Making Canopy Tests Repeatable With Respawn
As an example, let’s say that we have a test that creates a user account with a unique email address. The first time we run the test suite, the test will pass because the email address is unique. The second time we run the test suite the test will fail because the account can’t be created a second time. The test would fail even though the software was working correctly. False failures are always a headache with integration tests. So we want tools to solve this problem.
Recently, a library named Respawn was released for situations just like this. It was created by Jimmy Bogard, who is also the creator of popular libraries like AutoMapper and MediatR. Respawn will reset your database back to a known base state. It doesn’t this by intelligently deleting data out of your database. It is fast, so you can reset your database multiple times within a test suite. You can read the full description here. In this post, I specifically want to explore how Respawn works with Canopy.
Using Canopy and Respawn Together
Respawn was written with test runners like XUnit and MSTest in mind. But I believe it will work well with Canopy. Respawn and Canopy are both .Net assemblies, so they can be seamlessly integrated into the same project. I assume that Respawn could also be used with other .Net based web integration test frameworks, but I am primarily interested in Canopy.
I’m a huge fan of Canopy. I think it is a beautiful way to create automated integration tests for web applications. The fact that you get to write the tests in F# makes it even better. But it doesn’t have a built in way to reset your database back to a known state. Luckily, it is easy to use Respawn from within your Canopy test suite.
Like Canopy, Respawn is a NuGet package. So it is trivial to include it in your project. Once it is included, you just need to do two things:
- Declare which tables in your database you don’t want to delete.
- Determine where in your test suite you want to reset the database.
Declaring the tables that shouldn’t be reset
To start using Respawn, you need to create an instance of a Checkpoint. The Checkpoint object has a property name TablesToIgnore that tells the checkpoint which tables shouldn’t be deleted. All other tables will have their data deleted. Respawn will use the foreign keys to figure out which tables need to be cleared first. The property is an array of strings. Assigning it in F# looks like this:
For this example, I created a project that performs a simple test on the open source CrisisCheckin project. There are a number of tables that need to be populated in order for the application to work properly. So I included them in the list of tables to ignore.
Resetting the database
With the checkpoint created, you just need to call it’s Reset method to set the database back to the base state. The Reset method takes a connection string as a parameter. It relies on the fact that the integration test application can connect to the database and delete data from it. So if your integration tests run against a staging server where you don’t have direct access to the database, this solution won’t work for you.
In Canopy, we have methods that get called at known times that are great places to reset the data. The “once” function gets called one time at the beginning of each test context in your test suite. It is a useful place to call Reset.
If you want to reset the database right before every test in a test context, you could you use the “before” function. In this scenario, the quickness of Respawn would be very useful. If you wanted to reset the data after each test or at the end of a test context, you could use Canopy’s “after” or “lastly” functions.
I put together an exploratory project using Canopy and Respawn together. You can see it here. If you want to run it, you will need to clone the CrisisCheckin repo and run it locally. I was pleased with how smoothly the two libraries worked together. I was also pleased with how easy it was to use them to create integration tests that are repeatable and reliable.
Chris Holt, the author of Canopy, gave me some great feedback. He pointed out that while cleaning the database makes some tests cases easier to write, there are also benefits to having a test suite that accumulates data. Tests suites that accumulate data can help you identify performance issues such as missing database indexes. If you want to have a large amount of data and still reset the database before a test run, you could use a tool that generates a massive amount of test data.
He also pointed out that you couldn’t use a tool like Respawn in a scenario where multiple people are testing against the same database because Respawn would nuke everyone’s test data, not just yours.
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My name is Eric Potter. I have an amazing wife and 5 wonderful children. I am a Microsoft MVP for Developer Tools and Technologies, the Director of Technical Education for Sweetwater in Ft. Wayne Indiana, and an adjunct professor for Indiana Tech. I am a humble toolsmith.