Centralized Monitoring System for Automated Tests with Elasticsearch and Kibana

In this post, I want to give you some practical information about a monitoring system for automated tests. I will touch the following topics:
  • Why we need a monitoring system for automated tests
  • What are the potential benefits of the monitoring system
  • A simple approach using the following technologies:
    • Elasticsearch
    • Kibana
    • Firebase test lab, gcloud and gsutil
    • XCTest and Espresso

What is the Centralization of Log Systems

In a development pipeline, we have a variety of tools and technologies with different languages and scripts. CI/CD pipeline is a good place the see the process of the development, but to get the detail of an item in the pipeline, we need to get into that item and tackle with logs and data. Some times this investigation requires some capabilities to understand it. One of the easiest ways to get a common understanding from the logs in the pipeline is using one easy tool for the whole process. When we collect all the logs and data into one place then we can start debugging activity from here. Therefore the centralized log system means that all the logs and data related to the development pipeline should be stored in one place with a timestamp and/or tags for data separation.

What are Automated Tests

Any types at any testing level which are scripted and run over tools can be called as automated tests. Therefore, it is not aiming to one level just as a unit test or an integration level testing and not also functional or non-functional tests, any tests that we can run on CI/CD pipeline could be considered in the fashion. Basically, the following test matrix shows the test types considering the test levels. As the test pyramid suggests that the more test in the low-level, the more reliable and fast automated tests we would get so staring from the unit level most of the tests could be automated and bonded to the monitoring system.
The test types considering the test levels

What Means the Monitoring System for Automated Tests

As we can see from the testing types table, we have lots of testing types and each testing types have a great variety of tools with different language support. Each test type produces different kinds of output, such as XML, JSON, HTML, and so on, in a different environment so reaching these outputs and understanding them is a pretty hard and time-consuming task and it also requires credential management for each environment. 

The monitoring system for the automated test can collect the test results from the different environments as soon as the tests completed or during a test run. Then the data can be used to draw graphs, create tables, and some simulations. In this way, everyone can see the result of all the automated tests written for the product in realtime.

Why We Need a Monitoring System For Automated Tests

As defined in the previous section, collecting the logs and data into one common place makes it easier to work with these data. These data can be used for monitoring, debugging, reporting, alerting, and other purposes so important thing is collecting data and making them available for the whole team. 

The benefits of the monitoring system for automated tests can be summarized into the following topics:

1. Team Awareness

If everything in a system is transparent, then the system itself shows what it is. There will no extra word to explain it. Every day the monitoring system shows the result of the tests run against the product and it highlights how much of them passed and failed. If there are two kinds of tests on the monitor and one has a red part, then there is no more word to explain that the red part test has a problem and it needs to be solved. This can create team awareness of the product to take any action about failure. 

2. Contribution

Anyone can write a test for any test type if he is willing to write. The monitoring system can be itself a self-explained system that you can easily see the separation between test types and products. If the number of unit tests written for the Android app is half of the number of the unit tests written for the iOS app then the team should take action to remove this gap.  

3. Quality-Centric Development

Software development is a continuous effort so every commits adds something new on the product. If there is something wrong with one of the quality metrics then the related action should be taken to improve the related metric. 

4. Increased Number of the Automated Test

The stability in the results is good as far as the numbers of the tests go up. If the number of the test stay stable for every commit, we will get lower code coverage. Each new requires new automated tests and fixing defects also requires updating correctness of tests or adding some extra tests for edge cases. Monitoring these metrics, courage us to write more tests and make them passed.

5. Complete-Working Process - CI

In practice, sometimes, the CI process doesn't have tests, or these steps are somehow skipped. The main responsibility of the team is to develop a high-quality product. The meaning of the high-quality product depends on the requirement but there is only one way to understand the quality of the product is to check requirements, or other meaning testing it against to the requirements. The good news is that; if we can monitor the tests, we should have already implemented those tests to the CI. 

6. Easier Debugging

The best part of the centralized logging system, having a starting point for debugging errors, failures, exceptions. Logging not only results but also logging the deepest info of the failures and the exceptions make debugging easier. 

What is Elasticsearch

Elasticsearch is the heart of the Elastic (ELK) Stack. Elasticsearch is an open-source search engine. It is built on Apache Lucene. It provides a Restful API. The first version of Elasticsearch was released in 2010, then it became the de facto search engine and it is commonly used for full-text search, business analytics, log analytics, security intelligence, and some of the operational intelligence. 

Elastic Stack

Elasticsearch is a full-text and distributed NoSQL database so it stores documents with indexing them instead of tables and schemes. We can send data in JSON format to the Elasticsearch database by Restful API or Logstash, another tool for logs operations. 

What is Kibana

Kibana is a product from ELK Stack. It is an open-source data virtualization tool that is designed to use Elasticsearch as a data source. Once you integrated Elasticsearch and Kibana and fed the Elasticsearch database with data then you use the Kibana.  Kibana has a user-friendly web user interface to create indexes, search, and dashboards. On the dashboard, you can add flexible chars, graphs, heat maps, histograms.

Setting Up Elasticsearch and Kibana in Docker

Containers make everything easier, we can run Elasticsearch and Kibana easily with a docker-compose.yaml. Basically, I am using the docker images provided by Elastic company officially with the version of 6.6.0 for both Elasticsearch and Kibana. Then it runs the Elasticsearch on port 9200 and the Kibana on port 5601. Therefore after the docker-compose up command, you can navigate to http://localhost:9200 for Elasticsearch and http://localhost:5601 for Kibana.

Export Data from Firebase to Elasticsearch

I mentioned above, to feed the Elasticsearch database Logstash is used for most generic architecture. However, in this post, we want to integrate mobile application testing in the cloud. We use Firebase as a cloud mobile testing provider.  Firebase provides test labs to run mobile application testing. For mobile application testing we have implemented tests with native tools so for Android testing, we will use Espresso and for iOS testing, we will use XCTest.

To be able to export data from Firebase to Elasticsearch we need to follow these steps:
  1. Run mobile tests with auto-generated UUID by using GCLOUD cli 
  2. Calculate the related test result files with this UUID
  3. Grasp the .XML files from Google Storage by using GSUTIL
  4. Export data on those .XML files to Elasticseach by using Restful API. For each run to be distinctive, create new label called timeString. This variable will be used to separate the test runs and make them ordered.
You run the script with android or ios options:

# run test and export data
bash run_tests.sh android
bash run_tests.sh ios

# only export data
python3.6 export_xml_data_elastic.py android
python3.6 export_xml_data_elastic.py ios

and this is the Python script to export the data

Creating Interactive Dashboard on Kibana 

Search on Kibana with Filters

Go to the Discover menu and select one item in the list then click the + button of the related filter item. Once you click the + button next to the name item it filters the search item with value name has and then I want to add the testProject to filter both ios project with unit tests.

Kibana searching with filters

Create Visualizations

Click Visualize then click + button on the middle of the page, it will pop-up types of visualization menu then you can select one of your favorite charts. Then it opens the saved search item, you can select the search you saved in the previous step.

Kibana setting the metrics

I choose the bar chart, later I will add one column to show the number of success, failure, and error.  As you can see from the picture above you need to define the Metrics and the picture below shows how to split the chart for each run by setting the Buckets

Kibana setting Buckets

Creating an Interactive Dashbord

Finally, we can create a Kibana Dashboard that can display every chart related to the automated test results. Click on the Dashboard menu and click the add button on the top-right then select the visualization that you created in the previous step. That's all! Now we can check the dashboard.

Kibana dashboard with the result of automated tests

If you want to see the repository and contribute it, you can fork it from Github :)


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