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The Role of Automated Testing in the CI/CD Pipeline

vladislavershov profile image Vladislav Updated on ・5 min read

The world is transforming with the upsurge of software applications, mobile devices, and the Internet, so it’s simply not enough to use these elements to support or promote your products and services.

Technology is becoming the lifeblood of every business and the ability to rapidly deliver improved applications and services through systematic software testing is the distinguishing factor. Having the competitive edge means serving customers with better speed and efficiency.

Whether you’re banking, shopping, or looking to travel, you’re probably using a software program to interact with the vendor. And, the vendor is most likely using software to improve operating efficacy and increase productivity.

So, with software being an integral part of our lives, companies need to develop and deliver at a faster pace using refined DevOps practices and automated software testing.

DevOps Environment and Objectives

Conventional development processes have separate teams manage different components of the software lifecycle with focus on delivering a large amount of enhancements and bug fixes on a specified ‘Release Day’.

This process increases the risk product instability and extensive program issues that result in severe business implications.

By contrast, the modern approach has a DevOps team manage the development lifecycle as well as the test and deployment processes.

The focus is to automate slow and manual processes to improve and deliver projects quickly and reliably.

The way to achieve this is through implementing best DevOps practices, such as:

  • Continuous Integration (CI) is regularly merging code changes into the code repository and then running automated tests and builds. The continuous integration testing process identifies issues quicker, reduces testing validation time and improves the quality of the software.
  • Continuous Delivery (CD) is an automated process that builds, tests and prepares the software changes for deployment to the testing and/or production environments. The advantage is always being in a deployment-ready state.
  • Continuous Deployment (CD) extends beyond continuous delivery by constantly deploying code changes to a selected environment.

In essence, frequent and small updates minimize deployment risks and software bugs. So, continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) validates every code change committed to the repository through an automated and tested build.

Why Automated Testing is Important for the CI/CD Environment

In manual test and release practices, software testing & QA operates as a silo analyzing software changes after all development is complete, which could potentially cause a bottleneck and delays with release. Without any form of automation in the workflow pipeline, code change validation and testing cannot be done instantaneously and continuously.

So, a true CI/CD environment can only truly exist with automated testing in the continuous delivery pipeline.

By moving test and release processes at a faster pace, companies can innovate quicker, be more flexible to change, optimize release to market, and increase efficiency with effective results and business benefits:

  • Reduce DevOps time spent on manual tasks, improve productivity, and code quality.
  • Rapid release to market enables a faster response to customer demands.
  • Enhanced product stability and reliability with earlier bug detection improves release quality.

When implemented properly, automated software testing is secure, scalable, and on-demand, making it an invaluable component in the CI/CD pipeline.

Automated Testing vs Continuous Testing in CI/CD – Key Differences

Automated testing comprises individual test cases automatically executed against newly committed code to achieve a pass or fail result. The first practices of test automation involved executing automated tests after the development phase was complete and program changes were ‘ready for testing’.

This approach is changing as processes evolve with testing in parallel with development. And, that’s where continuous testing comes into the equation.

CI testing (continuous integration testing) is an Agile process where automated tests are constantly run against small but frequent code changes that developers save to the central code repository.

Continuous testing ensures requirements are met, business risks assessed, and product quality is optimized while still in the pipeline.

Tricentis developed the Continuous Testing Maturity Model to analyze and review current testing standards and maturity level within the DevOps processes.

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Image source: Tricentis.com

Continuous testing isn’t implemented with a single tool but rather through changes in work habits and behavior, through adopting new technologies and processes.

Moving away from the conventional testing phase after development, automated testing within the CI/CD pipeline provides more value by covering the entire software development cycle.

Ways to Implement Automated Testing in CI/CD

By employing automation testing services or implementing the process internally, the repeatable and scalable tests will improve timeframes for faster product release as bugs are identified quicker and earlier. The test coverage is broad optimizing quality while allowing DevOps to accelerate product innovation.

The following objectives should be considered when implementing automated testing in CI/CD:

  1. Testing is part of the development process from when the first bit of code is saved to the repository through to release.
  2. Every test executes promptly to avoid creating a bottleneck in the pipeline.
  3. Automated tests are comprehensive enough to detect if any code change affects core user functionality that will disrupt the user’s experience.

The tips below will help you get started with defining an automated test strategy. The purpose is to understand all the software’s functionality and distinguish which components are best suited for automated versus manual testing.

  1. Automation Identification It's not realistic to try automate everything at once and automated software testing is not intended to replace every aspect of manual testing. Prioritize repetitive, quick, and simple tests for automation. Additionally, review functionality that is dependent on specific skills and people for testing.
  2. Temporary Test Environments Using cleaned testing environments safeguard the testing integrity by removing any residual data from previous testing.
  3. Managing the CI/CD Pipeline Proper management of the CI/CD pipeline ensures the relevant code change in a central repository goes through automated testing timeously while assessing potential vulnerabilities. A secure, fast and reliable pipeline improves the entire development and release cycles.
  4. Documentation and Versioning Documenting code changes, processes, and test cases is essential to maintaining an accurate depiction of the development and testing infrastructures. Technical documentation and version control are essential to supporting and conserving the CI/CD pipeline.
  5. CI/CD Applications and Tools Choosing and implementing the right tools to manage the CI/CD pipeline is critical to the business. Effective tools are valuable when administered by DevOps in the right environments.

Best Automated Testing Tools for Continuous Delivery

Finding the right tools involves research while making use of product trial periods. Review a tool’s strengths and weaknesses and full capabilities and limitations. It’s important to spend time assessing automated tools and defining the right approach before development starts.

To get started, review the list below for some of the more popular automated testing tools for continuous delivery:

  • Jenkins is a scalable open source application tool that integrates test execution in the Jenkins pipeline.
  • Katalon Studio integrates with JIRA and native CI/CD integration and tools such as Bamboo, Jenkins, and Azure.
  • Bamboo is a continuous integration server used to automatically build, test, and release while integrating with JIRA and Bitbucket.
  • Selenium is a well-known and powerful open-source framework for automated web testing; however, it requires some programming skill to implement automated testing in the development cycle.
  • Testsigma is fairly new as a cloud-based tool that supports test automation. It is a user-friendly application aimed at helping manual testers quickly learn automation skills.

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Vladislav

@vladislavershov

QA Automation Pro managing the team of QA engineers. I`ll share why automation is the future of tech and how it benefits web and mobile development.

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