Reporting on Unit Tests with VSTS Containerized Apps

I am a purist at heart and when I do something I want to take full advantage of the tools I am using. In the case of Docker, that means emphasizing that ALL of my code should run in the same container as my final product. What is the value otherwise?

To that end, I set up about exploring how I might report on unit tests with a VSTS build. It is not an easy process because, in my view, VSTS and .NET do not naturally lend themselves to the containerized architectures. Microsoft is working hard on changing this and have made great strides but, there are still some issues to work out.

However, in this case the central problem has to do with what Docker creates, an image, which is immutable meaning, during its construction you can not read from it, nor would you want to.

Approach 1: Run the Tests before Image Creation

The simplest approach is to run the unit tests before you create the image and add a dependent build phase which only executes if all unit tests pass. While this is simple and would work, it violates, in my mind, the principles of containerization.

Code is run in the same way for all environments

This matters for testing as it is the idea spot you might find a difference. If someone was using a different version of a library and it worked there and even worked on the build server but didnt work in the container, you would never know until you deployed.

Admittingly this is rare for any experienced development team who would be keeping close tabs on this but, it does happen (happened at West Monroe when a member of our team insisted on using the Alpha branch while everyone else used Stable for Xamarin.

My goal was to find a way to perform the unit tests in the very same containerized environment the code would run. So, I turned to the God of Wisdom: Google

Approach 2: Docker Compose to the rescue

Docker Compose is one of those tools that was created for one purpose but, I think, ended up fulfilling another. While you can still deploy production code using Compose, the trend right now is towards Orchestration with something like Kubernetes. Still, Compose is great for applications that wont use Kubernetes but still need mimic local representations of production dependencies.

In my searching I came across this fantastic article on Medium by a fellow developer who found an ingenious way to accomplish what I was seeking using Docker Compose.

Running your unit tests with VSTS and Compose

The gist is, we can use a Dockerfile which creates a “test” image which has no ENTRYPOINT defined. We can then create a docker-compose file which references that Dockerfile and specifies the ENTRYPOINT in the compose file as the dotnet test command. Here is a sample from my final output.

version: ‘3’
      context: .
      dockerfile: MyApp.Tests/Dockerfile
    entrypoint: dotnet test MyApp.Tests/MyApp.Tests.csproj –logger trx -r /results
  – /opt/vsts/work/_temp:/results

As you scan this Compose file it becomes a bit clearer what is happening. VSTS supports the ability to perform a Docker Compose command. We use this to launch our Test Image and mount its results location for the test results to a local folder (last line above). This way when we run our subsequent step to report the results we have access to the files (they are built and stored in the container remember).

Note: I recommend keeping the directory the same since you can be sure it exists

Here is the Docker Compose up command we will use from the VSTS task

up –abort-on-container-exit –build

Note: the task will preprend docker-compose for us, so we need only specify the arguments.

The –abort-on-container-exit and –build flags just ensure that we build the container image if it is not cached already and the container is exited when our ENTRYPOINT command finishes.

Finally, we come to publishing our Test Results, we can use the existing VSTS Publish Test Results task. Point the task at our mounted directory, specify the desired extension as .trx and the test type ise VSTest (even if you are using a different runner, say NUnit).

Now you should be able to run and see your test results. Should point out that, since we are using dotnet test as our entrypoint, the task WILL FAIL if a test does not pass. So keep that in mind so you can create the proper control flow to not create Docker images from builds that do not have passing unit tests

I hope that helps, I hope you got some good information out of this. Be sure to visit the link above and send thanks to Christian. That article really helped me out.

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