Microservices is an approach to software development that has seen a rising tide of interest over the last decade or so, going hand-in-hand with other trends such as cloud-native, agile development and, most notably, the use of containers as a vehicle for deploying software components.
Adoption of microservices has been increasing over the past several years. A survey carried out by O’Reilly in 2020 of over 1,500 organisations found that only about a quarter were not using microservices at all. Of the 75% that were, only about 10% had been using them for more than five years, which means the majority have taken the plunge with microservices during the past few years.
The shift towards microservices and modular applications makes testing more important and more challenging at the same time. You have to make sure that the microservices running in containers perform well and as intended, but you can no longer rely on conventional testing strategies to get the job done.
This is where new testing approaches are needed. Testing your microservices applications require the right approach, a suitable set of tools, and immense attention to details. This article will guide you through the process of testing your microservices and talk about the challenges you will have to overcome along the way. Let’s get started, shall we?
Traditionally, testing a monolith application meant configuring a test environment and setting up all of the application components in a way that matched the production environment. It took time to set up the testing environment, and there were a lot of complexities around the process.
Testing also requires the application to run in full. It is not possible to test monolith apps on a per-component basis, mainly because there is usually a base code that ties everything together, and the app is designed to run as a complete app to work properly.
Microservices running in containers offer one particular advantage: universal compatibility. You don’t have to match the testing environment with the deployment architecture exactly, and you can get away with testing individual components rather than the full app in some situations.
Of course, you will have to embrace the new cloud-native approach across the pipeline. Rather than creating critical dependencies between microservices, you need to treat each one as a semi-independent module.
The only monolith or centralized portion of the application is the database, but this too is an easy challenge to overcome. As long as you have a persistent database running on your test environment, you can perform tests at any time.
Keep in mind that there are additional things to focus on when testing microservices.
Test containers are the method of choice for many developers. Unlike monolith apps, which lets you use stubs and mocks for testing, microservices need to be tested in test containers. Many CI/CD pipelines actually integrate production microservices as part of the testing process.
As mentioned before, there are many ways to test microservices effectively, but the one approach that developers now use reliably is contract testing. Loosely coupled microservices can be tested in an effective and efficient way using contract testing, mainly because this testing approach focuses on contracts; in other words, it focuses on how components or microservices communicate with each other.
Syntax and semantics construct how components communicate with each other. By defining syntax and semantics in a standardized way and testing microservices based on their ability to generate the right message formats and meet behavioral expectations, you can rest assured knowing that the microservices will behave as intended when deployed.
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