Testing .NET Core services and web apps

Controllers are a central part of any ASP.NET Core API service and ASP.NET MVC Web application. As such, you should have confidence they behave as intended for your application. Automated tests can provide you with this confidence and can detect errors before they reach production.

You need to test how the controller behaves based on valid or invalid inputs, and test controller responses based on the result of the business operation it performs. However, you should have these types of tests for your microservices:

  • Unit tests. These ensure that individual components of the application work as expected. Assertions test the component API.
  • Integration tests. These ensure that component interactions work as expected against external artifacts like databases. Assertions can test component API, UI, or the side effects of actions like database I/O, logging, etc.
  • Functional tests for each microservice. These ensure that the application works as expected from the user’s perspective.
  • Service tests. These ensure that end-to-end service use cases, including testing multiple services at the same time, are tested. For this type of testing, you need to prepare the environment first. In this case, it means starting the services (for example, by using docker-compose up).

Implementing unit tests for ASP.NET Core Web APIs

Unit testing involves testing a part of an application in isolation from its infrastructure and dependencies. When you unit test controller logic, only the content of a single action or method is tested, not the behavior of its dependencies or of the framework itself. Unit tests do not detect issues in the interaction between components—that is the purpose of integration testing.

As you unit test your controller actions, make sure you focus only on their behavior. A controller unit test avoids things like filters, routing, or model binding (the mapping of request data to a ViewModel or DTO). Because they focus on testing just one thing, unit tests are generally simple to write and quick to run. A well-written set of unit tests can be run frequently without much overhead.

Unit tests are implemented based on test frameworks like xUnit.net, MSTest, Moq, or NUnit. For the eShopOnContainers sample application, we are using xUnit.

When you write a unit test for a Web API controller, you instantiate the controller class directly using the new keyword in C#, so that the test will run as fast as possible. The following example shows how to do this when using xUnit as the Test framework.

Implementing integration and functional tests for each microservice

As noted, integration tests and functional tests have different purposes and goals. However, the way you implement both when testing ASP.NET Core controllers is similar, so in this section we concentrate on integration tests.

Integration testing ensures that an application’s components function correctly when assembled. ASP.NET Core supports integration testing using unit test frameworks and a built-in test web host that can be used to handle requests without network overhead.

Unlike unit testing, integration tests frequently involve application infrastructure concerns, such as a database, file system, network resources, or web requests and responses. Unit tests use fakes or mock objects in place of these concerns. But the purpose of integration tests is to confirm that the system works as expected with these systems, so for integration testing you do not use fakes or mock objects. Instead, you include the infrastructure, like database access or service invocation from other services.

Because integration tests exercise larger segments of code than unit tests, and because integration tests rely on infrastructure elements, they tend to be orders of magnitude slower than unit tests. Thus, it is a good idea to limit how many integration tests you write and run.

ASP.NET Core includes a built-in test web host that can be used to handle HTTP requests without network overhead, meaning that you can run those tests faster than when using a real web host. The test web host (TestServer) is available in a NuGet component as Microsoft.AspNetCore.TestHost. It can be added to integration test projects and used to host ASP.NET Core applications.

As you can see in the following code, when you create integration tests for ASP.NET Core controllers, you instantiate the controllers through the test host. This is comparable to an HTTP request, but it runs faster.

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