Reducing masking effects in combinatorial interaction testing: a feedback driven adaptive approach

Yılmaz, Cemal and Dumlu, Emine and Cohen, Myra B. and Porter, Adam (2014) Reducing masking effects in combinatorial interaction testing: a feedback driven adaptive approach. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, 40 (1). pp. 43-66. ISSN 0098-5589 (Print) 1939-3520 (Online)

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/TSE.2013.53


The configuration spaces of modern software systems are too large to test exhaustively. Combinatorial interaction testing (CIT) approaches, such as covering arrays, systematically sample the configuration space and test only the selected configurations. The basic justification for CIT approaches is that they can cost-effectively exercise all system behaviors caused by the settings of t or fewer options. We conjecture, however, that in practice some of these behaviors are not actually tested because of unanticipated masking effects - test case failures that perturb system execution so as to prevent some behaviors from being exercised. While prior research has identified this problem, most solutions require knowing the masking effects a priori. In practice this is impractical, if not impossible. In this work, we reduce the harmful consequences of masking effects. First we define a novel interaction testing criterion, which aims to ensure that each test case has a fair chance to test all valid t-way combinations of option settings. We then introduce a feedback driven adaptive combinatorial testing process (FDA-CIT) to materialize this criterion in practice. At each iteration of FDA-CIT, we detect potential masking effects, heuristically isolate their likely causes (i.e., fault characterization), and then generate new samples that allow previously masked combinations to be tested in configurations that avoid the likely failure causes. The iterations end when the new interaction testing criterion has been satisfied. This paper compares two different fault characterization approaches - an integral part of the proposed approach, and empirically assesses their effectiveness and efficiency in removing masking effects on two widely used open source software systems. It also compares FDA-CIT against error locating arrays, a state of the art approach for detecting and locating failures. Furthermore, the scalability of the proposed approach is evaluated by comparing it with perfect test scenarios, in which all masking effects are known a priori. Our results suggest that masking effects do exist in practice, and that our approach provides a promising and efficient way to work around them, without requiring that masking effects be known a priori.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:Combinatorial testing; adaptive testing; covering arrays; software quality assurance
Subjects:Q Science > Q Science (General)
ID Code:25189
Deposited By:Cemal Yılmaz
Deposited On:23 Nov 2014 20:17
Last Modified:23 Nov 2014 20:17

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