Testing HTTP Handlers with No Web Server in Sight

FubuMVC 2.0 and 3.0 introduced some tooling I called “Scenarios” that allow users to write mostly declarative integration tests against the entire HTTP pipeline in memory without having to host the application in a web server. I promised a coworker that I would write a blog post about using Scenarios for an internal team that wants to start using it much more in their work. A week of procrastination later and here you go:

NOTE: All samples are using FubuMVC 3.0

Why Integration Tests?

From the very beginning, we tried very hard to make unit testing FubuMVC action methods in isolation as easy as possible. I think we largely succeeded in that goal. However, within the context of a handling an HTTP request, FubuMVC like most web frameworks will potentially wrap those action methods with various middleware strategies for cross cutting technical things like authentication, authorization, logging, transaction management, and content negotiation. At some point, to truly exercise an HTTP endpoint you really do need to write an integration test that exercises the entire chain of HTTP handlers for an HTTP request exactly the way it will be configured inside the running application.

Toward that end, I built a class called EndpointDriver in early versions of FubuMVC that you could use to write integration tests against a FubuMVC application hosted with an embedded Katana server. This early tooling just wrapped WebClient with a FubuMVC specific fluent interface for resolving url’s, setting common options like the content-type and accepts headers, and verifying parts of the HTTP response. Below is a sample from our content negotiation support integration tests in FubuMVC 1.3 (“endpoints” is a reference to the EndpointDriver object for the running application):

[Test]
public void force_to_json_with_querystring()
{
    endpoints.Get("conneg/override/Foo?Format=Json", acceptType: "text/html")
        .ContentTypeShouldBe(MimeType.Json)
        .ReadAsJson<OverriddenResponse>()
        .Name.ShouldEqual("Foo");
}

EndpointDriver was fine at first, but our test library started getting slower as we added more and more tests and the fluent interface just never kept up with everything we needed for HTTP testing (plus I think that WebClient is awkward to use).

Using OWIN for HTTP “Scenarios”

As part of my FubuMVC 2.0 effort last year, I knew that I wanted a much better mechanism than the older EndpointDriver for doing integration testing of HTTP endpoints. Specifically, I wanted:

  • To be able to run HTTP requests and verify the response without having to take the performance hit of a web server
  • To run a FubuMVC application as it would be configured in production
  • To completely configure any part of an HTTP request
  • To be able to declaratively express multiple assertions against the expected response
  • To utilize FubuMVC’s support for “reverse URL resolution” for more traceable tests
  • Access to the raw HTTP request and response for anything unusual you would need to do that didn’t have a specific helper

The end result was a mechanism I called “Scenario’s” that exploited FubuMVC’s OWIN support to run HTTP requests in memory using this signature off of the new FubuRuntime object I explained in an earlier blog post:

OwinHttpResponse Scenario(Action<Scenario> configuration)

The Scenario object models both the HTTP request provides a way to specify expectations about the HTTP response for commonly used things like HTTP status codes, header values, and checking for the presence of string values in the HTTP response body. If need be, you also have access to FubuMVC’s abstractions for the entire HTTP request and response (more on this later).

To make this concrete, let’s say that you’re working through a “Hello, World” exercise with FubuMVC with this class and action method that just returns the text “Hello, World” when you issue a GET to the root “/” url of an application:

public class HomeEndpoint
{
    public string Index()
    {
        return "Hello, World";
    }
}

A scenario test for the action above would look like this code below:

using (var runtime = FubuRuntime.Basic())
{
    // Execute the home route and verify
    // the response
    runtime.Scenario(_ =>
    {
        _.Get.Url("/");

        _.StatusCodeShouldBeOk();
        _.ContentShouldBe("Hello, World");
        _.ContentTypeShouldBe("text/plain");
    });
}

In the scenario above, I’m issuing a GET request to the “/” url of the application and specifying that the resulting status code should be HTTP 200, “content-type” response header should be “text/plain”, and the exact contents of the response body should be “Hello, World.” When a Scenario is executed, it will run every single assertion instead of quitting on the first failure and report on every failed expectation in the specification output. This behavior is valuable when you have to author specifications with slower running scenario setup.

Specifying Url’s

FubuMVC has a model for reverse URL lookup from any endpoint method or the input model that we exploited in Scenario’s for traceable tests:

host.Scenario(_ =>
{
    // Specify a GET request to the Url that runs an endpoint method:
    _.Get.Action<InMemoryEndpoint>(e => e.get_memory_hello());

    // Or specify a POST to the Url that would handle an input message:
    _.Post

        // This call serializes the input object to Json using the 
        // application's configured JSON serializer and setting
        // the contents on the Request body
        .Json(new HeaderInput {Key = "Foo", Value1 = "Bar"});

    // Or specify a GET by an input object to get the route parameters
    _.Get.Input(new InMemoryInput { Color = "Red" });
});

I like the reverse url lookup instead of specifying Url’s directly in the scenarios because:

  1. It makes your scenario tests traceable to the actual handling code
  2. It insulates your scenarios from changes to the Url structures later

Checking the Response Body

For the 3.0 work I did a couple months ago, I fleshed out the Scenario support with more mechanisms to analyze the HTTP response body:

host.Scenario(_ =>
{
    // set up a request here

    // Read the response body as text
    var bodyText = _.Response.Body.ReadAsText();

    // Read the response body by deserializing Json
    // into a .net type with the application's
    // configured Json serializer
    var output = _.Response.Body.ReadAsJson<MyResponse>();

    // If you absolutely have to work with Xml...
    var xml = _.Response.Body.ReadAsXml();
});

Some Other Things…

I’ll happily explain the details of this list on request, but here are some other attributes of Scenario’s that FubuMVC supports right now:

  • You can specify expected values for HTTP response headers
  • You can assert on status codes and descriptions
  • There are helpers to send Json or Xml serialized data based on an input object message
  • There is a mechanism that allows you to disable all security middleware in the application for a single Scenario that has been frequently helpful in testing
  • You have access to the underlying IoC container for the running application from the Scenario if you need to resolve and use application services
  • FubuMVC is now StructureMap 4.0-only for its IoC usage, so we’re able to rely on StructureMap’s child container feature to resolve services during a Scenario execution from a unique child container per run. This allows you to replace services in your application with fakes, mocks, and stubs in a way that prevents your fake services from impacting more than one test.

Scenarios in Jasper

If you didn’t see my blog post earlier this year, FubuMVC is getting a complete reboot into a new project called Jasper late this year/early next year. I absolutely plan on bringing the Scenario support forward into Jasper very early, but this time around we’re completely dropping all of FubuMVC’s HTTP abstractions in favor of directly using the OWIN environment dictionary as the single model of HTTP requests and responses. My thought right now is that we’ll invest heavily in extension methods hanging off of IDictionary<string, object> for commonly used operations against that OWIN dictionary.

To some extent, we’re hoping as well that there will be a good ecosystem of OWIN helpers from other people and projects that will be usable from within Jasper.

Other Reading

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3 thoughts on “Testing HTTP Handlers with No Web Server in Sight

  1. Pingback: Dew Drop – November 9, 2015 (#2128) | Morning Dew

  2. Pingback: Introducing Alba for integration testing against ASP.Net Core applications | The Shade Tree Developer

  3. Pingback: Alba 1.0 – Recipes for ASP.Net Core Integration Testing | The Shade Tree Developer

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