Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Unit Testing with MongoDB

Back in June I presented at the London Scala User Group (video here) on our experiences on a recent Scala project that used MongoDB.

One of the questions I was asked was how we go about mocking MongoDB for testing purposes (especially unit testing)? My answer was that we don’t! This raised a couple of eyebrows in the audience, but we’ve found this works just fine for us.

In this blog post I will explore our thoughts and reasoning in a bit more detail.

How do we test with MongoDB?

I’ll be honest: for the majority of our tests (even the unit ones) we just run against a local MongoDB instance. When we are testing repository classes we write tests against a real repository wired up against a real MongoDB instance. We assert against the contents in the MongoDB collections. In some cases, we even test service classes or even controllers with a live repository backend that writes to and retrieves from a real MongoDB instance.

“But you can’t do that!”, I hear you cry. Traditional thinking says that writing tests directly against the database will be too slow. We’ve actually found MongoDB (especially when running locally) to be so blindingly fast that we don’t need to consider doing anything else. For most updates and queries we tend to get sub-millisecond responses.

It’s also a hell of a lot easier and less fragile to back tests with real repository instances than it is to create and configure a load of mocks or strange database testing frameworks.

I’m pragmatic. If using a real database backend was making our tests run too slow or causing them to be too complex then I’d happily consider alternatives. Our experience with MongoDB is that it is both fast enough and that it’s query syntax is succinct enough that we don’t need to bother with those alternatives.

Do we use mocks at all for the database then?

Actually, I rarely use mocks in any of my Scala project now days. I’ve switched much more towards a style of isolating my calls to dependencies and then using mixin traits to override specific behavior for testing. (I’ll write a blog post about this approach soon).

From time to time we do need to write tests that make a repository dependency exhibit a specific behavior which is difficult to emulate against an actual database. In these cases we just use a custom test trait mixed into the repository in order to override methods to exhibit the behavior that we require. Keeps it simple and makes the tests much more readable and much less fragile than using mocks or other frameworks.

1 comment:

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