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If you’re a database administrator (DBA) or database developer, you’ve most likely faced challenges throughout the development lifecycle, such as backup errors, insufficient data or system availability, configuration issues and so on.
One of the most important tasks in developing your database is constant testing. And if you’re not using database automation, testing may prove to be the biggest challenge of all. This is particularly true if you’re using a test-driven development (TDD) approach and want to build unit tests before writing the actual, functional code.
Proponents of agile database development know that saving valuable time is key to building a healthy and efficient database. If you’re testing manually, you’ll not only be prone to more errors, but you'll be wasting a lot of precious time.
Here are nine challenges you may face if you’re testing manually, and how database automation can solve them:
- Build-and-Test Scripts. If you’re manually testing your database, then writing scripts to test each version or change before you build will be exhausting and will drain resources from other tasks. With database automation, however, you’ll be able to run the scripts automatically and catch any failed unit tests quickly.
- Data Integrity Tests. Sometimes retrieval, storage or processing operations can cause unintended changes to the data, resulting in data corruption and a lack of data integrity. This is in addition to data corruption caused by human error, which is much more probable if you’re doing manual tests. Not only will database automation minimize the probability of human error, but it can monitor any changes to the data through automatic, recurring tests.
- Database Schema Changes. It’s important to make sure that existing features aren’t negatively impacted by feature additions, especially if you’re working with fast release cycles. Building automated tests to catch any of these changes can ensure that you don’t have to make unnecessary fixes. Once you’ve automated tests to monitor changes to existing features, you’ll be able to perform continuous integration quickly and safely.
- Standards and Best Practices Checks. No matter how disciplined your standards and best practices are when you start out, changes in requirements, fast release cycles, or changes and growth within your team can lead to relaxed standards. Automated checks will ensure a constant vigilance on your standards and best practices.
- Consistency Checks. Patterns are important when performing procedures that are similar, such as storage procedures, security practices, tables and so on. Similar procedures should have similar conventions. You can automate your database to check that patterns are used.
- Rapid Market Changes. If you’re trying to adapt to market changes and be competitive, then you know that speed is imperative to staying relevant. Automated checks can ensure that existing procedures and codes aren’t negatively affected or lost when updating your systems, which can happen if you’re manually testing.
- Repetitive Database Testing.Sometimes you’ll be working with multiple vendors to meet storage requirements, such as when you’re testing an enterprise application. In addition, tests also need to pass through the layers of dev, QA, pre-production and post-production. Performing such repetitive tasks can get boring and result in laziness, and thus inaccuracy. Automating your database prevents such pitfalls.
- Fixes and Troubleshoots.If you’re manually testing your database, then you’re prone to finding glitches late in the development process, and troubleshooting can be problematic. For example, there may an issue that shows up in the production phase that was not there in the staging phase. Through automation, however, you can catch these issues and glitches fairly quickly.
- Repeated Application Releases. When you have to make regular and frequent application releases, your testing cycles need to keep up the pace. With manual testing, you run the risk of your testing cycles being slower than the release cycles, which makes errors inevitable. Automate your testing cycles so you can release your applications quickly and safely.
Savvy DBAs will realize that database automation can prevent errors and unnecessary issues, and smart developers will see database automation as a tool that can make their jobs easier. It relieves them of many arduous, repetitive tasks and allows them to focus on more important areas.
By Yaniv Yehuda, the co-founder and CTO of DBmaestro, an enterprise software development company focusing on database development and deployment technologies. Yaniv is a DevOps expert who spent the last couple of years raising awareness about the challenges surrounding database development and deployment, and how to support database continuous delivery.
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