Best Practices in Blockchain Testing
BY: SUMEET MANHAS ON FRIDAY, JUNE 08, 2018
The public, decentralized and openly shared nature of blockchain has grown its popularity and the scope of peer-to-peer architecture applications. The blockchain market size is expected to reach 60.7 billion dollars by 2024. Microsoft and IBM are the two big tech giants pushing the change forward with the cloud-based solutions currently being made available to their clients. While most people think about cryptocurrency when the term blockchain is mentioned, the scope of application is much wider. Transactions between two parties are easy to record and verify. In addition, blockchain ledgers can be programmed to trigger automatic transactions. As a result, valuable information can be protected reliably from tampering or deletion attempts.
In blockchain architecture, participants share a ledger that is updated via peer-to-peer (P2P) replication. Transaction data is synchronized across the network, eliminating inefficiencies, duplication, and the need for intermediaries.
Because of the “trustless” nature of blockchain applications, it’s easy to see how important is the role that quality assurance and software testing play in the environment. It’s also interesting to address testing changes and the tools that will become available through a more widespread adoption of the blockchain ledger.
Types of Blockchain Tests
An array of different tests can be employed during the development process. All of them will be of key importance for ensuring the quality of the blockchain application.
Unit tests come first. A unit test makes it possible to find out if the software is performing flawlessly at the lowest possible level. A unit test is typically the first one that has to be carried out. Integration testing will follow. This test enables testing engineers to ensure proper communication between internal and external databases.
Two more test varieties play a key role in the development of a proper blockchain architecture. User interface testing takes in consideration the perspective of the end user. It makes sure that all functionalities are accessible and that performance isn’t hindered by an error. Application programming interface (API) testing is probably one of the most challenging parts of the process and it is a key process in the field of integration testing. Through API testing, developers can identify how the application connects to the web and to other APIs.
In the case of blockchain technology, the same testing practices as in the case of APIs can be adopted. These tests involve smart contracts – a key element in the blockchain validation testing.
A smart contract is similar to the application programming interface. It is a set of rules capable of enforcing themselves automatically. There is a public function that can be called by all members of the blockchain network. The only difference here is that the smart contract doesn’t have the ability to call external APIs.
Blockchain Components That Testers Have to Consider
QA specialists need to acquaint themselves with an array of blockchain components that will have to be examined and considered during the process.
The first such element is the blockchain size. The application of the blockchain itself will be determining for the size. Block payloads will also vary in size but there is usually a fixed maximum (for bitcoin, it’s 1MB per block). When carrying out a test, experts in the field will have to determine exactly how the size is affecting behavior.
Other blockchain components of interest to testing engineers include:
- Data transmission: as already mentioned, blockchain technologies involve P2P transactions. As a result, the flawlessness of data transmission will have to be verified.
- Chain size: the blockchain technology allows for the maintenance and complete record creation for every single transaction. In theory, the size of the chain is unlimited and this is something that testing engineers have to consider.
- New block validation: the authentication of a transaction gets a new block attached to the chain. The correct adding of a new block has to be examined because further changes later on will not be possible.
- Security: the P2P nature of transactions could pose certain security challenges. Luckily, the blockchain features multi-layered security systems and testing should focus on the independent performance of each.
- Load: because there are so many people on the blockchain, testing for load will obviously be one of the keys to ensuring optimal performance. As load increases, performance goes down – this is probably one of the biggest problems that blockchain developers have to tackle.
Identifying the Best Blockchain Testing Tools
Many standard test varieties do apply to the blockchain – performance testing, security, compliance testing, etc. To carry out an effective test, however, you will first have to identify the range of tools that apply to the blockchain architecture.
The first and the most prominent option is Ethereum and the Ethereum Tester. Other than the bitcoin blockchain, Ethereum is probably the most prominent one in the world. It offers excellent frameworks for app development and various tools are already available for testing out Ethereum developments.
You can also rely on various other options like Ganache (a library for the local testing of Ethereum contracts), Populus (a testing option under Python), Exonum Testkit, and the Embark Framework among many others.
Test Design and Automation
Having the right tools isn’t sufficient to carry out a successful blockchain test. You will have to conceive the test design and it may also be possible to introduce automation in certain parts of the process.
When designing tests, you will need to consider multiple aspects of the application. How will it act when you input values within or outside the acceptable value parameters? Will there be an error? How is the transaction going to be completed? Test designs aim to answer these questions.
Good blockchain testing engineers should also work on developing their automation skills. QA consultants from A1QA recommend automating unit and integration tests for blockchain. Through adequate automation, major issues can be uncovered early on in the development process. After a foundation of automated tests is established, outlier issues can be tackled through manual testing.
In a sense, automation is best for addressing multiple cumbersome and repetitive tasks. Human involvement, however, cannot be taken out of the testing process altogether. Being able to investigate various development areas for weaknesses and devising the right tests will not always be possible through an automated approach. Regardless of new technologies and testing opportunities, manual skills are still essential.
The blockchain technology was described as emerging until recently but its prominence has grown exponentially. It offers applications that go way beyond the field of cryptocurrencies. A cost-saving and effective alternative to traditional centralized models, the blockchain should be put to good use. Continuous testing will be one of the most vital elements for the establishment of trust. Both an API and a functional focus will build the strong foundations of the testing process.
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