Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Mock, Mock! Who's there ?

The concept of mocking is not a new idea, but its one that has been gaining traction recently. But still, whenever I tell people to mock out their dependencies when they are trying to test, they look at me as if wondering what the heck I’m smoking. Well, if I was smoking something, I would share it. But mocking is a great thing for writing small unit tests.

I get usually one of the two statements / questions when I tell someone to just mock something out.

  1. Well, if I am mocking things out, then I am not really testing it, am I ? OR I don’t want to mock things out. I need to test the method’s interaction with other classes.
  2. What about the mocked class ? We have to make sure it works too.

Well, to number 1, I say, if by mocking things out, you have nothing but a series of expected calls and returns, and there’s no actual class specific behavior there, then does that Class really deserve to be a class ?

And the second part of number 1, well…. Is that really a unit test then ? Ideally, you should have a lot of unittests to make sure the class specific logic is sound, and then a few integration tests to make sure that everything is hooked up correctly.

And number 2… This is where you go and write unit tests for the class you have just mocked. Don’t depend on large scale integration tests to test all your classes. Write nice small unit tests which are fast and precise. The larger a test gets, the harder it is to find why a particular test broke and how.

So hopefully by now, I have you convinced that mocking may not be all that bad. Fine, you say, so how do I go about this mocking thing ? Glad you asked. While there are many mocking frameworks out there, I am going to just talk about EasyMock for Java. JMock is very similar and could be pretty interchangable.

The first requirement before you can use any mocking framework is the ability to inject mocks into your class. This is Dependency Injection at its core, without which you will have to find workarounds like protected setter methods and the like. But basically, if a class uses some Service or Database, make sure that you can override it with a Mock Database by passing it into a constructor or setting it via a method.

Once thats done, the first step in using a mock is creating the mock object. In EasyMock, its as simple as :

MyClass myObject = EasyMock.createMock(MyClass.class);

Thats it, nothing fancier than that. It helps if MyClass is an interface, but I believe EasyMock supports mocking non interface classes as well. Once you have done that, you can inject this mock object into the classes which you are testing.

The next step is setting expectations. For void methods, it as simple as just calling the method with the expected parameter. For example :


The EasyMock.replay(myObject) tells EasyMock that you are done setting expectations and that the next time a method on the object is called, treat it as an actual call. So then in your test, you proceed as normal invoking the methods you care about, and then finally, you call :


This ensures that all the expectations set on myObject were met. Now EasyMock also supports additional features like setting expectations on number of method calls, throwing exceptions, flexible argument matchers and so much more. For more information, check out the EasyMock home page.

Now a few caveats with regards to mocking. It is very easy to degenerate some tests into what we call a mockery, where we end up testing mocks and their interaction instead of the actual class we want to test. So Don’t overuse mocks. Use them when you have to test something which depends on Database or expensive service calls. Also if your test ends up exercising a bunch of mock calls and nothing else, that might be a hint that your class really does not belong. And of course, it goes without saying that don’t mock the class you are testing.

Also, don’t set up Mock layers where a class which indirectly depends on some service object uses the mock layer. You should always mock the classes which your Class Under Test directly depends on, and not classes which it indirectly depends on. And sometimes, a mock might not be what you are looking for. Instead, a simple Stub or a Fake might be more useful. I might talk more on this or Dependency Injection in my next post.

1 comment:

Corbin said...

To expand on the concept of the Mockery, a simple example:
Foo foo = EasyMock.createMock(Foo.class);

Bar bar = EasyMock.createMock(Bar.class);

Oof oof = EasyMock.createMock(Oof.class);



From these humble beginnings, you can grow an immense Mockery.

Another side effect of excessive mocks is a straight jacketed test, where the test is brittle and confusing to be much more than a regression lock. Which doesn't help, because the failures are invariably hard to debug and fix.