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SOA World Product Review — Testing...1...2...3...Testing

A review of SOAtest 5.0

Few topics evoke more groans and eye rolling from software engineers and Web developers than the dreaded "TESTING." Testing falls into the same category as documentation, refactoring code, dusting, and visiting the dentist. Put it off until the last minute, do as little as possible, do it quickly, and move on to something else. I must confess that I have the same visceral reaction to the thought of 'testing' as others do. Consequently, I approached the prospect of reviewing a testing tool with the loathing of visiting the dentist. I was very relieved to discover that Parasoft's SOAtest 5.0 took a lot of the pain, frustration, and busy work out of the testing experience.

Parasoft's SOAtest 5.0 is a comprehensive testing and analysis tool suite tailored to the unique testing and validation needs of Service Oriented Architectures. It supports functional testing, scenario-based testing, stress testing, client testing with a mock service, and a whole range of validation capabilities (XML Schema, WSDL, WS-Security, BPEL, etc.). SOAtest 5.0 then further supports the creation and automated execution of regression test suites. It supports a broad range of SOA specifications and standards, and is designed from the ground up to support the dynamic and evolving nature of service-oriented systems.

Getting Started with SOAtest 5.0
Installing SOAtest was a breeze. The process is as follows:

  • Run the setup executable from media or by downloading it from,
  • Follow the on-screen prompts.
  • Decide if you want to set up SOAtest as a Windows service.

Once the software is installed, you're ready to begin using SOAtest. The first time that you launch the software, you'll be prompted either to input your individual license information or point to an available license server.

After providing licensing information, you will be confronted with an option to create a New Project, Open an Existing Project, or access the SOAtest Tutorial. The tutorial is well-written and provides a nice tour of the tool's major features.

Creating Test Cases
Tests can either be created individually or as a part of a larger test suite. The tool seems to drive you toward creating test suites rather than individual tests, which is nice for reuse, organization, and best of all - regression testing a collection of tests. SOAtest supports the creation of test suites from a wide range of sources including:

  • Web Services Description Language (WSDL) files
  • Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) files
  • Universal Description, Discovery & Integration (UDDI) registry end-points
  • Web Services Inspection Language (WSIL) files
  • BEA Aqualogic Enterprise Repository end-points

The test suite creation wizard will ask you to designate a file, URL, or end-point to query and also ask you to designate what tests you want to create. Upon completing the wizard, you'll have a whole set of tests automatically generated and ready-to-run as is or customized prior to execution.

Functional Testing
I was very impressed with the functional verification testing capabilities. SOAtest supports the following functional verification features:

  • Check schema validity against a WSDL
  • XML-aware diff engine that flags only true XML structure changes
  • Surgical inclusion/exclusion of XML message elements in the verification process via XPATH (see Figure 1)
  • A graphical rules engine for managing assertions

Every one of these features is enabled through simple intuitive menu options, dropdown lists, check boxes, and XML tree structures. The interface is simple to navigate and although there's a wealth of options, they're organized to avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Executing one or more functional tests multiple times based on an external data set (database or spreadsheet) was another feature that I sought out. SOAtest came through in this area as well supporting the ability to point at a data source (CSV, Excel, relational databases, etc.) and run through a battery of tests that pull values out of the data source and send service requests containing the extracted data values. This lets you define a single test case or suite of tests and then automatically test the full range of data values that the test case needs to support without creating additional tests for each value.

Testing with Mock Services
In a truly test-driven environment, I'd create service interfaces and corresponding suites of test cases before any implementation code is developed. Although this is good in theory, without a supporting toolset, it's not very realistic. SOAtest provides all the capabilities needed to support this kind of development model. When creating a new project/test suite, simply point the tool at a WSDL file and check the "Generate Server Stubs" radio button. The server stubs will run on SOAtest's embedded Tomcat server and let you create and run testing scenarios before you've written a single line of implementation code. This way, when you're ready to implement the service interfaces, you have a defined a suite of tests for verification. This helps to control the scope (when you meet all the tests, stop working) and provides one or more test suites that can be incorporated into automatic regression testing (see below) to ensure that functionality isn't compromised as the project progresses.

Of all the features that I've worked with, I found the service mock-up process the most cumbersome. The other aspects of SOAtest were intuitive and easy-to-work with, whereas I had to wrestle a while to get the mock service capability working on anything other than the tutorial walk-through. In the end, the functionality of this capability was excellent, albeit a bit difficult to initially configure.

Regression Testing
Running your tests once is nice. Running your tests regressively is better. Running your tests regressively and automatically at night is divine. SOAtest supports all three scenarios. Any of the test suites that you define in a SOAtest project can be converted to regression test suites. Furthermore, using XPATH you can selectively indicate which portions of the test cases may change from test to test and which values should never change. Once you have a set of regression tests that you're happy with, SOAtest provides a command-line mechanism to kick off your test suites automatically. Thus in an agile, continuous integration environment you can run regression testing at night, at lunch, or every hour on the hour to ensure that you find bugs early and often.

SOAtest provides several reporting features (auto-generated reports for nightly regression tests, on-demand, detailed summary reports for test suites, and WS-I interoperability reports). I found the quality and readability of the reports developed by SOAtest to be quite good. Figure 2 provides a snapshot of part of the SOAtest detailed report. The WS-I interoperability reports were pretty low quality, difficult to navigate, and provided information overload. In fairness to SOAtest, those reports are copyrighted by WS-I and seem to be auto-generated by one or more WS-I tools. Consequently, I'm not sure that Parasoft has any control over the quality of these reports. Nonetheless, I would have liked a WS-I conformance report of the same quality and user-friendliness as the native SOAtest reports.

Advanced Testing Features
The palette of testing and analysis features in SOAtest is extensive. In the interest of not filling up this entire magazine with feature descriptions, I'll list several of the compelling features that I've not covered already:
- Scenario-based testing where subsequent test cases depend on data returned from previous test cases
- Stress/load testing your SOA and specifying Quality of Service parameters
- Testing non-XML services (JMS, MQ, TIBCO, EJB, REST, Binary, Text, etc.)
- Validate SOAP security using WS-Security (encryption, digital signatures, and authentication)
- Asynchronous service testing
- Custom scripting with Python, JavaScript, or Java (Figure 3)

As I mentioned earlier, the mock service feature is a bit awkward to work with initially. Also, the WS-I conformance report was not up to the same quality standards as the native SOAtest reports. With SOA's strong integration and interoperability play, there are a lot of enterprises that have Java and other services that all need to be involved in the same business process and testing scenario.

In spite of my general dislike for software analysis and testing, I found Parasoft's SOAtest 5.0 to be a well-designed tool that took a lot of the pain and work out of testing and validating a SOA. The tool isn't perfect, but it is easily one of the best SOA testing tools that I've ever worked with.

Product Snapshot

Target Audience: SOA architects, developers, QA/testers, and analysts

Level: Beginner to Advanced

Pros: Powerful, intuitive UI, robust testing and analysis tools

Cons: The mock service feature is a bit awkward, only supports Java clients for now

Testing environment: Dell Inspiron 640m, 1.6GHz Intel Core-Duo, 2GB RAM, Windows XP Pro with SP2

Platforms: Windows 2000/XP, Linux, Solaris

More Stories By Kyle Gabhart

Kyle Gabhart is a subject matter expert specializing in strategic planning and tactical delivery of enterprise technology solutions, blending EA, BPM, SOA, Cloud Computing, and other emerging technologies. Kyle currently serves as a director for Web Age Solutions, a premier provider of technology education and mentoring. Since 2001 he has contributed extensively to the IT community as an author, speaker, consultant, and open source contributor.

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SOA News 04/04/07 04:11:45 PM EDT

Few topics evoke more groans and eye rolling from software engineers and Web developers than the dreaded 'TESTING.' Testing falls into the same category as documentation, refactoring code, dusting, and visiting the dentist. Put it off until the last minute, do as little as possible, do it quickly, and move on to something else. I must confess that I have the same visceral reaction to the thought of 'testing' as others do. Consequently, I approached the prospect of reviewing a testing tool with the loathing of visiting the dentist. I was very relieved to discover that Parasoft's SOAtest 5.0 took a lot of the pain, frustration, and busy work out of the testing experience.

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