Where’s the Unit Testing?

I’ve been a proponent of Unit Testing, especially for databases. I’ve given presentations on the topic and advocate the use of techniques to verify your code works, especially over time when the complexity grows, new developers change code, and potentially introduce regressions. I’m not the only one as I saw a question recently from Ben Taylor asking where has unit testing gone?

I was disappointed that few people have responded to the piece, and I think this is the same response that unit testing in front end application software received a decade or two ago. Few people saw value in testing, preferring to assume developers will code well. Over time, and with some investment, quite a few people have seen the value of unit testing, though I’m not sure it’s the majority yet. In building database software, we’re still woefully behind, preferring to use ad hoc tests that are subject to human frailty (forgetfulness, making mistakes in running tests or not examining results closely).

I do know a few people that are customers of Redgate and use unit testing extensively in their database code. They definitely spend a lot of effort building unit tests, often having more test code than feature code, but they also have very low rates of complaints and bugs from users. I hope that more people having success will publish details on their unit testing successes and failures, and I’d welcome more pieces at SQLServerCentral on either side of the issue.

For many people writing in-house applications, especially those installed in one location, perhaps a few bugs aren’t a problem. Maybe the impact is low enough that training developers to write tests and making the investment isn’t valuable enough.  However, for those that have disparate external clients, or maybe install software in many locations, I bet that moving to a more thorough set of repeatable, reliable, non-trivial tests will improve your software quality.

Steve Jones

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About way0utwest

Editor, SQLServerCentral
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