Linux Symposium, July 13th - 17th, 2009, Montreal, Canada
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July 13-17, 2009

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Autotest - testing the untestable

John Admanski (jadmanski@google.com)

Increased automated testing has been one of the most popular and beneficial trends in software engineering. Yet low-level systems such as the kernel and hardware have proven extremely difficult to test effectively, and as a result much kernel testing has taken place in a manual and relatively ad-hoc manner. Most existing test frameworks are designed to test higher-level software isolated from the underlying platform, which is assumed to be stable and reliable. Testing the underlying platform itself requires a completely new set of assumptions and these must be reflected in the framework's design from the ground up. The design must incorporate the machine under test as an important component of the system and must anticipate failures at any level within the kernel and hardware. Furthermore, the system must be capable of scaling to hundreds or even thousands of machines under test, enabling the simultaneous testing of many different development kernels each on a variety of hardware platforms. The system must therefore facilitate efficient sharing of machine resources among developers and handle automatic upkeep of the fleet. Finally, the system must achieve end-to-end automation to make it simple for developers to perform basic testing and incorporate their own tests with minimal effort and no knowledge of the framework's internals. At the same time, it must accommodate complex cluster-level tests and diverse, specialized testing environments within the same scheduling, execution and reporting framework.

Autotest is an open-source project that overcomes these challenges to enable large-scale, fully automated testing of low-level systems and detection of rare bugs and subtle performance regressions. UsingAutotest at Google, kernel developers get per-checkin testing on a pool of hundreds of machines, and hardware test engineers can qualify thousands of new machines in a short time frame. This paper will cover the above challenges and present some of the solutions successfully employed inAutotest . It will focus on the layered system architecture and how that enables the distribution of not only the test execution environment but the entire test control system, as well as the leveraging of Python to provide simple but infinitely extensible job control and test harnesses, and the automatic system health monitoring and machine repairs used to isolate users from the management of the test bed.



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