I am always surprised by the urban legends around DevOps. One of my favorites is, If you implement a DevOps methodology, you can stop doing test. People famously quote that Netflix only tests in production as evidence of this. This is perhaps more like of game of Telephone, where much of the story gets lost in translation. It is true that Netflix created a tool called “Chaos Monkey” which generates failures in production as a way to test the fault tolerance of its software in large-scale production use. However, this is not Netflix’s only test; it is an additional type of testing at scale that allows the company to test in new and different ways. Netflix still tests in software development.
Okay, now that we are past the notion that DevOps is about eliminating testing, let’s look at what really happens with test in the DevOps world. In fact, the goal is for testing to happen everywhere and all the time. Let’s look at the two directions test can shift: left or right.
DevOps methodology encourages automation of activities across the entire development process. This can be realized by automating the link between development and test. Often implemented with an automated build tool such as Jenkins, a set of automated tests are triggered whenever a developer completes a build of new code. Of course, this means that both development and testing processes must be automated. Once you reach this goal, then testing can happen all the time. Every time developers want to check in new code, they can trigger a small set of “smoke tests.” If those succeed, they can check in code and when the build happens, they can trigger a larger set of regression tests. The result is a left shift of testing into development.
Benefits of left-shifting test include:
- Move testers into scrum teams to work on stories together with developers.
- Design tests in parallel with development.
- Give developers and testers the flexibility to help each other to reduce bottlenecks.
- Early detection of bugs, shortening the critical metric for time between creating a bug and fixing it.
- Increased transparency of code dependency issues because they are raised during the nightly (or more often) regression testing.
- Virtual elimination of the test bottleneck that occurs after development is completed.
The urban legend about Netflix may be wrong, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t merit to right-shifting test into production. Automated testing in production is effective for tests that would be impossible to perform outside of production, including scale testing and resiliency testing. Production is also a great place to introduce A/B testing by offering different interfaces to some customers and measuring the differences in business results.
Benefits of testing in production include:
- Better understanding of the real production environment and workloads.
- Early feedback from customers on new features and user experience.
- Better resiliency.
- Overall better user experience for customers.
Wait, if we shift left and shift right, is there any testing left to be performed in test? There are still a range of tests that need to be performed by the test team. With full automation, these tests can be performed at a variety of times and don’t need to be a bottleneck to release. These tests include:
- Performance testing
- End-to-end use-case testing
- Security testing (don’t think about doing this in production!)
- Manual testing – often for user interface or mobile testing that is most difficult to automate
DevOps methodology is not promoting the end of testing, but in fact a widening of testing to encompass all of the steps in the DevOps cycle. You know what they say: Test early and often! And next time you are sitting around the campfire discussing urban legends, let’s leave Netflix out.
About the Author/Joan Wrabetz
Joan Wrabetz is the CTO for QualiSystems. Most recently, she was the VP and CTO for the Emerging Product Division of EMC. Joan received her MBA at the University of California, Berkley, and MSEE at Stanford, and a BSEE at Yale. She has held teaching positions at the University of St. Thomas, St. Mary’s University and the University of St. Thomas, St. Mary’s University. Joan holds patents in load balancing, distributed systems, and machine learning classification and analytics. Her experience inclues: founder and CEO of Aumni Data, CEO of Tricord Systems, Vice President and General Manager for SAN operations at StorageTek, Founder and CEO of Aggregate Computing, Management and senior technical positions at Control Data Corporation and SRI International, Partner with BlueStream Ventures.