Difference between performance testing and functional automated testing

For the last few months I have been working on performance testing quite a lot and when discussing it with colleagues I started to notice that it can be easily confused with testautomation. Based on discussions I have had with customers and sales people I ran into the question of “what is the exact difference between the two? Both are a form of automated testing in the end”.

Performance testing == automated testing… ?

Both Performance testing and automated testing are indeed some form of executing simple checks with a tool. The most obvious difference being the objective of running the test and analysing the outcomes. If they are indeed so similar, does that mean you can use your automated tests to also run performance tests and vice versa?

What is the difference?

I believe the answer is both easy and challenging to explain. The main difference is in the verifications and assertions done in the two different test types. In functional test automation (let’s at least call it that for now), the verifications and assertions done are all oriented to validating that the actual full functionality as described in the specification, was passed. Whereas in performance testing these verifications and assertions are more or less focused on validating that all data and especially the expected data is loaded.

jmeter-snapshotA lot of the performance tests I have executed over the past year or so, have not used the Graphical User Interface. Instead the tests use the communications underneath the GUI, such as XML, JSON or whatever else passes between server and client. In these performance tests the functionality of the application under test is still run through by the tests, so a functional walkthrough/test does get executed, my assertions however do not necessarily validate that and definitely not on a level that would be acceptable for normal functional test automation. In other words, most of the performance tests cannot (easily or blindly) be reused as functional test automation.

Now you might think: “So can we put functional test automation to work as a performance test, if the other way around cannot easily be done maybe it will work this way?”

In my experience the answer to this is similar as when trying to use performance tests as a functional test automation. It can be done, but will not really give you the leverage in performance testing you quite likely would like to have. Running functional test automation generally requires the application to run. If the application is a webapplication you might get away with running the browser headless (e.g. just the rendering engine, not the full GUI version of the browser) in order to prevent the need for a load of virtual machines to generate even a little bit of load. When the SUT is a client/server application however the functional test automation generally requires the actual client to run, making any kind of load really expensive.

How can we utilize the functional test automation for performance testing?

performance and testautomation combined

performance and testautomation combined

One of the wonderful possibilities is combining functional testing, performance testing and load testing. By adjusting the functional test automation to not only record pass/fail but also render times of screens/objects, the functional test automation suite turns into a performance monitor. Now you start your load generator to test the server response times during load, once the target load is reached, you  start the functional test automation suite to walk through a solid test set and measure the actual times it takes on a warm or hot system to run everything through a full rendered environment. This gives wonderful insights into what the end-users may experience during heavy loads on the server.

Selecting performance test tooling – Part 4

Decision making time

Decision making process

Decision making process

Considering the fact that I am not too fond of Sikuli and SilkTest is disqualified because it cannot deal with the remote application the decision was tough and yet simple. I have an immediate need which needs fulfilling and besides that a customer wish to look ahead and assume we will be working on test automation in the (near) future for regression testing and end-to-end testing.

The choice was made to not go for the, very affordable, commercial tool at this point in time, but rather go the open source road. Sikuli it is.

Experiences with Sikuli Sikuli Script

As stated above Sikuli was not my preferred tool, since it is heavily depending on screen captures, however when I was finally working with it I started to get a liking for it. It has grown on me by now. Scripting in it can be both difficult and extremely easy.

I decided to approach the functional measuring with SIkuli as a pure testautomation project, but then a bit less reusable since it depends on screenshots. Starting where I generally start; starting the application and logging in to the system, was simple enough. Although still not exactly intuitive. The startup code looks something like this:

cmd = 'mstsc.exe "C:\\Program Files\\RemotePackages\\AppAccNew.rdp"'
def startApp():
    from time import time
    startTime = time()
    Log.elog('Starting Acceptatie RDP Session') 
    App.open(cmd)

Sikuli Code Snippett On top of a separate, reusable login (and logoff and shutdown) routine, I also built up a nice set of helpful methods for measuring time between an action and the result, verifying that the expected area indeed is selected and quite a few others. These look a bit more odd in my eyes due to the screen captures inline in the code, as you can see here.

The moment the basic functions were there, e.g. click on something and expect some result with a timer in between, the rest was fairly straight forward. We now have a bunch of functional tests which, instead of doing a functional verification are focussed on duration of the calls, but for the rest it is not very far from actual functional automation through Sikuli.

Conclusion

All in all it took some getting used to the fact that there is script combined with screenshots, but now that it is fully up and running the scripting is fast and easy to do. I am quite impressed with what Sikuli can do.

Test automation on SAP, is it really that much different?

SAP logo This year I got to know SAP fairly intimately, looking at it and into it from a test automation perspective, inventorising the possibilities and opportunities of automated testing of a (huge) SAP implementation. During this time I ran into a fair amount of SAP related people, ranging from SAP consultants and sales people to ABAP-developers, HP sales people and SAP preferred suppliers. They all are making it seem as though SAP development and testing is a different world, nothing to do with the “normal” software development world. In my view this is wrong, SAP is just software. Yes, it has a bunch of particularities which you do not get in so many other packages, but in terms of the actual functionality it is fairly comparable to Siebel and Oracle (no, I am NOT saying it’s the same, I am merely saying it is comparable). With neither Oracle nor Siebel this almost religious separatism exists, yet they too are bound by the laws of business process models, transaction codes and what not. So how come SAP is seen as so special and the others are not? Is SAP special? SAP TAO & HP Quality CenterWhen you start talking about test automation and SAP the first things that pop up are some SAP proprietary names such as CATT, eCATT and SAP TAO. Fortunately SAP themselves recommend against the use of either CATT or eCATT, so let’s dismiss these right here and now, they are tools that once were somewhat helpful but now should be considered redundant for most SAP implementations. SAP TAO however is of a different breed. SAP TAO is pushed by SAP as being the solution to use when trying to automate your testing. One minor issue with SAP TAO however is that it does not really automate anything on its own, you invariably need HP Quality Center (HPQC) and Quick Test Professional (QTP) with it. HP tooling has some tailor-made solutions to integrate well with SAP TAO and more specifically with the SAP Solution Manager. The setup as proposed in this picture is the ideal picture as SAP would like to envision and implement a SAP testing solution. However, not all organisations have Solution Manager up and running for anything other than transport and low level reporting, nor do all organisations have the budget for the HP tool set. When working with SAP TAO effectively and efficiently, the Business Blueprint, the description of all business processes as used by the organisation with the SAP systems, should be residing in the SAP Solution Manager. This blueprint should be maintained carefully and always be up to date. When changes to the system are made, either by updates to the system or by customizations in ABAP, these changes should be visible in the Solution Manager, ensuring the SAP Solution Manager Business Process Change Analyzer can identify which processes have changed and based on this impact analysis propose tests within HP Quality Center to be executed. With SAP TAO the testers can “automate” the tests, which effectively means record the steps. SAP TAO then adds some secret sauce by cutting longer scripts up into maintainable and reusable chunks. These scripts will then be sent from SAP TAO into HPQC, where they can be associated with functional test descriptions. When a tester now wants to run one of the automated tests, or for that matter wants to run the entire automated suite,  HPQC is used again to trigger the scripts, which get executed with QTP. In other words, the actual testdriver is QTP, not SAP TAO. When starting up a SAP GUI instance and analyzing it with something like UISpy or some other tool which can show the objects on a screen, the fields and buttons are barely visible and not really open to test automation. Yet it is possible. If SAP is configured to enable scripting, the UI objects become accessible and thus the GUI is scriptable with any tool of your choice. The moment this little flag has been set, a whole new world opens up in the GUI, it’s all of a sudden open, the fields, screens and buttons all have an ID and can be hooked into by a driver of your choice. Effectively what the enable scripting setting does, is ensuring non of the huge, expensive tools mentioned above are needed, it is possible to run through the application with any driver you want. The main thing needed in order to properly and solidly automate testing in SAP now, is a well grounded knowledge of the Business Processes the implementation is supporting (or driving).  This is no different than what is needed when automating SAP with SAP TAO. The benefits of having the option to choose your own drivers, your own programming language and your own reporting framework are huge. If SAP is merely in the organisation to support the business processes and software developers within the organisation are writing their own code in Erlang, C++, C#, Java, Ruby, Python or whatever else you can imagine, the testsuite for SAP can be in that same language. Having the automated testsuite in a well supported language rather than just in QTP’s own VBScript, ensures a larger possible support base for the automated tests. It enables easy integration of home-built software with the SAP systems since all tests can be built in one language and in an end-to-end setup, again supported by the organisation’s own development group. The SAP TAO and HPQC setup do have some benefits of course. First of all, there is a huge corporate support for both HP and SAP software products. But more importantly, there are some technical benefits of using SAP TAO, if the environment is setup properly. As mentioned above, there is this tool called the Business Process Change Analyser, or BPCA, which can help extract transaction based changes from a transport and help the tester decide, based on these changes, which test scenarios need to be run to effectively cover the business processes (or mainly the transactions associated both directly and indirectly to the transport). Next to that there is the benefit of using HPQC, I can hardly believe that I am saying this, since I am personally not a big fan of the HPQC suite, however the reporting possibilities and capabilities within HPQC are close to limitless. This means that it is possible to generate excellent reports, automatically, for both management level execs and for the business analysts and ABAP-specialists, on each test run without having to think about it. Having the full benefits of this setup however comes at a cost, a fairly sizable cost. The licensing for HPQC, QTP and SAP TAO or not to be ignored for starters. A hidden cost lays within the organisation, as stated, for the BPCA to do anything, Solution Manager needs to be utilized fully, the Blueprint needs to be ready and up to date, more over, it needs to be well maintained to ensure it remains the “Single Source of Truth” (as SAP coined it). So, to answer the initial question: Is SAP special? It is, as a business process tool, definitely special, strong and extremely versatile. When looking at SAP as a system that requires testing and test automation however, I am not convinced it is special, it’s just software, which is open for testautomation with a range of drivers, one of these drivers might be QTP. If you do indeed choose to go for QTP with a SAP system, have a look into SAP TAO. However, do not feel that it is the only one out there which can effectively and efficiently be used for SAP test automation. All the others claiming they can, probably indeed can just as well as SAP TAO with QTP. In the end it is all about how you use and abuse a tool and whether you use QTP, White or Panaya, they all in the end merely function as a driver, it is the code the testers build which matters!

The difference for test automation between cutting edge and legacy software

Within one of the LinkedIn groups (sorry, you need to be a member of the “QA Automation Architect” group to be able to read it fully) we started talking about the difference the state of project or product can make for test automation. In this post I will make a distinction between 2 states: new where no code has been written yet and existing  where application code has been written, but no test automation has been implemented.

Cutting edge

New So when creating a totally new product, life for the testers can be made easier by design, that at least is the thought. This does imply that testers, and not just the “manual” testers but all testers, including automation testers if these are a separate breed as some people seem to think, need to actively participate in the requirements phase of a product. With actively participating I do not mean to imply that they are normally not participating, I mean they need to look a bit further than just at what to test, is it testable etc.

They should also use their insights and ideas to help both product owners and software developers to understand what are the things that might make life easier for testing this new product.

When for example building a new web application, they might consider adding a simple REST api to the application, which in production can be closed off based on IP or firewall rules or something like that. A simple REST-API will make life a lot easier when creating your automated tests.

Another thing to make life easy might be ensuring clear and logical naming conventions to be used for all page object in order for the automation to use the Page-Object-Model. Not only is using solid naming conventions good for automation, it also makes maintenance on the application itself easier, since all objects are identifiable by their unique ID.

Legacy

How is existing code different from non-existent, other than that one is already in production and the other has to be created? As far as test automation is concerned, especially when talking about legacy software, it may turn out to be a lot more difficult to find proper hooks into the application for solid automation other than on the labels of buttons or fields.

When you have a fairly recent application it may be a website or a desktop app, both have the possibility that there are some sorts of ID’s for all objects. However when talking about true legacy software, such as 15 year old Delphi, it is quite unlikely the developers used WinForms, Win32 or SWT. Not having hooks like that into the application can result in having to scrape the UI for object labels, which is fine when testing one particular language, but if your software was localized things can get even more complicated.

Getting consensus within the technology group about new software is one thing, getting a “non-functional”, non-business related change about in existing software however is a whole different thing.

As long as the code is still “alive”, e.g. new features are still being added, bugs are being fixed and in general there are still developers working on the application, there is hope of getting some more “automatability” in the code.

First of all, while fixing bugs old code is touched, adjusted and retested, this is always an opening to talk to the developers resolving the issue about adding a small bit of extra “sauce” to make it easier to add this particular thing to the automated testing suite to ensure chances of recurrence are minimized, of course by fixing the bug you hope to completely obliterate this particular issue but it might cause new damage elsewhere in the application. So while talking to the developer about this function, try to convince him/her that adding a bit of extra to test not only for the fix of this issue, but also to verify the surrounding features.

While new features are added, this can be treated as “new code”, as long as you manage to get agreement on adding identifiers or a separate layer in these features to make test automation at least easier. If you achieve this, you are quite close to closing the majority of the gap. Refactoring is an excellent opportunity to again make minor changes in the application enabling test automation at a different level.

How do you get “automatability” in your specs?

Assuming you want to get your  product easy to automate and thus want to make sure it is thought through, how to get it in the specifications? And more importantly, how do you get it in there without adding things like:

  • unnecessary workload
  • unneeded and unwanted features
  • potential security holes
  • un-maintained code

Enterprise Architecture Layers with a "hidden test automation layer"One of the ways to go about it is by, in collaboration with the developers, enforcing a coding standard in which you ensure all objects receive an ID. Regardless of whether it is desktop or web based, most automation tools are looking for a hook into the UI, if there is one, and one of the nicest ways of doing that is simply by using the ID.

Alternatively you can have a “layer” put right underneath the UI, ensuring you can bypass the cumbersome UI while automating your tests. One of the issues with this option however, can be that you add “hidden” code which gets forgotten easily. It also is a potential risk for the security of your application, since you basically enable a man-in-the-middle hole.

If this path is taken, ensure that this “feature” does not end up being an opening for malicious code to reach your data. A relatively safe solution for this would be to put some (extra) form of authentication in the layer.

There probably are more options you can investigate, the two I mention above are fairly harmless and yet can make life in test automation a lot easier and predictable.

In the end, no matter which way you go, as long as you get both developers and product owners on board in working towards a higher “automatability” of the code life for you as a test engineer could become a lot more fun.

I am not very impressed with theological arguments whatever they may be used to support. Such arguments have often been found unsatisfactory in the past.

Alan  Turing

Test automation in Agile and why it fails

It’s fairly safe to say that quite a lot of test automation efforts fail. It is also very safe to say that without test automation an agile team fails. So how can you make sure that while doing agile your test automation will not fail and thus your agile team will not fail? One of the ways to answer this question is by looking at why test automation often fails within agile environments.

When I am talking about test automation within this post, I am referring to testing that is done to reduce the amount of manual regression work, the so called functional test automation or automatic regression testing.

Moving target

Test automation quite often does not receive the attention it needs and deserves, also in agile teams. Quite some test automation efforts start off too late and without the appropriate preparation, resulting in organic test automation driven by a moving target. The moving target is the system under test which, in agile, is constantly in flux. Each sprint new features are added, bugs are fixed and quite often it is not clear at the start of a project where it is going to end up. Writing automated scripts against such a flexible environment which will stand the test of time, is difficult. It is even more difficult when the base on which automation is done is weak.

Quite often test automation runs behind on what is being delivered within an iteration, this is somewhat logical, considering that it is difficult to test, let alone automatically test what has not been built yet. Ideally while manually testing the new feature(s) as a tester, you’re already pondering how to automate it so that you do not have to do the tedious work more than once. Given enough time within your iteration, you actually might be able to automate some of the features, from what I have seen thus far, generally not all features will be covered in test automation within one iteration. So if these tests are not all automated, what happens to them in the next iteration? Are they omitted? Are they picked up and automated retrospectively?

If you do not keep track of what has been automated during an iteration for both your current iteration and your previous iteration, how can you rely on your test automation? You can’t be sure what exactly it is going through, so a bug can easily get through the net of your automated tests.

This moving target you are testing needs to be traced and tested solidly, repeatedly and in a trust-worthy way!

Definition of Done

In the majority of the DoD’s I have seen, one of the items is something referring to “tests automated”. The thing I have thus far not seen however, is the team adding as much value to the automation code as they do to the production code. Quite a lot of DoD’s refer to certain coding standards, however these standards often seem to not apply to functional test automation. Isn’t your functional automation code also just code? If so, why then should this not be covered in code reviews, be written according to some useful guidelines and standards and hopefully use a framework to make the code sustainable?

Test automation is just writing code

I have seen several automation efforts going on within agile teams where test automation was done without proper thinking having been put into it. A tool was chosen, based on what exactly other than members of the team having heard of it or having had good experiences with the tool. No base or framework to keep the code clean chosen. Since you are writing code, you should follow the same rules as the rest of the software developers. Don’t think your code, since they are merely tests, should not be hooked up to some form of framework. If you want to make your tests survive a few iterations, considering reuse of your code would be logical.

By the way, coding standards do not need to be too complicated. In 2009 “Agile in a flash” came up with a coding standard that could work for all languages and for most environments:

Coding Standards - agileinaflash.blogspot.com

All of the above mentioned points are “logical” when writing an application which is supposed to go into production. However when looking at a lot of (agile) projects, these logical “best practices” seem to be totally forgotten when it comes to test automation.

Succeed in test automation

So, how do you succeed in your test automation? How do you make it work? The answer seems clear to me: test automation is not like writing code, it is equal to writing code. Since it is the same, treat it the same way!

Do your code reviews, follow a form of a standard, use a (simple) framework to make life easier in writing tests, create reusable modules in your automation code. In other words, treat your functional test automation with the same respect as your production grade code. Who knows, you might want to run your tests against your production environment some day! In setting up your initial test automation environment and framework, don’t be shy and ask the developers in your team for tips, tricks and suggestions. They quite likely have gone through those setup steps more often than you have, so use their knowledge. Asking them for their insights and ideas not only helps you, it also helps them feel more responsible for doing their 5 pennies worth on the test automation side. They will get a clearer idea of what you intend to achieve, so they might also be more willing to help out keeping their code testable, they might even enjoy helping you write the testscripts!

Resources

Some informational resources where you can find some ideas on how to setup the test automation framework:

Test automation metrics – what do you report on?

Metrics

One of the fun things of test automation is that, since you do not have to do all the tests manually, you can spend some extra time coming up with test metrics. Test metrics are tricky to do well in any situation, but in a situation where there is an abundance of metrics, such as in a test automation setup,  the choice of metrics becomes the key first step. What are the metrics to look at? Code coverage? Number of tests passed vs Number of tests failed? Duration of the tests over time? Number passed now vs number passed in previous runs? Newly automated tests added since last run? You can keep going in dreaming up new metrics, but which ones will actually make sense and become representative?? And of course, how do you ensure you do not spend ages ploughing through your data to gather these metrics manually?
Borrowed the image from khanmjk If you just take a test automation tool off the shelf it probably has an immense amount of options to measure on and report on, but the risk is always that you start generating reports and metrics that are not quite representative, or even worse, give a tainted view of the actual situation. So how do you make sure you don’t end up with a jungle of metrics?

Audience

First thing you need to know is who is the audience of your metrics? There is a huge difference in what different levels in an organisation consider useful metrics. One manager can be mainly interested in the time spent automating versus the time won by automating; e.g. the extra time now available for testing other stuff, the stuff that matters, while a test manager might be more interested in the functional areas of the application covered and to what extend they are covered.

Type of metrics

I will not attempt to dream up the perfect metric, for every environment and situation one metric might be better than the other. It all depends on the context, the persons you are reporting to, targets of each particular business area etc.

What I do want to touch upon is the awesome power you have with metrics coming out of automation. Since your tests can run rapidly and often, there are lots of runs that can be measured. In other words, you can gather a lot of data, a lot of historical data. When reporting on metrics like amount of tests passed versus the amount failed, it generally will be a snapshot of some test run. Why limit the metric to a snapshot when you have living data at hand?

The strongest metric to show to any manager is trend lines; you need to report on the amount of tests passed vs failed or the amount of tests added to the automation suite? Need to report metrics on code coverage? All of these metrics can result in a trend line. Show the “upwards trend” and managers are generally happy without even knowing what they are looking at.

There are of course some pitfalls, the main one I have made was having a downwards sloping trend line. That seems like a bad trend, even though it can be a totally perfect trend, the sight of a trend line going down generally makes managers nervous, they expect things to always go up.

Be prepared to explain a downwards trend, cause sometimes you cannot escape a downwards or flattening trend line!

Graph examples

Below are two graphs, both with the same data, and a trend line set on the same data. The three charts however, when looking at them each tell you a slightly different story due to the style of trend line chosen for the chart.

Upwards trend

Making the numbers seem a bit more positive than they really are by using an exponential trend line.

The exponential trend line paints a strong picture, however when using it, be prepared to explain the fact that despite the lack of growth at about two thirds of the graph, the trend is still upwards. This is a difficult story to tell.

Linear trendline

The linear trend line gives an indication of the overall trend, when close to flat-lining you know you have a problem, when it is too steep however you also may have a problem!

The linear trend line is one usually understood well by most people, at least in my experience. It shows the gradual, overall progress being made on your metrics. Since it is a straight line, quite often questions about what happened in a “dip” period can be prevented.

Since there is an abundance in data, if you have setup your automation properly, there is also the possibility to combine data. Such as setting off the trend of passed/failed to the trend of new tests added, or even more interestingly, to new functionality added to the system under test.

Be aware!

One big warning though, when playing around with the numbers you may be tempted to make them look nicer than they are or focus on the good things. However tempting this may be, don’t prettify your numbers or graphs, make sure the always paint a true story. If you manipulate the graphs, you are not only trying to fool your manager, but also yourself. Metrics should be useful for you as well as for the managers.

In a follow up post I am currently working on I will give some more clear examples of mashing up data into a useful automation report and how to interpret/present the data given specific contexts.

Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”
– Mark Twain’s Own Autobiography: The Chapters from the North American Review

–Edit–

A follow up on this post can be found here: Test automation metrics – mashing up non-test data

Throw-away test automation

I quite often tell clients that their approach to test automation is not sustainable, this got me thinking, does test automation always have to be sustainable and reusable?

This all depends on the goal you’re trying to meet I guess. If your goal is set for long-term cost efficiency, shorten the timelines on regression testing and through that get to a more rapid release cycle, yes you will need to be focussed on the re-usability of your automation suite.

However there are plenty of instances where you want to automate something to make life easier right here, right now. Most testers, I hope, know the feeling of having to go through tedious, repetitive work, setting up data for a test, going through the login flow of an application to get to the feature you want to test etc. For actions like that, you can very well use automation. In fact, you can quite often use the most simple form of automation, record/playback without having to adjust your scripts for maintainability or re-usability.

Tools like Selenium IDE and AutoIt are excellent for making life easy right here, right now when you need to quickly automate something to make life easy. Funnily enough a lot of testers either do not realize these tools can be used to make life easier. When talking with colleagues about test automation they quite often think of big test automation packages, like QTP or Rational Robot. Sometimes they ask how much you need to know of software development and writing code to automate things. And most of these conversations I let myself be sucked into the tool talks and indeed talk about the difficulties of setting up a test automation framework.

In future conversations I am going to try to explain my colleagues and fellow testers that automation does not need to be a big operation, it doesn’t need to be reusable and maintainable, at least, depending on your goals. As long as your goal is to make life easy here and now, there is no need to build something awesome.

For a lot of things, a simple script, either hand written or simply recorded, can be more than enough to get to your goal, when done with your tasks you can then throw them away, but preferably be a bit smart about it and just dump it somewhere in a repository, you might have to do this task again.