Many organizations have adopted the CI/CD software lifecycle as part of their main software development process in the past few years for one particular reason- it helps to deliver products and application features to the end users with high velocity while maintaining the quality.
When developers perform tests in different application environments, they must ensure accuracy and high productivity. This is one of the major reasons why many software development modalities feature deployment automation features today.
But just like every other software process, the CI/CD pipelines for building, testing and deploying need to have robust quality assurance (QA) practices to be successful. These methods are designed to improve current manual testing processes as a means to minimize the amount of work and time needed to accomplish objectives.
Learning about the role of QA in CI/CD is important because it can help companies implement it effectively in their software lifecycle.
Understanding the Different Stages of CI/CD
The CI/CD can be divided into the following phases:
- Build: This phase is responsible for fetching the changes and building the application in a given environment.
- Test: During this phase, testers run the automated tests and store the generated artifacts(if any).
- Deploy/Release: DevOps engineers provision the deployment environment and deliver the changes within the same.
- Monitor: The team continuously monitors the application and underlying infrastructure so that in the event of any failure appropriate action can be taken.
Let’s understand CI/CD in greater depth so that we have a good grasp of how to implement QA.
What Is CI?
Projects that go through today’s software development process are categorized into smaller portions that are easier to manage. After being divided, they are then combined within the main body or the trunk.
Continuous Integration, simply known as CI, is a practice to continuously integrate and test the changes. The code changes to an application are regularly built and tested automatically.
Normally, automated testing happens during this stage of the workflow, helping to ensure economic performance while improving early bug detection.
What Is CD?
Continuous delivery is the methodology that comes after continuous integration in which the changes to an application are uploaded to the repositories so that the changes can be deployed to the different application environments(Dev/QA/Production) later on.
The main goal of continuous delivery is to make sure that scheduled maintenance remains predictable at all times.
What Is the Difference Between Continuous Delivery and Continuous Deployment?
Although Continuous Delivery and Continuous Deployment both happen after Continuous Integration, they differ from each other significantly based on the environment they use.
Continuous Delivery aims to push code changes automatically toward a development environment. It leverages automated testing and automated release so that testers can make analyses, fix bugs, and perform updates more easily.
On the other hand, continuous deployment operates within the production environment, relying on automated deployments instead of human intervention. Approved changes that are made to the code are then pushed forward to production immediately.
CI/CD Process: What Does It Look Like?
Four essential elements make up the ideal CI/CD process to benefit organizations. These factors are reliability, compatibility, speed, and automation.
To ensure CI/CD in testing works for a given project, it needs to incorporate several aspects such as:
Every module in the CI/CD pipeline needs to be in a state that is easy to deploy so that testers can test it in automated mode. The test suit also has to include all of the procedures to test the features used in each module.
Projects in the CI/CD pipeline are modular by nature, allowing for repeated autonomous testing if needed. This is usually applied in detecting problems early on so that they can be resolved before the start of the next phase of development.
To facilitate testing when developing software, teams need to divide the project into smaller portions. In case a development feature needs more resources than estimated, developers can use feature flags as a means to break down the testing into two or more stages.
The main purpose of using small iterations is because it is far easier to identify and fix issues rather than testing a product that is almost ready for the market.
Environment To Test Releases
Furthermore, testing each module in an environment that is the same as the production is necessary. This is to make sure that the process will work appropriately once end-users receive it. Testers need to see what the public will see even before their product is released.
With on-demand deployment, all modules have to be ready to be deployed at any time, no matter their version or environment. Following this approach is beneficial as it allows testers to complete the testing and development processes more quickly.
Importance of QA in the CI/CD Pipeline
The problem with many CI/CD pipelines today, despite having features designed for continuous processes, is that they are usually performed manually. Manual testing is simply inefficient because it leads to delays in iterations.
With delays beginning to pile up, the overall deployment of the product gets pushed back more and more. The slow feedback, changes, and releases are counter intuitive to the CI/CD software lifecycle since manual testing cannot keep up with its dynamic needs.
Furthermore, it is necessary to perform several tests at the same time based on the goal of test suites. Manual testing leads to a sluggish process because teams need to identify test cases and then run each of them individually.
CI/CD and QA are two aspects that are destined to work together. This is because QA speeds up the delivery and deployment while helping resolve bugs. Continuous quality assurance is the perfect combination with the continuous model, helping accelerate deployment while reducing cost.
Furthermore, another role of QA in CI/CD is acting like a safety net, allowing development teams to focus on coding, making changes, and delivering updates instead of being involved in test environments.
How To Implement QA in Your CI/CD Pipeline
To implement QA successfully in your CI/CD pipeline, work on the following:
Implement Automation and Exploratory Testing
Exploratory testing is essential for CI/CD pipelines to succeed; combining that with automation will only make things even better. It is important to determine all aspects of a company in QA before deciding to integrate it into your pipeline.
Once everything is in place and you’ve identified all areas that need to be automated, then teams can begin automating their process. Successfully implementing automation and exploratory testing will only lead to positive results.
Select the Right CI/CD Tools
There are countless automated testing tools available in the market nowadays but the important thing is to choose those that match your overall requirement. Additionally, you should also consider whether you need to test a web application or a mobile program that is compatible with iOS, Android, or both.
Seeing as there are numerous CI/CD tools today, it can be difficult to identify the right ones you need. In essence, make sure you select those that match and support your requirements.
Use Selenium for Automated Cross-Browser Testing
A website plays a key role in representing your business on the internet, which is why it needs to be given the utmost attention to ensure it appears the right way on all browsers and devices. This can be a problem after performing recent code changes through the CI/CD pipeline.
Performing a cross-browser test is, therefore, imperative since it helps determine how well a site fares when rendered in different browsers and browser versions. Using Selenium during test automation can speed up this process, leading to a faster product launch.
Use Cloud Based Cross Browser Testing Tools
Rather than using on-premise testing tools, cloud-based cross-browser testing tools can help multiple test cases in parallel, without really depending on any specific hardware requirements.
Align Testers With Developers
For the CI/CD pipeline and automation testing to work effectively, it is only natural for both testers and developers to work harmoniously together. Collaborating hand-in-hand to accomplish goals and objectives will lead to achieving the desired results.
By fostering such a relationship early on, the overall quality of a project will improve tremendously. Additionally, it will reduce the time a product is launched in the market while ensuring its quality.
Closely Monitor Load Clashes
Monitoring load clashes closely is important when implementing QA in a CI/CD software lifecycle. The main reason for this is because such reports will provide insight into why areas failed testing and show exact user behaviors that led to the load clashes.
When these issues are identified early on, developers can make changes immediately without hindering the overall process.
Incorporate Fault Injection Testing for Better Test Coverage
Fault injection testing is designed to push faults in the code to improve the durability of a web application together with its test coverage. Introducing this type of testing as part of the review process will ensure software resilience.
Automate All Regression Tests
Regression testing involves functionality reconfiguration and bug resolution. The CI pipeline makes for an effective QA tool to do automated regression testing especially when it comes to long-standing products. For every deployment, an automatic smoke/regression test should be triggered to ensure the application retains its original functionality despite the changes introduced.
As you can see, there are numerous benefits to implementing quality assurance in the CI/CD software lifecycle of an organization. By following the tips provided above, you should have a general idea of how you can make these two aspects work together to benefit your overall development process.
QA Source is a leading software QA provider that allows software development companies to enjoy the benefits of quality assurance without the hassle and cost of setting up their own internal teams. If you need help making QA work with your CI/CD pipeline, our team is here for you.
Contact us today to learn more.