Integration testing (sometimes called integration and testing, abbreviated I&T) is the phase in software testing in which individual software modules are combined and tested as a group. It occurs after unit testing and before validation testing. Integration testing takes as its input modules that have been unit tested, groups them in larger aggregates, applies tests defined in an integration test plan to those aggregates, and delivers as its output the integrated system ready for system testing.
The purpose of integration testing is to verify functional, performance, and reliability requirements placed on major design items. These "design items", i.e., assemblages (or groups of units), are exercised through their interfaces using black-box testing, success and error cases being simulated via appropriate parameter and data inputs. Simulated usage of shared data areas and inter-process communication is tested and individual subsystems are exercised through their input interface. Test cases are constructed to test whether all the components within assemblages interact correctly, for example across procedure calls or process activations, and this is done after testing individual modules, i.e., unit testing. The overall idea is a "building block" approach, in which verified assemblages are added to a verified base which is then used to support the integration testing of further assemblages.
Software integration testing is performed according to the software development life cycle (SDLC) after module and functional tests. The cross-dependencies for software integration testing are: schedule for integration testing, strategy and selection of the tools used for integration, define the cyclomatical complexity of the software and software architecture, reusability of modules and life-cycle and versioning management.
Some different types of integration testing are big-bang, top-down, and bottom-up, mixed (sandwich) and risky-hardest. Other Integration Patterns are: collaboration integration, backbone integration, layer integration, client-server integration, distributed services integration and high-frequency integration.
In the big-bang approach, most of the developed modules are coupled together to form a complete software system or major part of the system and then used for integration testing. This method is very effective for saving time in the integration testing process. However, if the test cases and their results are not recorded properly, the entire integration process will be more complicated and may prevent the testing team from achieving the goal of integration testing.
A type of big-bang integration testing is called "usage model testing" which can be used in both software and hardware integration testing. The basis behind this type of integration testing is to run user-like workloads in integrated user-like environments. In doing the testing in this manner, the environment is proofed, while the individual components are proofed indirectly through their use. Usage Model testing takes an optimistic approach to testing, because it expects to have few problems with the individual components. The strategy relies heavily on the component developers to do the isolated unit testing for their product. The goal of the strategy is to avoid redoing the testing done by the developers, and instead flesh-out problems caused by the interaction of the components in the environment. For integration testing, Usage Model testing can be more efficient and provides better test coverage than traditional focused functional integration testing. To be more efficient and accurate, care must be used in defining the user-like workloads for creating realistic scenarios in exercising the environment. This gives confidence that the integrated environment will work as expected for the target customers.
Bottom-up testing is an approach to integrated testing where the lowest level components are tested first, then used to facilitate the testing of higher level components. The process is repeated until the component at the top of the hierarchy is tested.
All the bottom or low-level modules, procedures or functions are integrated and then tested. After the integration testing of lower level integrated modules, the next level of modules will be formed and can be used for integration testing. This approach is helpful only when all or most of the modules of the same development level are ready. This method also helps to determine the levels of software developed and makes it easier to report testing progress in the form of a percentage.
Top-down testing is an approach to integrated testing where the top integrated modules are tested and the branch of the module is tested step by step until the end of the related module.
Sandwich testing is an approach to combine top down testing with bottom up testing.
One limitation to this sort of testing is that any conditions not stated in specified integration tests, outside of the confirmation of the execution of design items, will generally not be tested.
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