Types of integration testing approaches

Any one (or a mixture) of the following approaches can be used to develop the integration test plan. Those approaches are the following:

  •  Big bang approach
  •  Bottom- up approach
  • Top-down approach
  •  Mixed-approach

Big-Bang Integration Testing

It is the simplest integration testing approach, where all the modules making up a system are integrated in a single step. In simple words, all the modules of the system are simply put together and tested. However, this technique is practicable only for very small systems. The main problem with this approach is that once an error is found during the integration testing, it is very difficult to localize the error as the error may potentially belong to any of the modules being integrated. Therefore, debugging errors reported during big bang integration testing are very expensive to fix.

Bottom-Up Integration Testing

In bottom-up testing, each subsystem is tested separately and then the full system is tested. A subsystem might consist of many modules which communicate among each other through well-defined interfaces. The primary purpose of testing each subsystem is to test the interfaces among various modules making up the subsystem. Both control and data interfaces are tested. The test cases must be carefully chosen to exercise the interfaces in all possible manners Large software systems normally require several levels of subsystem testing; lower-level subsystems are successively combined to form higher-level subsystems. A principal advantage of bottom-up integration testing is that several disjoint subsystems can be tested simultaneously. In a pure bottom-up testing no stubs are required, only test-drivers are required. A disadvantage of bottom-up testing is the complexity that occurs when the system is made up of a large number of small subsystems. The extreme case corresponds to the big-bang approach.

Top-Down Integration Testing

Top-down integration testing starts with the main routine and one or two subordinate routines in the system. After the top-level ‘skeleton’ has been tested, the immediately subroutines of the ‘skeleton’ are combined with it and tested. Top-down integration testing approach requires the use of program stubs to simulate the effect of lower-level routines that are called by the routines under test. A pure top-down integration does not require any driver routines. A disadvantage of the top-down integration testing approach is that in the absence of lower-level routines, many times it may become difficult to exercise the top-level routines in the desired manner since the lower-level routines perform several low-level functions such as I/O.

Mixed Integration Testing

A mixed (also called sandwiched) integration testing follows a combination of top-down and bottom-up testing approaches. In top-down approach, testing can start only after the top-level modules have been coded and unit tested. Similarly, bottom-up testing can start only after the bottom level modules are ready. The mixed approach overcomes this shortcoming of the top-down and bottom-up approaches. In the mixed testing approaches, testing can start as and when modules become available. Therefore, this is one of the most commonly used integration testing approaches.

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