Monday, 9 January 2017

EF-based testing, with PeanutButter: Shared databases

The PeanutButter.TestUtils.Entity Nuget package provides a few utilities for testing EntityFramework-based code, backed by TempDb instances so you can test that your EF code works as in production instead of relying on (in my experience) flaky substitutions.
One is the EntityPersistenceTester, which provides a fluent syntax around proving that your data can flow into and out of a database. I'm not about to discuss that in-depth here, but it does allow (neat, imo) code like the following to test POCO persistence:

// snarfed from EmailSpooler tests
public void EmailAttachment_ShouldBeAbleToPersistAndRecall()

which prove that an EmailAttachment POCO can be put into, and successfully retrieved from a database, allowing DateTime properties to drift by a second. All very interesting, and Soon To Be Documented™, but not the focus of this entry.

I'd like to introduce a new feature, but to do so, I have to introduce where it can be used. A base class TestFixtureWithTempDb<T> exists within PeanutButter.TestUtils.Entity. It provides some of the scaffolding required to do more complex testing than just "Can I put a POCO in there?". The generic argument is some implementation of DbContext and it's most useful when testing a repository as it provides a protected GetContext() method which provides a spun-up context of type T, with an underlying temporary database. By default, this is a new, clean database every test, but you can invoke the protected DisableDatabaseRegeneration() method in your test fixture's [OneTimeSetup]-decorated method (or constructor, if you prefer) to make this database live for the lifetime of your test fixture. The base class takes care of disposing of the temporary database when appropriate so you can focus on the interesting stuff: getting your tests (and then code) to work. A full (but simple) example of usage can be found here:

My focus today is on a feature which can help to eliminate a pain-point I (and others) have experienced with EF testing backed onto a TempDb instance: time to run tests. EF takes a second or two to generate internal information about a database the first time some kind of activity (read/write) to that database is done via an EF DbContext. Not too bad on application startup, but quite annoying if it happens at every test. DisableDatabaseRegeneration() helps, but still means that each test fixture has a spin-up delay, meaning that when there are a few test fixtures, other developers on your team become less likely to run the entire test suite -- which is bad for everyone.

However, after some nudging in the right direction by co-worker Mark Whitfeld, I'd like to announce the availability of the UseSharedTempDb attribute in PeanutButter.TestUtils.Entity as of version 1.2.120, released today.
To use, decorate your test fixture:

public class TestCrossFixtureTempDbLifetimeWithInheritence_Part1
    : TestFixtureWithTempDb
    // .. actual tests go here ..

And run your tests. And see an exception:

PeanutButter.TestUtils.Entity.SharedTempDbFeatureRequiresAssemblyAttributeException : 
The UseSharedTempDb class attribute on TestSomeStuff 
requires that assembly SomeProject.Tests have the attribute AllowSharedTempDbInstances.

Try adding the following to the top of a class file:
[assembly: PeanutButter.TestUtils.Entity.Attributes.AllowSharedTempDbInstances]

So, follow the instructions and add the assembly attribute to the top of your test fixture source file and re-run your tests. Congratulations, you're using a shared instance of a TempDb which will be cleaned up when NUnit is finished, providing, of course, that you don't interrupt the test run yourself (:

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