CI/CD, automated testing, and DevOps have become the buzzwords in the IT community. While experienced developers understand how they’re different, some use CI, CD, and DevOps interchangeably and consider these three different concepts as one.
In a nutshell, CI and CD are integral parts of DevOps, aiming at streamlining the product development cycle. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty and find out why we need a CI/CD pipeline, what is automation testing in the CI/CD pipeline, and how it’s all connected to DevOps.
In the Beginning, There Was the Waterfall Method…
When engineers used this method, the testing phase was almost at the very end of a release cycle, when bugs are most difficult to get rid of. Sometimes a client could happen to come up with new ideas and features for the frontend, but as the approach of the method was chronological or linear, it made it more difficult to rapidly implement these changes.
Moreover, once a phase was delayed, other phases were also kept delayed as the ending of one phase meant the beginning of the other. Besides some basic life wisdom, what else could people learn from the philosophy of the waterfall method? At least, that they couldn’t allow themselves to be so slow and stiff, and we can’t either in a world, where around ninety thousand apps are released monthly in the Google Play Store.
The lesson was learned. Engineers introduced something called the iterative method, that offers something opposite: reliance on active pipelines built to perform different phases simultaneously. While one build is being deployed, another has already been tested, and some other builds are still being coded. And it’s all happening at once. Such a technique of continuous iteration has several other names, including: Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and Continuous Deployment. Let’s sort it out step by step.
Is There a Difference Between DevOps and CI/CD?
Simply put, the CI/CD pipeline is a set of development practices, while DevOps is a whole complex of ideas, technologies, and practices that include CI and CD. That’s why they share a goal of streamlining the developmental processes and providing a user and a business owner with a software product in the fastest possible way.
CI/CD practices are designed to deliver frequent code changes in a fast and reliable manner.
DevOps promotes communication between different departments with de-silo politics, achieving the delivery of a product that is flexible and easily scalable.
What Is the CI/CD Pipeline in Automation Testing?
So let’s say it again, a huge part of the iterative method is the CI/CD pipeline, which is at the core of DevOps. It’s DevOps engineers who strive to connect all stages of the software lifecycle – developing, testing, and operating – in a kind of a loop. And it’s DevOps engineers who gave the CI/CD pipeline its current name.
Test automation in CI/CD is one of the main keys for effective pipeline functioning that can deliver a high-quality product. The pipeline integrated with automated tools is widely used by businesses to achieve this DevOps loop, get software products faster and add new features with minimum risk and excellent performance.
So CI means Continuous Integration and CD stands for Continuous Delivery and Continuous Deployment. In a nutshell, it allows developers and testers to store their work in a single repository, hence combine and test the code to make sure it works collaboratively.
Most importantly, such collaboration and continuous testing enable us to achieve, in turn, a feedback loop throughout all stages of software development, rather than only at the end, when everything has been completed.
CI is first in the line, so let’s get acquainted with this development practice.
First, developers build and perform initial testing of the code. Several workers simultaneously work on the codebase and commit it to the shared repository. This code is verified by an automated build, which allows teams and the project owner to detect problems early on and manage them.
Once integrated, CI allows engineers to check how different components will work together. When the code is published and pushed to a repository like GitHub or GitLab, the code is analyzed and given a series of automated tests. We will look at some types of tests a little bit further.
In the case of the CI/CD pipeline, the changes in the code are made very frequently on a daily or even hourly basis. The phase of CI ends when the initial testing is successfully completed.
Then comes CD. If it’s Continuous Delivery, the completed build is tested, assessed, and delivered for manual deployment. If it’s Continuous Deployment that stands behind the CD abbreviation, then it deploys every validated build automatically.
Some companies prefer the first option of continuous delivery, as they can’t allow themselves to fully rely on automation and have a human who reviews a build before releasing it.
This is how continuous delivery and integration of software products work. So let’s repeat it once again. The CI/CD pipeline has four main phases:
- Building. Part of the CI. This is the stage where code is created and compiled.
- Testing. A stage of the CI/CD pipeline when automation testing is performed, including unit, integration, and regression tests.
- Delivering. A stage when validated code is sent to the production environment.
- Deployment. The final product goes to production.
Why Did CI/CD Test Automation Emerge?
You see, initially, all software was tested manually, but then came DevOps, and in the fight between automated and manual testing, automation won.
DevOps strives for every single chunk of code to be tested before being merged with the rest of the code and released. The IT world was constantly shifting, and there was no time left to wait to the very end to test it manually.
That’s why the CI/CD pipeline requires the implementation of sturdy test automation tools, as tests are performed many times throughout the pipeline, mainly during the CI phase.
The feedback that developers receive through the testing stages allows them to identify problems quickly and as early as possible before they are integrated into the main body of code. As different scopes of code are small, it’s easy to identify, locate the problems, and correct them.
But, once again, for the pipeline to run smoothly and developers to receive feedback quickly, all the processes should be automated.
Automation testing in CI/CD pipeline is of paramount importance. Obviously, a building should undergo a huge number of tests, and humans would simply be too slow for this task. Humans are also prone to making mistakes, but the comprehensive automated tests are very unlikely to.
Why Should I Implement Automation Testing in CI/CD Pipeline?
Today, CI/CD with automated testing, and DevOps are widely used by businesses for software development, and the main reasons for it are speed and agility.
Automated tests allow fast adjustment of new tools and frameworks whenever they’re needed. For instance, if you’re switching to a different CI server platform, with automated tests most of the configurations will be done automatically, while manual testing would demand, well, … manual rewriting and reconfiguration. That obviously takes much more time.
Your team of engineers can leave the tedious tasks that can and should be automated and focus on the ones that are possible for only a human to perform.
In the CI/CD pipeline, most of the updates are small, and it’s difficult to imagine something as time-consuming as pushing every small change manually.
What we say is that the world of technology is progressing, and with the advent of continuous delivery chains, there is no excuse for using only conventional methods of testing.
Don’t let your team of engineers stay stagnant. It’s really better to give in to the test automation trend. At the end, DevOps practices were created to provide a fast and flawless delivery of a product, so why contradict the very concept of it?
What Kinds of Tests Should Be Automated?
You could ask: “How to test code in the CI/CD pipeline if it’s automated?” Actually, there are many automation testing tools that can be integrated with the CI/CD pipeline. Automation testing in CI/CD pipeline allows engineers to run parallel tests and perform UI tests to make sure the visual components work properly. But what kinds of tests exactly in the CI/CD pipeline should be automated?
They’re considered to be the most important tests to run, as they simulate the experience of an end-user of a software product.
It can check if a sign-up form works the way it is designed to when a user, for instance, enters an invalid email address. All the possible ways of user behavior will be recreated and tested during end-to-end testing.
It allows developers to run more detailed test cases compared to the methods described below. It’s almost impossible to implement such a large number of tests manually, especially if the project is big. It saves a lot of time to write test cases and integrate them with an automated testing tool.
Unit tests focus only on the chunks of code that have been just written, changed, or updated. It aims to make sure that each individual portion of code works correctly, whether it is a function or a set of processes.
When the units are proved to work correctly, the next stage is to check whether they work together. The main difference between unit and integration testing is that the latter checks multiple parts of a product, while a unit test only checks a single isolated part.
For example, imagine you need to perform unit testing in CI/CD pipeline when creating a calculator app. You want to add a new feature of whole numbers division, so you apply unit tests to check how division by zero is handled. Integration testing would be needed to check how multiplication and division at the same time are handled.
Integration testing in CI/CD pipelines can be combined with unit testing to provide better test coverage. Still, the lines between these two types of testing are frequently blurred because you can’t always test an app’s components in complete isolation.
Performance testing in CI/CD pipelines aims to check how much traffic and data exchange an app can handle. It’s usually implemented by creating virtual users and incrementally multiplying their numbers, so that they interact with an app.
By doing this, the machine stress level, data transmission, and response time are checked. It also helps to find out the maximum load on a server and at what level it can perform properly. The feedback received can be used to increase the possible traffic load over time and make an app scalable.
Let’s say you have a web app and you need to make sure it works properly on different types of browsers. There are special CI/CD pipeline automation testing tools for cross-browser testing that can help to identify errors, debug them and make the app work as intended on different browsers.
CI/CD Pipeline Security Testing
Previously, the CI/CD pipeline was focused primarily on delivering automated QA tasks, while other areas were neglected. Strange though it may sound, one such area turned out to be security.
Today, DevOps engineers improved the situation and introduced continuous security testing (CST), an extension that introduces security tasks before the deployment stage.
Continuous Security Testing uses Software Composition Analysis to identify vulnerabilities in your repositories and libraries, as it’s the third-parties that can introduce security issues.
Automated penetration testing in a CI/CD pipeline also aims at detecting vulnerabilities and preventing cyber attacks on your app through a number of activities. This type of testing can be both manual or automated, but considering the rate at which cyberattacks become more sophisticated, you should surely go for the second option.
When thinking about what kind of automated penetration testing tool to integrate with the CI/CD pipeline, make sure it can perform a large number of tests to find the most exposed spots through port scanning, packet crafting, and network protocol analysis.
Keep in mind that the security tests and all the other CI/CD pipeline testing tools shouldn’t hamper the flawless operation of a whole pipeline.
Tools for Automated Testing With No Coding
To make the testing phase automated, it’s necessary to write the code for it first. It can take hours to create new test scenarios and maintain them. On top of this, finding a talented developer who will write this code has never been an easy task.
While the IT labor market was longing for a new generation of QA engineers, a new solution emerged – codeless automation testing tools. Its main aim is to allow any person with no coding knowledge or any engineering background to execute tests and validate builds.
Different codeless automation testing tools can be integrated into the CI/CD pipeline, which makes it possible to build automated test scenarios and perform all kinds of testing with no coding experience.
Codeless automation tools have an intuitive interface, and tests can be conducted via simple drag and drop. There is no need to spend money on the QA team, as basically anyone can use these kinds of tools.
DogQ is a popular codeless automation testing tool that allows you to run parallel tests as well as UI, API, end-to-end, unit, integration, and performance tests. Being cloud-based, it perfectly works with React and Angular frameworks and features visualized reports on the number of failed and passed tests, available run steps, and data-driven decisions.
DogQ offers different pricing plans with the number of run steps you need. The price begins from $5 per month, with a fourteen-days trial period.
The juggernaut of DevOps is cropping left and right, leaving no chance for slow and inert systems to endure. That’s why CI/CD heavily relies on automation, as the pipeline that depends on manual processes is much slower.
Therefore, CI/CD and automation are two concepts that are interconnected and you can’t imagine one without the other.
The stage that demands automation in the first place is testing. It’s a crucial step for those who want to deliver a software product that works flawlessly. A single inconvenience a user experiences while using an app can cost a business owner a lot. A good testing strategy is needed to prevent it.
During Continuous Integration, different pieces of code are tested before an error has a chance to sneak into the main codebase. Still, testing doesn’t end here and continues throughout the pipeline.
To make your code error-free, you should implement different tools that can automate the testing processes. But it’s not always about writing code and spending time analyzing the received results.
Today, even testing can be streamlined. Accomplishing every task from the checklist of testing is possible, without a huge team of QA engineers, but with a single tool – DogQ – that has ready-made test cases, it becomes possible to automate test case generation and know very little about coding.
Contact us to learn more about integrating DogQ codeless automation tool with your CI/CD pipeline and work out the right automation testing strategy, tailored for your business. And feel free to just try our codeless testing platform.