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When a Failure Occurs During Testing
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Failures found during testing can be a time-consuming road block for testers. Time is often lost waiting for a developer to debug the issue or answer a question about the error. This can delay testers from getting more testing done if they need to hold a computer for hours or days waiting for a response. Some failures are so uncommon that they can take several hours or even days to reproduce. This takes time from testers as well as developers, especially if the developers want to observe state on the computer before the failure actually occurs. The following two examples are common occurrences in a test organization. Virtualization has the potential to help an engineering team be more efficient by utilizing export and import and snapshots. Export and Import When using virtual machines, the tester does not need to wait for a developer to debug a failure. Instead, the tester can save the virtual machine and export it to a network share. Saving the virtual machine causes the entire state of the virtual machine to be saved to disk. Export packages up the virtual machine's configuration and stores it in a specified location. A developer can then import that virtual machine at her convenience. Because the virtual machine was paused before it was exported, the virtual machine will then be opened in the paused state. All that a developer needs to do is resume the virtual machine and debug the failure just as if she were sitting in front of a physical computer. This allows the tester to regain control of his test computers faster than if he had been executing a test on the host. It also allows the developer to prioritize the investigation of the issue correctly, and the tester can create and save multiple snapshots of difficult-to-reproduce errors for additional debugging. Snapshots Snapshots can help reduce the time it takes to reproduce bugs that only seem to happen after running for several hours or even days. For example, a tester could write a script that takes a snapshot of the virtual machine every hour. As that script is running, test would execute in the virtual machine. After a failure occurs, the tester can investigate and find the snapshot that occurred prior to the failure. Then, the tester can revert to the snapshot, start the virtual machine from that point, and hit the bug in no more than 60 minutes. Snapshots make it possible for the tester to do this repeatedly without having to wait hours and even days for the bug to reproduce. Some nondeterministic bugs might not be immediately reproducible by this method, but this method can work for bugs that appear after a known period of running time. Snapshots to the Rescue In testing Hyper-V, snapshots have become an important feature for us. We use snapshots so that we do not have to reinstall the guest operating system in a virtual machine every time a new build is available to test. What we do is install the guest operating system in each virtual machine, and then we copy any tools that do not change from build to build. Once the virtual machine is prepped and ready to go, we turn the virtual machine off and create a snapshot of the virtual machine. It is at this point that we start the virtual machine backup, install the daily build, and begin our testing. The reason we do this is that we want to be able to put the virtual machine back to a clean state quickly. We do this by reapplying the
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snapshot, and then installing the next build of our application right away. This way, on a day-to-day basis the only cost to us is installing the daily build which takes only five minutes rather than the hours of setup time needed previously. I do wish I had snapshots back in the day of testing service packs. I remember times of having to install the RTM operating system and then installing a service pack and testing. I would have to do this on a daily basis. If I had snapshots, I would only need to install the RTM operating system once and take a snapshot, and then install the service pack. When I was done testing the service pack, I would reapply the snapshot and have a guaranteed clean RTM operating system on which to install the next build of the service pack. This truly would've saved me hours. Shawn McFarland, Senior SDET
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