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Modern mobile app development businesses have no time for dozens of issues and excruciating bug fixing. To keep up with the demand of the market, the most successful teams have adopted the continuous testing approach in their software development lifecycle (SDLC) and are enjoying the benefits of it, e.g. improving their code frequently and always having a working version of their app at hand.

The Role of Continuous Testing in DevOps

Automated tests that run continuously every time a new commit is published are sure to enhance quality and make your DevOps more efficient. Think about it: if you keep hitting the bottleneck that is due to mostly utilizing manual testing on a project that follows the CI/CD approach, you can forget about productivity. Fewer risks, more automation and, hence, higher efficiency is what many development team managers strive for. But continuous testing is much more than just automating the QA process on your project.

A well-implemented DevOps toolchain accelerates the entire SDLC including planning, creation, verification, packaging, releasing, configuring and monitoring. Being an essential part of DevOps, continuous testing takes on verification in the SDLC, helping software teams to release quality code faster without tedious testing cycles.

In practice, continuous testing in DevOps allows testing code as soon as it gets merged ideally several times per day and receiving detailed instant feedback at each phase. Code maintenance also gets painless with continuous testing, making it much easier to pinpoint the breaking change during refactoring. And easy refactoring encourages developers to do it.

The Benefits of Continuous Testing

According to a report by Markets and Markets, the continuous testing market size will expand from $1.01 Billion in 2017 to $2.41 Billion by 2023 globally, at a CAGR of 15.9%. And it’s not surprising if you consider the benefits of continuous testing in DevOps.

Accelerate Software Delivery

The most apparent benefit of continuous testing has to be speed. Traditional testing, often manual, slows down the application development process, especially if you’re still working according to the linear Waterfall approach. Waiting for one stage to finish just to start the next one is an extravagance most app development businesses can’t afford.

Continuous testing, on the other hand, is meant to implement testing frequently at every stage of the pipeline without bottlenecks. The very definition of DevOps involves reducing the time between committing a change and that change being placed into production while ensuring quality. This means that continuous testing, with its automated tests running every time a piece of code is committed, has to be an integral part of the process.

Improve Code Quality

As much as developers would like to write code that is flawless, easy to read and maintain, numerous factors influence its quality. These include vague specifications, tight deadlines and unexpected change requests, not to mention inexperienced programmers. All that inevitably reduces the overall quality of the project’s codebase, to the point when refactoring is needed. Without automated tests, it’s nearly impossible to do it quickly with a minimum of bugs. And continuous testing will make refactoring a breeze, encouraging developers to do it regularly. It will keep the technical debt low, the product – bug-free, and the customers – happy.

Obtain Immediate Feedback

The testing feedback is an afterthought in traditional development and testing approach that while testers are busy at writing and executing tests, developers often have to await feedback. As continuous testing happens at every stage of the SDLC, it significantly cuts down the feedback cycle and delivers actionable and invaluable feedback for each step of the development process. At the end of the day, the instant feedback obtained through continuous testing helps release management team to understand the business risks associated with your software release candidate and eventually helps to improve the processes or the quality of applications continuously.

Essential for Extreme Programming

The extreme programming (XP) methodology requires iterative development, which, as we all know, is prone to regression bugs and trivial errors developers make. To be able to deliver a thoroughly-tested product to the customer frequently, running automated tests in the cloud continuously is a must.

Imagine a regular development process. A customer wants a particular feature implemented in the next release. To start working on it, a developer creates a branch in a source control system. After some time, the developer decides that the feature is ready to be delivered. To be sure that those changes won’t affect the whole product and won’t create unexpected errors, all we need is ten minutes of automated tests run instead of hours or even days of manual testing.

Now imagine that the customer wants ten new features in the next release while the QA found another five bugs to fix. Each feature and bug will have their own branches and will be developed simultaneously. And that’s where continuous testing saves the day by keeping your processes from havoc.

Human Factor Reduction

People do a lot of things better than a machine. They can tell a monkey from a cat in a monkey suit in a blink of an eye. They can solve problems that don’t have a structure or an algorithm. But they are pretty bad at doing monotonous work that requires attention and precision for a long time. That is why, in some cases, limiting human input, and therefore the human factor, can be a good thing to keep the pace of your project up.

In continuous testing, automated tests are set up once to keep running automatically for thousands of iterations. If done manually, it would take testers an eternity to check every daily release, let alone do it meticulously. After all, humans have to rest and sleep. Continuous testing, on the other hand, lets automated tests do their jobs at night, so when developers come to work the next day, they already have something to work with – and fix.

Agile Release Train Automation

An Agile release train (ART) is a pre-arranged release cycle that cross-functional development teams have to stick to. The teams, however, are self-sufficient, meaning that each of them can deliver updates at all times, not depending on other teams merging, testing or releasing their changes. And since ARTs follow the Continuous Delivery Pipeline, they will benefit from the automation continuous testing brings.

Continuous testing guarantees the code is always valid in the main branch of the repository because all changes, which are made as separate branches and then merged into one, are constantly tested. With regular automated testing, developers get fast and timely feedback, which leads to cheaper bugs, faster fixes and a secure integration you can be sure of.

Conclusion

If you are following the DevOps practices on your project but the efficiency you imagined is far from the result you get, chances are testing is the bottleneck. Because once you make continuous testing a standard practice, you’re sure to receive benefits that go far beyond simple automation:

  • Letting a machine test frequently at every stage of the development lowers the cost of error and increases the speed of production.
  • If you’re using extreme programming, continuous testing is essential since the methodology preaches improved quality and responsiveness to constantly changing requirements.
  • It might be human to err, but continuous testing is here to pinpoint bugs and avoid mistakes as early as possible.
  • When used for release train automation, continuous testing helps to make sure the code in the main branch is always valid.

In the end, with continuous testing as an integral part of your DevOps, you get quality code your team is proud of and your customers are happy with.

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Victoria Bezsmolna

Tech Writer