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Test Orchestration: What, Why, and How?

Test Orchestration 101

In the agile development methodology, the velocity of testing holds the key to delivering the best quality software within the stipulated budget and time constraints. As such, this drives the need to automate the testing process with test orchestration. 

Most software development teams visualize test automation as a discreet step in the delivery lifecycle instead of viewing it as a designed sequence of steps. There are various aspects of testing through which software needs to pass, such as unit testing, functional testing, integration testing, smoke testing, performance testing, and more. Each of these needs to be automated in order to achieve certainty of software behavior and reduce the time to test.

However, simply automating the tests is not enough to achieve the desired levels of quality and reduction in the time and cost to get there. This is where “test orchestration” plays an essential role.

 What is Test Orchestration

Test orchestration means setting up a well-defined sequence of automated test activities. 

For example, at the end of a development sprint, when software is marked as ready for release, there are several activities performed before the software reaches its end users or business users. Each of these test activities may be individually automated, such as automated unit testing and system testing followed by automated integration testing. However, manual intervention is still needed to trigger them at the right moment with the right input data. Test orchestration helps tie together each of the individually automated test activities into one synchronous process. 

The key questions delivery teams ask when they already have test automation in place: Why do they need orchestration at all? Is it worth the effort?

Benefits of Test Orchestration

Benefits of Test orchestration

Testing is considered the main bottleneck to fast and continuous delivery. By orchestrating the tests, delivery teams experience several benefits:

Fail early, fix easily

When a test case fails early in the delivery cycle, it is much easier to address the issues, and the complexity is low as well.

Better automation coverage

With test orchestration as an objective of test automation, automation coverage improves for the application. When more test cases are automated, it is easier to reduce the cost and time of delivery.

Increased productivity. 

All aspects of an application can be tested across multiple concerns when the tests are automated and orchestration pipelines are created. It directly improves the overall productivity of the delivery team.

Faster builds. 

With several automated tests, it is easier and faster to construct the test pipelines and prepare the application builds.

Smaller feedback loop

When a certain concern is orchestrated, such as security, only the information and software security experts need to be involved in setting it up and verifying its results.

Minimize the risks of failure. 

Test orchestration pipelines can be created according to the risk assessment of the application. Focused pipelines can be created to address the risks and concerns related to performance, scalability, availability, robustness, and security.

Why teams Need Test Orchestration

With orchestration in place, delivery teams can perform several rounds of testing within an extremely limited amount of time and still achieve the desired levels of quality. Test orchestration harps upon the correctness of three critical components:

  • Automation of the individual test units, such as unit test, system test, integration test, functional test, performance test, and more.
  • Data setup used as input to each test unit, such as the output of the unit test flowing in as input to the system test, or the data setup of the integration test being used to load the performance test database, and so on.
  • Validation of test reports for successes as well as failures, such as the report of smoke tests that may reveal the readiness of the environment, and the report of performance tests that may help in configuring the right capacity of resources needed by the application.

To enable test orchestration to run the same test cycles multiple times, it is important to carefully enforce the tear down of the data setup during the test initialization.

Where Does Orchestration Fit In

How to apply Test Orchestration

As more and more organizations adopt cloud and DevOps processes, setting up a CI/CD pipeline is the first step toward a better and faster delivery. Continuous testing helps in achieving the desired level of quality and speed of delivery. While CI/CD takes care of orchestrating the entire delivery process, test orchestration is more specialized toward various testing types.

It is important to understand that even the best of the test automation techniques require a certain amount of manual intervention. These manual interventions are generally used to make the adjustments in the test data for the next cycle of testing and the duration of testing. Manual intervention is also necessary to ensure that the environment is stable under a load of data and test executions.

Then comes the need to orchestrate the tests. This helps delivery teams adopt a risk-based approach, where they can focus more on the areas of testing that require a greater focus.

Continuous testing is a form of test orchestration employed within the CI/CD pipeline. But test orchestration has a much bigger scope and relevance than that. It can be used to perform very complex testing of the software in completely disparate aspects. Test orchestration can be used by delivery teams to perform several use cases:

  • End-to-end testing of complex business scenarios that involve multiple combinations of APIs and services invoked one after another, producing a definite outcome.
  • Upgrade testing of the release candidate vis-à-vis multiple upgrade paths. A certain version of software may be upgraded from several other prior versions. Testing each of those upgrade paths is an essential goal for good quality.
  • Specialized testing, such as specific security testing to uncover the security vulnerabilities in the software or the vulnerabilities with the dependencies of the software.
  • Compliance testing against predefined standards and regulations. It is a time-consuming process and requires special skills.

Plan for Test Orchestration

For orchestrating the test execution, the tests must be automated in the first place. But is it really necessary to automate all tests before trying orchestration? The answer is no. With proper planning, several types of tests can be orchestrated. The keyword is “plan.” Improper planning of test orchestration can completely backfire on the quality of the software and lead to inadequate testing.

Effective planning of test orchestration must include the following:

  • Establish a measurable purpose for each test orchestration pipeline. For example, a test orchestration pipeline can be defined to trigger before every release of the product and perform the performance testing under various degrees of load. The expected outcomes include the performance metrics and the application configuration recommendations for higher throughput. The purpose of the test orchestration helps to identify the level of test automation planned and achieved in that direction.
  • Identify the tools. The right tools can impact the correctness of the test outcome without manual intervention. Tools required to generate and load data for the performance tests would be significantly different from the tool needed to create data for running the functional tests. In absence of tools that act according to the needs of the test orchestration pipeline, scripts need to be created and added to the pipeline.
  • Identify the data and logs that need to be monitored. The intelligence of the system is a necessity, and the orchestration pipeline can deliver its best value when all of its outputs are captured and analyzed.
  • Automate, automate, and automate more tests. Start with automating the simplest pieces first. For any UI or API use case, use Katalon Studio, a low-code test automation solution created to eliminate the complexities of manual testing and allow you to test faster and more efficiently.

Next Steps | How Katalon Solution Can Help

Over 100,000 enterprise ecosystems use Katalon Studio and Katalon TestOps – the all-in-one test automation solution – to accelerate their DevTestOps approach. Take a look at how this bundle can benefit your teams:

Katalon Studio:

  • Easy application using the best Selenium alternative; low-code approach
  • Streamline automation testing and orchestration through keyword-driven testing and self-healing mechanisms

Katalon TestOps:

  • Shift-left testing with a centralized, collaborative dashboard to speed up debugging and bug alerts
  • Integrations to mainstream testing environments and platforms you love (Jenkins, Azure DevOps, CircleCI)

A great solution for one company does not guarantee that it will be a good fit for yours. With over 100,000 organizations and teams using Katalon to customize their test strategies, we’re here to help you start your DevTestOps journey confidently, with the help of Studio and TestOps.