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Testing and DevOps

A guide to achieving your DevOps testing goals and overcoming common bottlenecks.

Everyone wants to achieve their DevOps goals

To gain and maintain the competitive advantages of software, organizations need to release new features quickly. DevOps is meant to empower individuals and allow teams to reduce the time required to bring features into production. This promise always resonates with leaders and developers alike. In our 2021 survey of 450 developers, DevOps was the number one organizational priority.

But when it comes to reality, development and operations teams often put a lot of effort into introducing DevOps, only to discover that they don’t have the return on the investment that leaders expect. So what’s stopping them from achieving their DevOps goals?

Balancing Software Cost, Speed and Quality

Executive management teams are always challenging the rest of the business to come up with strategies to get ahead of the competition and stay there. Typical strategies revolve around winning new customers, increasing customer satisfaction to keep existing customers, and increasing efficiency to improve the bottom line.

While adopting a software strategy to remain competitive is a good idea, companies need to ensure that they balance cost, speed, and quality to maximize their chances of success. 

So how do you do this? One way is to reduce the time it takes to ensure quality—for example, by automating the creation of your unit tests, the most time-consuming and tedious, yet critical, part of the software delivery process. 

Puppet’s 2020 State of DevOps report explains the crucial role that testing provides in accelerating DevOps adoption. The report found: 

  1. Incomplete test coverage is the #1 DevOps challenge (page 44)
  2. Ability to test without an integrated environment (i.e., perform unit tests) correlates with high DevOps performance (page 45)

Improving Software Delivery with Unit Regression Tests

The key to catching regressions and achieving continuous integration is to do as much as possible, as early as possible. Unit regression tests can contribute to you becoming an elite performing organization by speeding up continuous integration and shifting testing left.

In his book Applied Software Measurement: Global Analysis of Productivity and Quality, Capers Jones highlights that it costs significantly more to repair a defect once organizations release software into production compared to fixing it during the initial coding and unit testing phases. He explains that this is because it takes a lot longer to track down the problem when it is wrapped up with many other modules. In addition to the cost of tracking down and fixing an issue, there can be a loss of credibility with users as the released software does not perform as expected.

But writing tests alongside code can be overwhelming for developers, and as software engineering teams scale their DevOps practices, they often encounter roadblocks in the amount of testing they can do manually. For organizations following DevOps practices, introducing automatically created unit regression tests in the first phases of software development shortens the time to delivery by showing the differences between builds right after new commits are made. 

These tests are designed to run quickly and perform basic logical validation at the unit level. Without these tests, basic errors advance into the mainline and risk breaking it, and it takes a lot longer to find and fix those bugs later on. This is why, to have a truly continuous CI pipeline, using regression tests should be adopted as early as possible.

How to start automating your test-writing as part of DevOps

To get started with automating the creation of your unit tests, use the tools you have available: The Community Edition of Diffblue Cover is an IntelliJ plugin that can be used to quickly write tests for all of your Java code, with the click of a button. To write tests in bulk as part of your CI pipeline, you can get a free trial of DevOps Edition and try out the CLI tool, which was made to fit the needs of a team.