Deep testing of integrations with Camel

One of the things that often comes up in client conversations about developing integration code with Camel is what test support is available, and more to the point appropriate, for testing integrations. There is a spectrum of test types that can be performed, ranging from fully automated unit tests to full-blown multi-system, user-based “click and see the flow through effects” tests. Camel came with comprehensive test support baked in from it’s very inception, but the mechanisms that are available can be used to go way beyond the standard unit test.

Unit tests

Without wanting to get academic about it, let’s define a unit test as being one that tests the logic encapsulated within a block of code without external side effects. Unit testing straightforward classes is trivial. If you want to make use of external service classes, these can be mocked using your favourite mocking library and injected into the class under test. Camel routes are a little different, in that what they define isn’t executed directly, but rather builds up a set of instructions that are handed to the Camel runtime for execution.

Camel has extensive support for testing routes defined using both the Java DSL as well as the Spring/Blueprints XML DSL. In general the pattern is:

  1. instantiate a RouteBuilder or Spring context containing the routes with a CamelContext, and start the context (this is handled for you by CamelTestSupport or CamelSpringTestSupport – see Camel testing). These should contain direct: endpoints as the inputs to the routes (consumers) and mock: endpoints as the outputs (producers).
  2. get a hold of the mock endpoints, and outline the expectations. A MockEndpoint itself uses a directed builder DSL to allow tou to define a suite of comprehensive expectation, ranging from checking the number of messages received to the details of an individual message. You can make full use of Camel expressions in these tests as well.
  3. create messages that you want to feed in to the route and send them to the direct: endpoint at the top of the route under test using a ProducerTemplate.
  4. assert that the mock endpoints received the expected messages.

An example of this approach can be seen in the RssConsumerRouteBuilderTest in the horo-app I blogged about yesterday.

There are a couple of things that you need to employ this approach successfully. If using Java, the RouteBuilder class that defines your routes should have the ability to have the route endpoint URIs injected and any beans that touch external resources into it – see RssConsumerRouteBuilder. The external beans can easily be mocked as in a standard unit test.

Using the Spring DSL, we can still employ the same general approach, but we need to jump through a couple of hoops to do it. Consider what you would need to do the equivalent. A simple route might be defined via:
[xml]
<route id="fileCopyRoute">
<from uri="file:///some/directory"/>
<to uri="file:///some/other/directory"/>
</route>
[/xml]

You can externalise any URIs using Spring’s property support:
[xml]
<route id="fileCopyRoute">
<from uri="${fileCopyRoute.input}"/>
<to uri="${fileCopyRoute.output}"/>
</route>
[/xml]

You could then define a PropertyPlaceHolderConfigurer with a properties file that defines these properties as
[text]
fileCopyRoute.input=file:///some/directory
fileCopyRoute.output=file:///some/other/directory
[/text]

The definition of this class should be in a Spring context file seperate to that of your route definitions. For testing you would run the routes with another test XML file that defines a PropertyPlaceHolderConfigurer that points to a test file with the test URIs:
[text]
fileCopyRoute.input=direct:fileCopyRoute.in
fileCopyRoute.output=mock:fileCopyRoute.out
[/text]

This is usually why Spring DM/Blueprints based bundle projects split the config across (a minimum of) two context files. One (META-INF/spring/spring-context-osgi.xml) contains all of the beans that touch the OSGi runtime including the properties mechanism, and the other (META-INF/spring/spring-context.xml) contains your physical routes. When testing you can easily switch out the OSGi bits via another config file. This allows you to inject in other bits during a unit test of the XML-based routes, or when using the camel-maven-plugin in order to run those routes off the command line without an OSGi container like ServiceMix.

Embedded integration tests

Sometimes, testing just the route logic isn’t enough. When I was building out the horo-app, I happily coded up my routes, tested tham and deployed, only to have them blow up immediately. What happened? The objects that I was expecting to receive from the RSS component didn’t match those the component actually sent out. So I changed tact. To engage the component as part of the route I needed a web server to serve the file that fed the test.

Integration testing is usually pretty problematic in that you need an external system servicing your tests – and when you are in an environment where the service changes, you can break the code of the other people working against the same system. But there is a solution! Sun’s Java 6 comes with an embeddable web server that you can start up as part of your integration tests.

The approach that I used was to spin up this server at the start of my test, and configure it programatically to serve up a response suitable for my test when a certain resource was consumed. The server was started on port 0, which means that it’s up to the runtime to assign an available port on the machine when the test runs. This is very important as it enables multiple instances of the same test to run at the same time, as is often the case on CI servers. Without it, tests would trip over each other. Similar approaches are possible using other embeddable server types, such as LDAP via ApacheDS, messaging via ActiveMQ, or databases via H2 or Derby.

Tests that require an external resource often start failing on large projects without any changes on the programmer’s side due to this exact reason – the underlying system dependencies changing. By embedding the server to test your integration against, you decouple yourself from that dependency.

The routes in your test then inject the URI to the embedded resource. In my case, I whipped up an integration test version of the original unit test (RssConsumerRouteBuilderITCase) to do exactly this. Integration tests can be wired in to a seperate part of the Maven build lifecycle using the maven-failsafe-plugin and use a different naming convention (*ITCase.java as opposed to *Test.java).

Usually the way the you structure your tests to avoid duplicating the lifecycle of these embedded backends ends up relying on a test class hierarchy, which may end up looking like:

  • CamelTestSupport
    • CamelTestSupportWithDatabase
    • CamelTestSupportWithWebserver

which I don’t really like, as you inevitably end up requiring two kinds of resource in a test. A much better option is to manage these extended resources using JUnit’s @Rule annotation. This treats any object that implements the org.junit.rules.ExternalResource interface as an aspect of the test, stopping and starting it as part of the test’s lifecycle. As such, you can compose your test of as many of these dependencies as you like – all without a rigid class hierarchy.

This approach allows you to test your integration code against a physical backend, without requiring that backend to be shared between developers. This decouples your development from the rest of the team and allows your integration tests to be run in a CI server. A huge win, as only tests which are deterministic end up being run and maintained in the long term.

#winning!

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