Alba for Effective ASP.Net Core Integration Testing

Alba is a small library that enables easy integration testing of ASP.Net Core routes completely in process within an NUnit/xUnit.Net/MSTest project. Alba 7.1 just dropped today with .NET 7 support, improved JSON handling for Minimal API endpoints, and multipart form support.

Quickstart with Minimal API

Keeping things almost absurdly simple, let’s say that you have a Minimal API route (taken from the Alba tests) like so:

app.MapPost("/go", (PostedMessage input) => new OutputMessage(input.Id));

Now, over in your testing project, you could write a crude test for the route above like so:

    [Fact]
    public async Task sample_test()
    {
        // This line only matters if you use Oakton for the command line
        // processing
        OaktonEnvironment.AutoStartHost = true;
        
        // I'm doing this inline to make the sample easier to understand,
        // but you'd want to share the AlbaHost between tests because
        // this is expensive
        await using var host = await AlbaHost.For<MinimalApiWithOakton.Program>();
        
        var guid = Guid.NewGuid();
        
        var result = await _host.PostJson(new PostedMessage(guid), "/go")
            .Receive<OutputMessage>();

        result.Id.ShouldBe(guid);
    }

A couple notes about the code above:

  • The test is bootstrapping your actual application using its configuration, but using the TestServer in place of Kestrel as the web server.
  • The call to PostJson() is using the application’s JSON serialization configuration, just in case you’ve customized the JSON serialization. Likewise, the call to Receive<T>() is also using the application’s JSON serialization mechanism to be consistent. This functionality was improved in Alba 7 to “know” whether to use MVC Core or Minimal API style JSON serialization (but you can explicitly override that in mixed applications on a case by case basis)
  • When the test executes, it’s running through your entire application’s ASP.Net Core pipeline including any and all registered middleware

If you choose to use Alba with >= .NET 6 style application bootstrapping inside of an inferred Program.Main() method, be aware that you will need to grant your test project visibility to the internals of your main project something like this:

  <ItemGroup>
    <InternalsVisibleTo Include="ProjectName.Tests" />
  </ItemGroup>

How does Alba fit into projects?

I think most people by now are somewhat familiar with the testing pyramid idea (or testing trophy or any other number of shapes). Just to review, it’s the idea that a software system is best served by being backed by a mix of automated tests between solitary unit tests, intermediate integration tests, and some number of end to end, black box tests.

We can debate what the exact composition of your test pyramid should be on a particular project until the cows come home. For my part, I want more fast running, easier to write tests and fewer potentially nasty Selenium/Playwright/Cypress.io tests that tend towards being slow and brittle. I like Alba in particular because it allows our teams at work to test at the HTTP web service layer through to the database completely within process — meaning the tests can be executed on demand without any kind of deployment. In short, Alba sits in the middle of the pyramid graphic above and makes those very valuable kind of tests easier to write, execute, and debug for the developers working on the system.

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