Property-based testing of WSDL web services
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README.asciidoc

wsdler — A property-testing tool for WSDL services

What is wsdler?

Wsdler is a tool (currently in pre-alpha) for black-box testing of web services.

Wsdler is named after WSDL; the WSDL specification of a web service is wsdler’s primary source of information about how to test the service.

Wdsler is pronounced "whistler".

What does it do?

To test a web service with wsdler, you give it a test specification. Wsdler then generates random (but syntactically valid) requests and sends them to the service one by one. The service’s responses are verified against expectations, and any discrepancies are reported.

Testing thus involves the following parts:

  • Input generation

  • Service invocation

  • Output verification

In one mode of operation, requests are sent in sequences called stories, and when a discrepancy is encountered, wsdler will attempt to find the shortest story which exhibits the problem.

What goes into a test specification?

Of the things which may be included in a test specification, only two things are mandatory — the rest can be added for more precise and deep testing.

Mandatory parts of the test specification

The mandatory parts are:

What is the interface to the service?

The interface is a WSDL description of the inputs and outputs of the service.

Where is the server to be tested running?

The WSDL contains a URL of the service, but most likely you’d rather that wsdler runs against a separate test instance of the service.

Equipped with just the WSDL and the location of the service, wsdler will generate random (but syntactically valid) requests to the service, and then verify just that the service responsds with an output (rather than a fault).

That’s a rather shallow form of testing, though it may still turn up something interesting.

For deeper testing, the following optional parts can be added to the test specification:

Output verification and state modelling

What is expected of the server’s outputs?

Expectations are properties stated in terms of the contents of the request, the response, and a model maintained by wsdler.

How is the model updated?

Some properties can not be stated in terms of just a single request/response pair, but depends on history — what has happened earlier.

A model can provide this information; there must then be defined rules specifying how the model changes when a request has been sent or a response received.

Input generator customization

How can more sensible input data be generated?

Wsdler will use the XML schemas in the WSDL to generate random input values. Sometimes, however, such random inputs aren’t of much use, for instance if the service performs some validation which rejects the majority of inputs — meaning that the deeper parts of the service will seldomly be exercised at all.

For such circumstances, custom input generators can be specified.

When should more sensible input data be generated?

Even when custom input generators are provided, wsdler will use its own random generators. The randomness serves a purpose: it covers the input value space more completely and therefore often gives better code coverage than custom generators would tend to do.

The strategy of wsdler is therefore to use a mix of the built-in and the custom generators. Wsdler can be told which circumstances are signs that the value of a particular input field was badly chosen — and, by extension, which generator should probably be used less.

After a bit of trying, wsdler can with this information reach a suitable generator mix which both exercises the interesting parts of the service and the validating parts.

Where can I learn more?

The doc directory contains more information, such as documentation of the test specification format, and semantics of property expressions. (TODO)

(TODO: build & invocation instructions.)