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OSS Test Vision

This page describes aspects of the Open Source Test vision for the Fuego project, along with some ideas for implementing specific ideas related to this vision.

overview of concepts [edit section]

Letter to ksummit discuss [edit section]

Here's an e-mail Tim sent to the ksummit-discuss list in October, 2016:

I have some ideas on Open Source testing that I'd like to throw out there
for discussion.  Some of these I have been stewing on for a while, while
some came to mind after talking to people at recent conference events.

Sorry - this is going to be long...

First, it would be nice to increase the amount of testing we do, by
having more test automation. (ok, that's a no-brainer). Recently there
has been a trend towards more centralized testing facilities, like the
zero-day stuff or board farms used by kernelci. That makes sense, as
this requires specialized hardware, setup,  or skills to operate certain
kinds of test environments.  As one example, an automated test of
kernel boot requires automated control of power to a board or
platform, which is not very common among kernel developers.
A centralized test facility has the expertise and hardware to add
new test nodes relatively cheaply. They can do this more quickly
and much less expensively than the first such node by an individual
new to testing.

However, I think to make great strides in test quantity and coverage,
it's important to focus on ease of use for individual test nodes. My
vision would be to have tens of thousands of individual test nodes
running automated tests on thousands of different hardware platforms
and configurations and workloads.

The kernel selftest project is a step in the right direction for this, because
it allows any kernel developer to easily (in theory) run automated unit tests
for the kernel.  However, this is still a manual process.  I'd like to see
improved standards and infrastructure for automating tests.

It turns out there are lots of manual steps in the testing
and bug-fixing process with the kernel (and other Linux-related
software).  It would be nice if a new system allowed us to capture
manual steps, and over time convert them to automation.

Here are some problems with the manual process that I think need

 1) How does an individual know what tests are valid for their platform?
Currently, this is a manual decision.  In a world with thousands or tens of
thousands of tests, this will be very difficult.  We need to have automated
mechanisms to indicate which tests are relevant for a platform.
Test definitions should include a description of the hardware they need,
or the test setup they need.  For example, it would be nice to have tests
indicate that they need to be run on a node with USB gadget support,
or on a node with the gadget hardware from a particular vendor (e.g. a
particular SOC), or with a particular hardware phy (e.g. Synopsis).  As
another example, if a test requires that the hardware physically reboot,
then that should be indicated in the test.  If a test requires that a particular
button be pressed (and that the button be available to be pressed), it
should be listed.  Or if the test requires that an external node be available
to participate in the test (such as a wifi endpoint, CANbus endpoint, or
i2C device) be present, that should be indicated.  There should be a
way for the test nodes which provide those hardware capabilities,
setups, or external resources to identify themselves.  Standards should
be developed for how a test node and a test can express these capabilities
and requirements.  Also, standards need to be developed so that
a test can control those external resources to participate in tests.
Right now each test framework handles this in its own way (if it provides
support for it at all).

I heard of a neat setup at one company where the video output
from a system was captured by another video system, and the results
analyzed automatically.  This type of test setup currently requires an
enormous investment of expertise, and possibly specialized hardware.
Once such a setup is performed in a few locations, it makes much
more sense to direct tests that need such facilities to those locations,
than it does to try to spread the expertise to lots of different
individuals (although that certainly has value also).

For a first pass, I think the kernel CONFIG variables needed by a test
should be indicated, and they could be compared with the config
for the device under test.  This would be a start on the expression
of the dependencies between a test and the features of the test node.

2) how do you connect people who are interested in a particular
test with a node that can perform that test?

My proposal here is simple - for every subsystem of the kernel,
put a list of test nodes in the MAINTAINERS file, to
indicate nodes that are available to test that subsystem.  Tests can
be scheduled to run on those nodes, either whenever new patches
are received for that sub-system, or when a bug is encountered
and developers for that subsystem want to investigate it by writing
a new test.  Tests or data collection instructions that are now
provided manually would be converted to formal test definitions,
and added to a growing body of tests.  This should help people
re-use test operations that are common.  Capturing test operations
that are done manually into a script would need to be very easy
(possibly itself automated), and it would need to be easy to publish
the new test for others to use.

Basically, in the future, it would be nice if when a person reported
a bug, instead of the maintainer manually walking someone through
the steps to identify the bug and track down the problem, they could
point the user at an existing test that the user could easily run.

I imagine a kind of "test app store", where a tester can
select from thousands of tests according to their interest.  Also,
people could rate the tests, and maintainers could point people
to tests that are helpful to solve specific problems.

3) How does an individual know how to execute a test and how
to interpret the results?

For many features or sub-systems, there are existing tools
(e.g bonnie for filesystem tests, netperf for networking tests,
or cyclictest for realtime), but these tools have a variety of
options for testing different aspects of a problem or for dealing
with different configurations or setups.  Online you can find tutorials
for running each of these, and for helping people interpret
the results. A new test system should take care of running
these tools with the proper command line arguments for different
test aspects, and for different test targets ('device-under-test's).

For example, when someone figures out a set of useful
arguments to cyclictest for testing realtime on a beaglebone board,
they should be able to easily capture those arguments to allow
another developer using the same board to easily re-use
those test parameters, and interpret the cylictest results,
in an automated fashion.  Basically we want to automate
the process of finding out "what options do I use for this test
on this board, and what the heck number am I supposed
to look at in this output, and what should its value be?".

Another issue is with interpretation of test results from large test
suites.  One notorious example of this is LTP.  It produces
thousands of results, and almost always produces failures or
results that can be safely  ignored on a particular board or in a
particular environment. It requires a large amount of manual
evaluation and expertise to determine which items to pay
attention to from LTP.  It would be nice to be able to capture
this evaluation, and share it with others with either the same
board, or the same test environment, to allow them to avoid
duplicating this work.

Of course, this should not be used to gloss over bugs in LTP or
bugs that LTP is reporting correctly and actually need to be paid
attention to.

4) How should this test collateral be expressed, and how should
it be collected, stored, shared and re-used?

There are a multitude of test frameworks available.  I am proposing
that as a community we develop standards for test packaging which
include this type of information (test dependencies, test parameters,
results interpretation).  I don't know all the details yet.  For this reason
I am coming to the community see how others are solving these problems
and to get ideas for how to solve them in a way that would be useful
for multiple frameworks.  I'm personally working on the Fuego test
framework - see http://fuegotest.org/wiki, but I'd like to create something
that could be used with any test framework.

5) How to trust test collateral from other sources (tests, interpretation)

One issue which arises with this type of sharing (or with any type of sharing)
is how to trust the materials involved.  If a user puts up a node with
their own hardware, and trusts the test framework to automatically download
and execute a never-before-seen test, this creates a security and trust
issue.  I believe this will require the same types of authentication and
trust mechanisms (e.g. signing, validation and trust relationships) that we
use to manage code in the kernel.

I think this is more important than it sounds.  I think the real value of this
system will come when tens of thousands of nodes are running tests where
the system owners can largely ignore the operation of the system, and
instead the test scheduling and priorities can be driven by the needs of
developers and maintainers who the test node owners have never
interacted with.

6) What is the motivation for someone to run a test on their hardware?

Well, there's an obvious benefit to executing a test if you are personally
interested in the result.  However, I think the benefit of running an enormous
test system needs to be de-coupled from that immediate direct benefit.
I think we should look at this the same way  we look at other crowd-sourced
initiatives, like Wikipedia.  While there is some small benefit for someone
producing an individual page edit, we need to move beyond that to
the benefit to the community of the cumulative effort.

I think that if we want tens of thousands of people to run tests, then we
need to increase the cost/benefit ratio for the system.  First, you need to
reduce the cost so that it is very cheap, in all of [time|money|expertise|
ongoing attention], to set up and maintain a test node.  Second, there
needs to be a real benefit that people can measure from the cumulative
effect of participating in the system.  I think it would be valuable to
report bugs found and fixed by the system as a whole, and possibly to
attribute positive results to the output provided by individual
nodes.  (Maybe you could 'game-ify' the operation of test nodes.)

Well, if you are still reading by now, I appreciate it.  I have more ideas, including
more details for how such a system might work, and what types of things
it could accomplish. But I'll save that for smaller groups who might be more
directly interested in this topic.

To get started, I will begin working on a prototype of a test packaging system
that includes some of the ideas mentioned here: inclusion of test collateral,
and package validation.  I would also like to schedule a "test summit" of
some kind (maybe associated with ELC or Linaro Connect, or some
other event), to discuss standards in the area I propose.

I welcome any response to these ideas.  I plan to discuss them
at the upcoming test framework mini-jamboree in Tokyo next week,
and at Plumbers (particularly during the 'testing and fuzzing' session)
the week following.  But feel free to respond to this e-mail as well.

 -- Tim Bird

Ideas related to the vision [edit section]

Capturing tests easily [edit section]

  • should be easy to capture a command line sequence, and test the results
  • maybe do an automated capture and format into a clitest file that can be used at a here document inside a fuego test script?

test collateral [edit section]

  • does it need to be board-specific
  • elements of test collateral:
    • test dependencies:
      • kernel config values needed
      • kernel features needed:
        • proc filesystem
        • sys filesystem
        • trace filesystem
      • test hardware needed
      • test node setup features
        • ability to reboot the board
        • ability to soft-reset the board
        • ability to install a new kernel
      • presence of certain programs on target
        • bc
        • top, ps, /bin/sh, bash?
  • already have:
    • pn and reference logs
    • positive and negative result counts (specific to board)
    • test specs indicate parameters for the test
    • test plans indicate different profiles (method to match test to test environment - e.g. filesystem test with type of filesystem hardware)

test app store [edit section]

  • need a repository where tests can be downloaded
    • like Jenkins plugin repository
    • like debian package feed
  • need a client for browsing tests, installing tests, updating tests
  • store a test in github, and just refer to different tests in different git repositories?
  • test ratings
  • test metrics (how many bugs found)

authenticating tests [edit section]

  • need to prevent malicious tests
  • packages should be signed by an authority, after review by someone
    • who? the Fuego maintainers? This would turn into a bottleneck

test system metrics [edit section]

  • number of bugs found and fixed in upstream software
  • number of bugs found and fixed in test system
  • bug categories (See Metrics)

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