[Glass] Does Gemstone transform integration testing into unit testing?

Lyn Headley laheadle at gmail.com
Mon Jan 13 14:30:01 PST 2014

Hi James,

You make a good point about global system state. Any time a test is
creating or modifying such state it can bleed into other parts of the
system and cause problems for subsequent tests.

Still, I am struck by how much more likely such "bleeding" is in systems
based on traditional databases. At least in a Gemstone system it is easy to
create temporary versions of many of the core classes in an application. In
a traditional application, where your logic is wedded to database
operations, this process is harder to do on a temporary basis. If just
creating a business object means adding a row to a table, then I have to
make sure to delete that row after my test (or use a special "test
database"). In gemstone, however, this is simply creating an object, which
is eventually garbage collected.


On Sat, Jan 11, 2014 at 9:22 PM, James Foster <
james.foster at gemtalksystems.com> wrote:

> Hi Lyn,
> Like most Smalltalks, GemStone/S had adopted the SUnit testing framework.
> You are right that testing in GemStone/S is not quite like testing a
> typical application in a traditional programming language. The usual
> difficulties with the database (create a connection, login, …) are not
> present, but it isn’t quite safe to ignore the database characteristics.
> Since GemStone/S is also a database you get the persistence built-in and
> that usually helps but sometimes adds complexity. One of the goals of unit
> tests is that they can be run in any order without any side-effects. If you
> run every test in a transaction, and abort the transaction (without any
> intermediate commits), then all is well. The complexity comes if you are
> testing code that has side effects and commits. At that point your tests
> are no longer completely isolated.
> I recently wrote a test that showed how ExternalSession handled a compile
> error (unrecognized symbol) in the remote session. The test ran fine in
> isolation and in the test suite, but failed when run with other tests.
> After a few hours of investigation I found that an earlier test had defined
> (and committed) a global with the exact name that I was using for what was
> to be an unrecognized symbol (so there was no compile error!).
> Also, it still makes some sense to have tests with different breadth of
> scope—whether you consider the labels to be unit/integration or something
> else. The concepts of modularity and encapsulation are still important, and
> tests that apply to one module are useful to allow those working on that
> module to reduce their dependency on other modules in order to do some
> testing. Of course, you still need to test that the modules work with each
> other, but when that fails you can often create a narrower test that can be
> isolated to a specific module.
> So, integration testing is easier (everything is easier with GemStone!),
> but still required and something distinct from unit testing.
> James
> On Jan 11, 2014, at 9:00 PM, Lyn Headley <laheadle at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hello Glass! I am still excited about Gemstone/S and I wanted to start a
> conversation about testing.
> It strikes me that a system based on Gemstone/S can be tested in a more
> natural and seamless way than a system based on a "database." Have you ever
> written tests that interact with a database? I have, and it is not as
> smooth as writing tests for code based on the native data structures of a
> programming language. You have to establish connections and submit queries
> in ways that obscure the logic of the code you are trying to test.
> Testing experts sometimes use the terms "unit testing" and "integration
> testing" to refer to different kinds of testing. A "unit test" is a test of
> a small piece of your system while an integration is something more
> complicated, approaching the system as a whole. Here is what a poster on
> stack overflow wrote.
> "An integration test is done to demonstrate that different pieces of the
> system work together. Integration tests cover whole applications, and they
> require much more effort to put together. They usually require resources
> like database instances and hardware to be allocated for them." [1]
> Notice that for this poster a "unit test" is less likely to require a
> "database" than an "integration test." But to my mind, Gemstone/S
> undermines this distinction. In a typical Gemstone system, your application
> is just Smalltalk objects in a huge and persistent memory. You don't do
> anything special to persist them, you just create objects. So what does
> this do to the notion of "integration testing" in such a system? Perhaps
> with Gemstone, all testing is unit testing, or at least, perhaps it could
> be?
> Lyn Headley
> [1]
> http://stackoverflow.com/questions/5357601/whats-the-difference-between-unit-tests-and-integration-tests
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