As noted elsewhere in the blog, I've been doing a bunch of work to script ESXi using Vmware's (sometimes troublesome) RCLI tools. I'm developing a higher-level set of code written in Python. (In theory, using Vmware's Perl toolkit would be cleaner, and I wouldn't have to bitch about the RCLI tools, but I've done enough Perl for one lifetime.) In addition to the mom-and-apple-pie goodness of TDD, I'm also getting a huge productivity boost by employing TDD via mocking.
In the code I'm writing, each method typically makes one or more RCLI calls. Each RCLI call takes 3-5 seconds. I structured the code so that the RCLI invocations all funnel through one point in the code which can easily be monkey-patched to go through a mock function. (More details on that in a later post.) After mocking, the result is that I can execute 20 tests with dozens of mocked RCLI calls in less than a tenth of second. After the unit tests pass, I can push the code out to a real host and run real RCLI comannds, and for the most part, "it just works."
When I started, I figured mocking was the only way to unit test this code, and it was more convenient to develop the code on a machine where I don't have the RCLI installed. The performance boost was unexpected but by far the most significant benefit of the unit tests. And when I needed to perform a couple of refactorings during the development, I got to enjoy wicked fast speed plus safety - two great tastes that taste great together.