The Best and Worst of Times

We were so busy working out whether we could, we forgot to ask whether we should.

The Horrible Dilemma of Dockerising Databases for Testing

When working with database client code you have essentially got 4 options for testing:

  • Mock out the entire dao layer – so your DB code isn’t tested – which is great when it’s entirely autogenerated and trustworthy
  • Mock the DB driver – an often messy implementation-driven rewrite-backwards of the client code just to make tests go green – proving not much
  • Use a fake in memory database – H2 is a great example – it simulates the database, but isn’t the real thing
  • Install the database via docker – which tests the client code for real

On this scale, the middle points are where the pain lies. Mocking the DB driver is horrible (we do it) and only provides some useful test capabilities. It doesn’t provide ZERO, so there are cases for it, but it proves a limited amount.

Mocking the whole DAO is best… but then who tests the DAO? Will it really work in production?

Skipping all DB tests until integration testing is an option… but is it fail fast?

In memory databases were great until docker came along.

This is the Dilemma

In memory fake databases only prove so much. If you have docker available, and something like Testcontainers to manage it, then why would you use in memory fake databases?

But for many RDBMS installations, once you factor in the real life things you want to include in your simulation like schemas, reference data, stored procedures and triggers… the bootup time for your tests is measurable in minutes.

With docker we’re slowed down, without it we’re faster and blinded to some areas of our real-life environment.

The Answer?

Honestly… no idea. Keep oscillating between extremes of doing it and having slow tests, or not doing it and having naive tests.

We definitely need to include dockerised databases in our builds, but where in the process is still something I want to investigate some more.


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