Modika Modika - 3 months ago 21
C# Question

How are people unit testing with Entity Framework 6, should you bother?

I am just starting out with Unit testings and TDD in general. I have dabbled before but now I am determined to add it to my workflow and write better software.

I asked a question yesterday that kind of included this, but it seems to be a question on its own. I have sat down to start implementing a service class that I will use to abstract away the business logic from the controllers and map to specific models and data interactions using EF6.

The issue is I have roadblocked myself already because I didn't want to abstract EF away in a repository (it will still be available outside the services for specific queries, etc) and would like to test my services (EF Context will be used).

Here I guess is the question, is there a point to doing this? If so, how are people doing it in the wild in light of the leaky abstractions caused by IQueryable and the many great posts by Ladislav Mrnka on the subject of unit testing not being straightforward because of the differences in Linq providers when working with an in memory implementation as apposed to a specific database.

The code I want to test seems pretty simple. (this is just dummy code to try and understand what i am doing, I want to drive the creation using TDD)

Context

public interface IContext
{
IDbSet<Product> Products { get; set; }
IDbSet<Category> Categories { get; set; }
int SaveChanges();
}

public class DataContext : DbContext, IContext
{
public IDbSet<Product> Products { get; set; }
public IDbSet<Category> Categories { get; set; }

public DataContext(string connectionString)
: base(connectionString)
{

}
}


Service

public class ProductService : IProductService
{
private IContext _context;

public ProductService(IContext dbContext)
{
_context = dbContext;
}

public IEnumerable<Product> GetAll()
{
var query = from p in _context.Products
select p;

return query;
}
}


Currently I am in the mindset of doing a few things:


  1. Mocking EF Context with something like this approach- Mocking EF When Unit Testing or directly using a mocking framework on the interface like moq - taking the pain that the unit tests may pass but not necessarily work end to end and back them up with Integration tests?

  2. Maybe using something like Effort to mock EF - I have never used it and not sure if anyone else is using it in the wild?

  3. Not bother testing anything that simply calls back to EF - so essentially service methods that call EF directly (getAll etc) are not unit tested but just integration tested?



Anyone out there actually doing this out there without a Repo and having success?

Answer

This is a topic I'm very interested in. There are many purists who say that you shouldn't test technologies such as EF and NHibernate. They are right, they're already very stringently tested and as a previous answer stated it's often pointless to spend vast amounts of time testing what you don't own.

However, you do own the database underneath! This is where this approach in my opinion breaks down, you don't need to test that EF/NH are doing their jobs correctly. You need to test that your mappings/implementations are working with your database. In my opinion this is one of the most important parts of a system you can test.

Strictly speaking however we're moving out of the domain of unit testing and into integration testing but the principals remain the same.

The first thing you need to do is to be able to mock your DAL so your BLL can be tested independently of EF and SQL. These are your unit tests. Next you need to design your Integration Tests to prove your DAL, in my opinion these are every bit as important.

There are a couple of things to consider:

  1. Your database needs to be in a known state with each test. Most systems use either a backup or create scripts for this.
  2. Each test must be repeatable
  3. Each test must be atomic

There are two main approaches to setting up your database, the first is to run a UnitTest create DB script. This ensures that your unit test database will always be in the same state at the beginning of each test (you may either reset this or run each test in a transaction to ensure this).

Your other option is what I do, run specific setups for each individual test. I believe this is the best approach for two main reasons:

  • Your database is simpler, you don't need an entire schema for each test
  • Each test is safer, if you change one value in your create script it doesn't invalidate dozens of other tests.

Unfortunately your compromise here is speed. It takes time to run all these tests, to run all these setup/tear down scripts.

One final point, it can be very hard work to write such a large amount of SQL to test your ORM. This is where I take a very nasty approach (the purists here will disagree with me). I use my ORM to create my test! Rather than having a separate script for every DAL test in my system I have a test setup phase which creates the objects, attaches them to the context and saves them. I then run my test.

This is far from the ideal solution however in practice I find it's a LOT easier to manage (especially when you have several thousand tests), otherwise you're creating massive numbers of scripts. Practicality over purity.

I will no doubt look back at this answer in a few years (months/days) and disagree with myself as my approaches have changed - however this is my current approach.

To try and sum up everything I've said above this is my typical DB integration test:

[Test]
public void LoadUser()
{
  this.RunTest(session => // the NH/EF session to attach the objects to
  {
    var user = new UserAccount("Mr", "Joe", "Bloggs");
    session.Save(user);
    return user.UserID;
  }, id => // the ID of the entity we need to load
  {
     var user = LoadMyUser(id); // load the entity
     Assert.AreEqual("Mr", user.Title); // test your properties
     Assert.AreEqual("Joe", user.Firstname);
     Assert.AreEqual("Bloggs", user.Lastname);
  }
}

The key thing to notice here is that the sessions of the two loops are completely independent. In your implementation of RunTest you must ensure that the context is committed and destroyed and your data can only come from your database for the second part.

Edit 13/10/2014

I did say that I'd probably revise this model over the upcoming months. While I largely stand by the approach I advocated above I've updated my testing mechanism slightly. I now tend to create the entities in in the TestSetup and TestTearDown.

[SetUp]
public void Setup()
{
  this.SetupTest(session => // the NH/EF session to attach the objects to
  {
    var user = new UserAccount("Mr", "Joe", "Bloggs");
    session.Save(user);
    this.UserID =  user.UserID;
  });
}

[TearDown]
public void TearDown()
{
   this.TearDownDatabase();
}

Then test each property individually

[Test]
public void TestTitle()
{
     var user = LoadMyUser(this.UserID); // load the entity
     Assert.AreEqual("Mr", user.Title);
}

[Test]
public void TestFirstname()
{
     var user = LoadMyUser(this.UserID);
     Assert.AreEqual("Joe", user.Firstname);
}

[Test]
public void TestLastname()
{
     var user = LoadMyUser(this.UserID);
     Assert.AreEqual("Bloggs", user.Lastname);
}

There are several reasons for this approach:

  • There are no additional database calls (one setup, one teardown)
  • The tests are far more granular, each test verifies one property
  • Setup/TearDown logic is removed from the Test methods themselves

I feel this makes the test class simpler and the tests more granular (single asserts are good)

Edit 5/3/2015

Another revision on this approach. While class level setups are very helpful for tests such as loading properties they are less useful where the different setups are required. In this case setting up a new class for each case is overkill.

To help with this I now tend to have two base classes SetupPerTest and SingleSetup. These two classes expose the framework as required.

In the SingleSetup we have a very similar mechanism as described in my first edit. An example would be

public TestProperties : SingleSetup
{
  public int UserID {get;set;}

  public override DoSetup(ISession session)
  {
    var user = new User("Joe", "Bloggs");
    session.Save(user);
    this.UserID = user.UserID;
  }

  [Test]
  public void TestLastname()
  {
     var user = LoadMyUser(this.UserID); // load the entity
     Assert.AreEqual("Bloggs", user.Lastname);
  }

  [Test]
  public void TestFirstname()
  {
       var user = LoadMyUser(this.UserID);
       Assert.AreEqual("Joe", user.Firstname);
  }
}

However references which ensure that only the correct entites are loaded may use a SetupPerTest approach

public TestProperties : SetupPerTest
{
   [Test]
   public void EnsureCorrectReferenceIsLoaded()
   {
      int friendID = 0;
      this.RunTest(session =>
      {
         var user = CreateUserWithFriend();
         session.Save(user);
         friendID = user.Friends.Single().FriendID;
      } () =>
      {
         var user = GetUser();
         Assert.AreEqual(friendID, user.Friends.Single().FriendID);
      });
   }
   [Test]
   public void EnsureOnlyCorrectFriendsAreLoaded()
   {
      int userID = 0;
      this.RunTest(session =>
      {
         var user = CreateUserWithFriends(2);
         var user2 = CreateUserWithFriends(5);
         session.Save(user);
         session.Save(user2);
         userID = user.UserID;
      } () =>
      {
         var user = GetUser(userID);
         Assert.AreEqual(2, user.Friends.Count());
      });
   }
}

In summary both approaches work depending on what you are trying to test.

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