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Incorporating Test Data / Data Compliance in DevOps

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NOVEMBER, 2019

by Arnab Roy Chowdhury

DevOps, a word that combines “development” and “operations,” is a business process that shortens the time taken to gather customer feedback. Besides, it also enables progressive software delivery and helps clients grab market scope.

But sometimes, during testing, even the most skilled testers in a DevOps organization can make a mistake. They can overlook a scenario that causes errors during production. Usually, it occurs when test data isn’t managed. Or maybe there isn’t appropriate information.

This is where test data management in DevOps comes into the picture. In this post, we’re going to discuss the details of incorporating test data and data compliance in DevOps. But before that, we’ll need to understand what test data management means and why it’s needed in DevOps.

 

What Is Test Data Management?

Before diving into what test data management means, let’s first take a look at the definition of test data. In simple words, test data is the data a software system uses for testing. Manual testers and test automation tools generate test data. But the testing process can produce massive chunks of it.

To streamline the testing procedure, it’s important to organize the data. This process also enables efficiency throughout the testing lifecycle. It calls for better control of the testing team over data. And it’s test data management (TDM) that makes it possible.

TDM is a practice comprising planning, storing, designing, and managing test cases and methods. Since the amount of data generated is huge, it becomes important to practice TDM in DevOps.

Need for Test Data Management in DevOps

DevOps is the latest buzzword in the IT industry. It follows lean principles. This means that the team follows a step-by-step approach where they thoroughly scan the application in the development phase and eliminate any bugs or waste. The quality assurance team then strives to deliver a product that satisfies the customer’s criteria. Overall, this process encourages quick feedback, which increases the quality of the end product. As a result, DevOps facilitates innovation and stability.

But for a new company, switching to DevOps can be overwhelming. You must create targeted databases of the right size without cloning the whole production environment. So, TDM is all about that. Let’s discuss how.

Practicing TDM makes development environments, as well as testing environments, more manageable for continuous testing. And if you apply the concepts from TDM, you’ll get realistic test data. Also, you’ll be able to maintain the data without requiring manual data creation.

Now, let’s talk about how it fits with DevOps. Since DevOps needs regular application deployment, testing is a must after every delivery. It makes providing appropriate test data sets quite hard. To address these challenges, TDM enables you to test with refreshed test data every time.

I’d even say that TDM is a mandatory prerequisite to smoothly facilitate the DevOps framework.

What Is Data Compliance?

Users entrust businesses with confidential information and personal data. Thus, it’s important to keep that data safe and prevent any misuse of information.

That’s where data compliance plays an important role. It’s a set of processes that makes sure that data satisfies things like

  • Regulatory needs.
  • Legal requirements.
  • Accreditation requirements.
  • Business rules.

Points to Consider While Incorporating Test Data/Data Compliance in DevOps

The application of TDM ensures high-quality data. It will also reduce the chances of introducing bugs. Of course, it won’t completely stop the occurrence, but you won’t be making the same mistake over and over again.

What else should you consider while incorporating TDM compliance? Remember this: different team members need to be able to access data whenever they need it. If you deploy your applications regularly, you’ll facilitate the application’s performance and functionality validation.

Practicing TDM eliminates the difficulties that arise due to continuous testing after every delivery. Now, we’ve realized what an integral part of testing it is. So let’s look at the points to consider while incorporating test data/data compliance in DevOps.

1. Support for Massive Databases

Developers are responsible for creating applications that can support huge customer databases. But the timely provision of the test copies of this data can be challenging because developers have access only to a portion of the database required.

But since a data set doesn’t reflect the actual information, the effectiveness declines. An effective TDM strategy helps developers generate replicas of production databases. Note that those are a must for achieving development schedules.

2. User Acceptance Testing

DevOps promotes greater agility and speed. It also calls for quick and efficient testing cycles. User acceptance testing, or UAT, makes that possible. But since it occurs at a later stage, the length of the development time increases. You can “shift left,” which is a strategy that involves early robust testing. This way, the team can identify and fix most bugs even before they get to UAT.

3. Optimum Integration With Tools Used in DevOps

Both open-source and closed-source tools help in fueling a company’s DevOps journey. But on only one condition can they streamline and automate processes: integration with a complete business solution like Git or Jenkins is mandatory. These solutions offer APIs that enable this integration. However, before you move forward with one, you should check the API to make sure it provides a thorough feature set.

4. Catering to a Wide Array of Business Requirements

Every firm has protection strategies to deal with disaster recovery and data protection. You can apply those strategies on conventional applications. Yet those strategies might not work well with the entire development environment. Thus, the development process should have data protection implemented in the early phase.

What Purposes Should Test Data Management Serve in DevOps?

To prevent scary deployments and a lack of confidence in applications, you need good data for testing. Testing the changes in production improves customer services to a great extent. TDM creates production-like data for testing.

Building on that, let’s take a look at what purposes TDM should serve in DevOps.

1. TDM Should Enhance Data Reliability

TDM reduces lead time and reliability in deployment simultaneously. It also enables a company to shift left. You don’t have to wait until the end of development to validate changes. Even if you can’t eliminate manual testing, you’ll be able to automate as much as possible. TDM enables the process of data preparation to be a part of DevOps.

2. TDM Should Be Self-Service

No one should have to wait in a long queue to get the data they need. There are many tools to prepare data, and a smart move is to automate the process. And if the team has access to TDM tools like Informatica, they can eliminate operational bottlenecks. Moreover, the DBAs are at ease. Of course, you have to make sure you’re masking sensitive data.

All in all, with proper planning and using the appropriate tools, you should use TDM to create an environment of self-service in the firm.

3. TDM Should Aid in Keeping Only Healthy Data

When a company grows, so does the data. You have to make sure that the data isn’t bloated. You should use TDM to only keep healthy data.

If you don’t take care of this, the cost of the data can keep on increasing. A good way to start on the road to healthy data is to generate data in the code for every test case. Remember, you have more control over static data. It’s less costly, too. Including TDM in delivery pipeline ensures data optimization. Plus, it further shortens the lead time for software delivery.

4. TDM Should Be Included in CI/CD Processes

Once you initiate a self-service environment, it’s time to implement it in integration. If any task increases silos, you need to shift it to the left. This means that the team needs to perform it at the start of the workflow. Including TDM on a developer’s machine will aid you in the shift-left approach. The same goes for other members of the team, including testers. Thus, going this route ensures speed and cost-effectiveness.

Summing It Up

Many testers in the software industry experience false joy. They think their code changes are fit to release to the production. But sometimes, all they end up with are intermittent errors in production due to the changes. The problems can be small: say, there’s more data than expected, or you’re ignorant of certain scenarios. Or they can be big problems. In either case, you need relevant and well-organized data to prevent last-moment errors.

Quality testing in a company is only possible as long as appropriate data is present. DevOps is all about developing and testing against a system identical to production. For instance, TDM uses a subset of the production data to create data. So, the team can later use this data for continuous testing. It also creates the “right-sized” data for testing and refreshes test data. This, in turn, assists with continuous integration and speedy delivery.

DevOps promotes innovation and helps in marking the success of emerging IT companies. Thus, to ensure smooth and continuous software delivery, TDM has to be a fundamental part of DevOps principles. To learn more about implementing TDM in your project, check out the Data Compliance Suite provided by Enov8.

Arnab Roy Chowdhury

This post was written by Arnab Roy Chowdhury. Arnab is a UI developer by profession and a blogging enthusiast. He has strong expertise in the latest UI/UX trends, project methodologies, testing, and scripting.

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