4 Benefits of Continuous Testing and How to Get Started
If you have adopted or are considering implementing test automation as part of your software development life cycle, consider taking it a step further by adopting a continuous testing model. There are many benefits to continuous testing, each of which alone merits a full discussion for which we could easily produce a full-length paper. For now, however, we’ll briefly cover four key benefits that should be at the top of your mind when deciding if a continuous testing model is the ideal solution for your business (spoiler alert: it is), then close with an example of what this solution might look like in action.
Benefit #1: Testing Throughout the Pipeline
Continuous testing is testing throughout the pipeline. In other words, you no longer have to wait for the first round of development to complete, test afterwards, then call it a day; instead, testing happens at every single stage along the entire pipeline.
For developers, this means testing can begin almost immediately after inception. They do not have to release a full build to submit to testing; any submission of functional code can potentially run through a test script. Every addition and revision to the code is then tested again.
Testing hardly stops there. For live, online products, testing occurs during creation, after releasing alpha and beta builds in pre-production environments, and even after the official release goes live. Testing never stops. The reality is that problems can arise along all points of the pipeline, so testing at all points helps catch problems quickly, before they can escalate.
If you’re familiar with agile methodology, then think of continuous testing as the agile approach applied to software testing, as opposed to the old waterfall methodology, in which testing only occurred at a specific stage at a specific point in time. We refer to this as “shift-left” testing.
The concept of shifting left merits an article unto itself, but in brief: Picture a linear timeline that represents the software development life cycle.. Consider this admittedly over-simplified example:
initial development → testing → more development → pre-release → go-live
If a later activity is moved up earlier in the timeline, then visually, it shifts to the left. Again, this is a very simplified explanation that doesn’t do the topic justice. You can sign up here to see a report that really dives into the topic. For now, suffice it to say that one benefit continuous testing brings to the table is that it shifts testing left, earlier into development. Meanwhile, testing activities expand across the entire timeline as well.
Benefit #2: Expose Risks Early
Continuous testing improves risk management by detecting potential risks as early as possible. Shifting testing left means testers collaborate with developers (as predefined agile teams) much earlier in the development process. This allows testers to gain insight into design and development right off the starting line and they can coordinate closely with developers when developing their own testing tools and methods. Ideally, shift-left occurs in agile teams in which developers execute unit tests themselves.
Including other entities in this collaboration, such as operations and cyber security, can ensure that solutions to concerns such as disaster recovery (one of a multitude of examples) are baked into the product at the very onset of its first inception. Granted, some development teams may initially see this as “too many cooks in the kitchen”. Such a concern would not be unfounded; however, if care is taken to foster a truly collaborative environment between teams, free of friction or internal competition, the benefits may come in spades.
With the right teams all working together from the beginning, continuous testing allows all parties involved to mitigate risks before they are introduced and expose potentially dangerous flaws long before they have a chance to grow in complexity, as they would inevitably do later down the pipeline. Given my own experience with risk management, I’ll venture a guess that your risk management team team will likely find the opportunity quite exciting.
Benefit #3: Test the Test Process
Continuously testing via a broad range of tests generates useful metrics over time, meaning one can routinely evaluate the very testing process itself.
Think of it this way: the more test processes you have setup throughout the entire pipeline -- from inception to release and beyond -- the more data you’re able to collect about how those test processes themselves are performing.
This is especially critical in an agile environment because you cannot take a hands-off approach in which old batch testing processes and test suites grow in complexity with repeated use and shifting requirements to the point where maintaining those processes themselves down the road will require more work than actually performing the tests. Continuous feedback is inherent to continuous testing (as the next section will explain), and that should include feedback on the test suites’ effectiveness through each use.
In a continuous testing environment, such inefficiencies will likely be detected very quickly. Continuous testing, like any agile concept, is all about speed and responsiveness. It won’t take long to notice a bottleneck as long as all involved parties are attentive. To this end, continuous testing can help you continuously improve your testing approach.
Benefit #4: Immediate Feedback
I may be saving the best for last, but I’ve been referencing one of the biggest benefits of continuous testing throughout this article: feedback comes quickly and continually. Since testing occurs during all stages, feedback is received during all stages. Receiving feedback first earlier in development, then throughout the stages that follow, saves time.
At the risk of beating the proverbial dead horse: The earlier you catch problems, the faster and easier they can be remedied.
The automation element of this process is especially beneficial. Imagine a scenario in which every time a developer commits an update to the code repository, a test kicks off automatically and immediately reports results.
Simply put: waiting until a full software build is available in order to weed out defects and other problematic business risks is far too slow of a process for today’s modern software industry. Catching problems quickly and continuously is by far the superior approach.
Let’s examine how BlazeMeter can facilitate testing end-to-end as an example of what the adoption of a continuous testing approach might look like..
During development, well before any finished product is near release, you might leverage Taurus to automate tests every time new code is committed to your repository. You could easily setup a Taurus test directly from your IDE, then automate it via your CI/CD pipeline. You could even push the results to BlazeMeter using Taurus’ reporting module or run the test on the BlazeMeter cloud via the cloud provisioning option. Given the free open source tools available, you are only limited by your own creativity and scripting expertise.
Your very first tests will simply verify that the code is functioning as intended. BlazeMeter’s functional tests will help, allowing you to test your graphical user interface (GUI) via GUI Functional Tests, which you can even kick off from your own local Java IDE or Python IDE. Meanwhile, you can run API Functional Tests to ensure your backend is behaving as intended.
Once your initial functional tests verify all is working as intended, you can leverage BlazeMeter’s Mock Services to simulate any number of test scenarios. This feature lets you spare your own servers during tests by allowing BlazeMeter to simulate (“mock”) your service in order to test different scenarios against it. In other words, when testing your application, you can isolate the services you really need to test while mocking other services that might not yet be ready for testing (be it due to a dependencies issue or some other factor).
As development advances, you’ll then want to move onto testing how well your code performs under pressure. BlazeMeter’s Performance Tests do just that, providing you a myriad of options for how you want to test the limits of your web application’s capabilities. BlazeMeter’s cloud capabilities really shine here, given you can send loads to your web application from multiple geographic locations all over the world at once.
Once development is complete, testing yields satisfactory results, and the release goes live into the world, testing hardly ends there. BlazeMeter’s API Monitoring Tests allow you to continue testing well after your web application goes live. These very easy-to-configure tests monitor your web application 24/7 and can be configured so that you’re automatically sent an alert the very moment a failure is detected.
To get started continuously testing with BlazeMeter, check out The Continuous Testing Journey for a high-level overview of features. The Getting Started guide that then follows will help you hit the ground running quickly.