test automation continues to rise. With the ongoing growth of test automation, it becomes necessary for all involved in software development to maintain a great understanding of the test automation frameworks and tools that make test automation possible.

Scott Fitzpatrick is a Fixate IO Contributor and has over 6 years of experience as a software developer. He has worked with many languages, including Java, ColdFusion, HTML/CSS, JavaScript and SQL.

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