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DevOps Testing: The Basics and 5 Best Practices

What Is DevOps Testing?

DevOps is a methodology promoting close communication and cooperation between development and operations teams. Implementing DevOps requires adopting certain tools and processes, including the deployment and maintenance of programmable infrastructure, iterative development practices, and automation.

It can be challenging to build a DevOps pipeline—you need to consider numerous aspects and make decisions on a rapid and continuous basis. Automation, especially automated testing, is essential for enabling successful DevOps lifecycles.  

Automated tests are just one aspect of DevOps, but they are key to delivering high-quality software quickly. Test automation allows you to implement continuous testing, enhancing productivity and reducing the risks and costs associated with software flaws. Integrating security checks into your automated tests is also one of the requirements for DevSecOps.

In this article:

Traditional Testing vs. DevOps Testing

Software testing in a DevOps environment differs significantly from testing in traditional development environments. In a traditional waterfall approach, testing is limited to one phase at the end of the development lifecycle. Traditional testing methods involve time-consuming and error-prone manual processes. 

Traditionally, separate teams handled development and testing. Any bugs detected in the testing phases were difficult and expensive to fix. Organizations had to predict potential error scenarios in advance.

With the introduction of agile development methodologies, testing strategies and tools evolved to support faster, higher-quality development. DevOps applies a “shift left” approach to testing, introducing tests early in the software development lifecycle (SDLC). Testing and development take place simultaneously, allowing you to identify flaws sooner.

DevOps testing involves:

  • A continuous, automated testing process enabling fast, continuous software delivery.
  • Testing across all phases of the SDLC.
  • Various testing methodologies for each phase of the SDLC to minimize backtracking.
  • Sharing responsibility for testing across all teams, not just testers.

Testing in a DevOps Environment

There are two complementary approaches to DevOps testing: test automation and continuous testing.

Test Automation

A common misconception is that you should “automate as much as possible” when testing in DevOps. Automation’s main aim is reducing manual-intensive workloads rather than removing them entirely. Examples of everyday tasks that don’t need human intervention are: 

  • Software testing—straightforward regression, unit, or end-to-end tests are typically automated.
  • Infrastructure management—minimize repetitive configurations, setups, and maintenance of IT infrastructure such as network and servers.
  • Log management—automated logging tools will help you effectively deal with a greater amount of data, from error messages to application requests.
  • Monitoring—provides an up-to-date and accurate understanding of the system’s health and performance trends of every testing activity.

Continuous Testing

Continuity is essential for organizations that implement DevOps’ goal of quality-at-speed deliveries. 

CI/CD means continuous integration and delivery (or deployment). This pipeline is supported by automation. CI/CD plays a key role in DevOps testing and automation strategies. Its four core components are: 

  1. Continuous integration (CI)—continuously merges or integrates new code into a central repository and pushes them into builds.
  2. Continuous testing—validating product and code quality with automated integration, unit, or end-to-end testing to identify bugs or if anything had broken from the commit.
  3. Continuous delivery (CD)—once recent code submissions are moved to staging, CD helps developers manually select appropriate release candidates to push through to production.
  4. Continuous deployment (CD)—runs end-to-end tests to ensure no regressions before automatically shiping every effective build to production.

5 Best Practices For Developing a DevOps Testing Strategy

Select the Right Tools

Automation testing is a highly efficient way of improving software application effectiveness. The tool you choose will influence your organization’s ability to deliver services and applications quickly. 

 No single tool will meet all your automated testing requirements. Here are some key points to consider when selecting tools: 

  • Type of testing tools—consider if the tools are commercial or open source. Also, consider the framework, language, and whether the tools are intended for developers or testers.
  • Licensing and support cost—there are many open source tools. However, many open source tools demand technical skills (such as programming experience). Recruiting employees with these skills and investing the time to learn and use open source tools can be a major investment. 
  • Supports CI and DevOps tool integration—a tool that doesn’t support DevOps or CI workflows might not be beneficial, particularly when velocity is the primary concern.
  • Solid test reports—an informative and insightful test report will help examine root causes and defects and test the effectiveness of analyses. 
  • An in-depth understanding of your project needs—including the project scope, project type (whether mobile, desktop, or web-based), and the skill level of your current team.

Related content: Read our guide to DevSecOps tools

Shift Testing Left

Not promptly addressing a problem can prove harmful in the long run. If you rely on occasional manual tests, unaddressed problems in your pipeline can quickly escalate. However, if you automate testing and perform consistent testing on all software artifacts, you can catch issues early.

To truly shift testing left, apply a combination of behavior drive development (BDD) and test driven development (TDD) to ensure testability, improved efficiency, and greater collaboration. 

Update Documentation Continuously

Organizations may approach documentation as an afterthought. However, they should consider it equally important as testing and coding. DevOps teams should thoroughly document every release and modification to support developers, users, business leaders, and operations staff. 

Effective DevOps teams create and retain testing-related documents often, including: 

  • Quality Management Plans (QMP)
  • Test Summary Report
  • Risk assessment Report
  • Test Case Specifications Report
  • Regression test Report
  • Bugs Report

Adopt Pair Testing

There could be test cases too involved to automate or that demand manual testing. In such cases, you can adopt pair testing. Like pair programming, pair testing involves two team members working alongside one another to test the software. It might be a combination of team members: developer and tester, two testers, or a tester and a product manager. 

Both team members work on one workstation to test the software.  One team member conducts the testing while the other analyzes the outcomes. 

Monitor Applications in Production

Testers should be able to identify problems early on and report them proactively. To do so, they have to monitor the production environment to expose bugs before they cause harm. 

You can establish specialized measures such as memory and CPU utilization, response time, and the like, offering you insight into the end-user experience. 

Testers may also use a small subset of current high-priority test cases. They can execute these test cases during production to monitor the environment.

Testing variance Using Legacy Dast Using Dev-Centric Dast
% of orgs knowingly pushing vulnerable apps & APIs to prod 86% 50%
Time to remediate >Med vulns in prod 280 days <150 days
% of > Med vulns detected in CI, or earlier <5% ~55%
Dev time spent remediating vulns - Up to 60x faster
Happiness level of Engineering & AppSec teams - Significantly improved
Average cost of Data Breach (US) $7.86M $7.86M