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Distributed Unit Testing

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Pablo is a Software Engineer at Codice Software. He can be reached at [email protected] Francisco is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Salamanca. You can reach him at [email protected]

At Codice Software we design and develop software configuration management tools that run on various combinations of operating systems and hardware platforms. For instance, both server and clients run on Windows XP/2000/2003/Vista, Linux, and Mac OS X. And since our software uses .NET, it runs on native Microsoft implementation for Windows and Mono for UNIX-like operating systems.

There's only one way to accurately and efficiently support platform combinations such as these—testing, and lots of it. However, running a software package on 36 platform combinations, release after release, is a Herculean effort. The solution we adopted was to distribute testing tasks by running them in parallel. In addition to uncovering bugs, this approach significantly speeded up the testing process. The key to our distributed testing solution is PNUnit, short for "Parallel NUnit." PNUnit is a modified version of the familiar NUnit ( testing framework that was originally ported from JUnit to .NET. The source code and related files for PNUnit are available electronically; see "Resource Center," page 5.

We were already using NUnit to develop unit tests because our development is .NET based. NUnit lets you write unit tests with all .NET languages, and even adhere to test-driven development principles. Still, our primary concern was testing on multiple platforms using distributed test scenarios. Unfortunately, stock NUnit doesn't support this, hence our decision to extend NUnit to support distributed testing.

One of the reasons we wanted to stick with the NUnit framework is that we were familiar with its environment. Usually when you move to a new testing platform, the first thing you have to do is learn a new scripting language. By extending NUnit, we could use the same programming language and constructions (test suites, fixtures, and the like) that we were used to with regular unit testing.

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