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Continuous Testing: The Key to Success in DevOps

By far, one of the most important parts of the DevOps process has to do with a concept called continuous testing. Truly, it’s the key to always improving the quality of your software, all while increasing user satisfaction in a meaningful way at the same time.

When you make the decision to implement a continuous testing regimen into your DevOps process, teams are able to work more efficiently and effectively. The time that they’re saving – not to mention the resources – can then be reallocated to other parts of the process where they can do the most good.

In general, making a priority to master the art of continuous testing isn’t just essential – it can help achieve a new level of success in the DevOps process in a wide range of different ways, all of which are worth exploring.

Why Continuous Testing Matters

In the “old school” approach to software development, everything happened very linearly. You would go through the process, slowly building your application, and then when you believed that you reached the end, and you had a minimum viable build, you would begin testing. At this point you would discover a litany of issues that needed to be addressed, some of which might cause new problems along the way. You would go through this phase until your software was finally able to be released to users.

Modern organizations that embrace the DevOps process do things differently and continuous testing is a prime example of that. Here, the goal is to test an application at every stage of development. You’re not waiting until the “end” of the process to begin – instead, you’re testing little by little as you go along. This is a perfect opportunity to identify and address small problems now before they have a chance to become more serious ones later on. 

The major benefit of this has to do with its impact on quality assurance. You’re discovering bugs in your application as fast as you can – not six months down the line. These issues are caught early, preventing them from creating a ripple effect across production environments.

With Speed Comes Efficiency

One major advantage to continuous testing within the context of DevOps has to do with how it helps to speed up the feedback loop. Again, in a traditional setting, you would get a lot of feedback at one time and spend a great deal of energy addressing a myriad of different issues. With continuous testing, you can address small issues in a more efficient way, preventing them from potentially causing even more problems later.

Another major benefit to embracing continuous testing in DevOps has to do with how a lot of this process can be automated. You can achieve better results than you typically would (once human error is eliminated) and still end up with a product that is ready for users. Manual tests are important, to be sure – but they also take up a great deal of time. Automated tests can happen independently of the individual developers, allowing those team members to focus on more urgent matters that truly need their attention.

Continuous Testing: Working Smarter, Not Harder

Indeed, this reduction in manual effort may ultimately be the most important benefit of all. If you were still testing everything at what you perceived to be the end of the development process (or close to it), a significant volume of issues could cause a major delay in your release schedule. Team members would suddenly have to shift their focus towards addressing these types of problems. That in turn delays all the other work that needs to be done to prepare a piece of software for end users.

With continuous testing, the amount of work that people need to do is reduced because these issues are no longer compounding. This doesn’t just increase the speed at which you’re able to get a viable product into the hands of end users, but it also significantly increases the quality of that finished product as well.

Making Continuous Testing Work For You

In terms of best practices, it’s always important to begin continuous testing as early on in the development process as possible. This means that you can avoid costly delays and potentially having to rework problematic choices later on.

Again, you should also automate as much as possible. At the very least, this helps to speed up continuous delivery. But automated testing can also happen more frequently and reliably than automated ones. This leads to faster feedback, which again has a positive impact on overall quality.

You should also keep in mind that continuous testing should be an end-to-end experience. Yes, it’s important to test new features as they’re being implemented in something like preview or ephemeral environments. But you should also look at the bigger picture, testing to make sure that the entirety of your application is working as you want it to. End-to-end tests help you look at the entire system, not just individual portions in isolation.

Finally, make sure that you’re using real data and environments during the entirety of this process. Real-time production data can help you easily find those problems that may otherwise go overlooked. At the very least, it can give you a better understanding of how your application will eventually perform when it is being used, which in and of itself may be the most important benefit of all.