SQL Server integration testing using xUnit

Recently I wanted to verify that my data access layer could properly read and write to a SQL Server database, and I wanted to have these tests automated. I wanted to answer these questions:

  1. Can my DbContext roundtrip entities to the database and back?
  2. Does the schema in my migration scripts match the expected schema in my code? (follows from 1)
  3. Can my migration scripts be applied to the database correctly?

Since I was using SQL Server I could utilize SQL Server LocalDB that comes with Visual Studio. To keep performance acceptable I do not want to create and destroy a database for each test, so I need a way to reset the database after a test has run.

In this post I will demonstrate how to use SQL Server LocalDB to automate database integration tests using xUnit.

Creating and destroying a LocalDB database

Let’s start with a simple fixture that will create a database and clean it up when it is disposed. For the database name, I use the application name suffixed with a Guid value for uniqueness. While not strictly necessary I used async methods to initialize and dispose of the database.

using System;
using System.Threading.Tasks;
using Microsoft.Data.SqlClient;
using Xunit;

public class DatabaseFixture : IAsyncLifetime
{
    private const string BaseConnectionString = "Data Source=(localdb)\MSSQLLocalDB;IntegratedSecurity=True;";

    private readonly string _dbName;

    public string ConnectionString { get; }

    public DatabaseFixture()
    {
        _dbName = "demo-for-blog" + "-" + Guid.NewGuid().ToString();

        var builder = new SqlConnectionStringBuilder(BaseConnectionString)
        {
            InitialCatalog = _dbName
        };

        ConnectionString = builder.ToString();
    }

    public async Task InitializeAsync()
    {
        using var connection = new SqlConnection(BaseConnectionString);
        await connection.OpenAsync();

        await ExecuteDbCommandAsync(connection, $"CREATE DATABASE [{_dbName}]");
        await ExecuteDbCommandAsync(connection, $"USE [{_dbName}]");
    }

    public async Task DisposeAsync()
    {
        using var connection = new SqlConnection(BaseConnectionString);
        await connection.OpenAsync();

        await ExecuteDbCommandAsync(connection, $"EXEC msdb.dbo.sp_delete_database_backuphistory @database_name = N'{_dbName}'");
        await ExecuteDbCommandAsync(connection, "USE [master]");
        await ExecuteDbCommandAsync(connection, $"ALTER DATABASE [{_dbName}] SET SINGLE_USER WITH ROLLBACK IMMEDIATE");
        await ExecuteDbCommandAsync(connection, "USE [master]");
        await ExecuteDbCommandAsync(connection, $"DROP DATABASE [{_dbName}]");
    }

    private async Task ExecuteDbCommandAsync(SqlConnection connection, string commandText)
    {
        using var cmd = connection.CreateCommand();
        cmd.CommandText = commandText;
        await cmd.ExecuteNonQueryAsync();
    }
}

When this fixture is injected you can use it to create a connection to the database. As an example, you can use an IClassFixture<T> to share the database in a test class.

The ConnectionTests class below demonstrates the basic usage of the DatabaseFixture

using Xunit;

public class ConnectionTests : IClassFixture<DatabaseFixture>, IAsyncLifetime
{
    private readonly DatabaseFixture _fixture;

    private SqlConnection Connection { get; }

    public ConnectionTests(DatabaseFixture fixture)
    {
        _fixture = fixture;
        Connection = new SqlConnection(_fixture.ConnectionString);
    }

    public async Task InitializeAsync()
    {
        await Connection.OpenAsync();
    }

    public async Task DisposeAsync()
    {
        await Connection.DisposeAsync();
    }

    [Fact]
    public async Task Can_Connect()
    {
        using var command = Connection.CreateCommand();
        cmd.CommandText = "SELECT 1";

        var result = await cmd.ExecuteScalarAsync();

        Assert.Equal(1, result);
    }
}

Now that we can create, connect to, and destroy a database lets get a schema deployed.

Deploying database schema with DbUp

When deploying database I greatly prefer migration scripts over a ‘desired state’ like approach such as DACPAC. For that, I am using DbUp to run SQL scripts embedded into a console application. The DbUp code lives in its own project as it is a separate deployable.

I created the following class to wrap the DbUp logic, and I generally call this from a console application Main method.

using DbUp;
using DbUp.Engine;
using DbUp.Engine.Output;

public class SqlServerMigrationRunner
{
    private readonly UpgradeEngine _upgrader;

    public SqlServerMigrationRunner(string connectionString)
    {
        _upgrader = DeployChanges.To
            .SqlDatabase(connectionString)
            .WithScriptsEmbeddedInAssembly(typeof(SqlServerMigrationRunner).Assembly)
            .LogTo(new ConsoleUpgradeLog())
            .Build();
    }

    public DatabaseUpgradeResult PerformUpgrade()
    {
        return _upgrader.PerformUpgrade();
    }
}

Let’s add a call to this to the initialization logic of the DatabaseFixture. If you are using another form of database schema migration, adjust as necessary. Although doing this when using something like DACPAC might not be as easy.

public class DatabaseFixture : IAsyncLifetime
{
    public async Task InitializeAsync()
    {
        // Rest of method omitted for brevity.

        InitializeDatabaseSchema();
    }

    private void InitializeDatabaseSchema()
    {
        var runner = new SqlServerMigrationRunner(ConnectionString);
        var result = runner.PerformUpgrade();

        if (!result.Successful)
        {
            throw result.Error;
        }
    }

    // Rest of the class omitted for brevity.....
}

Now our database will have our database migration scripts applied after it is created. I generally try to use the same code here as I do when running the console application that is run during application deployment. This gives me the greatest confidence that everything will work as expected when I eventually have to deploy the code to production.

Resetting database state

To ensure that tests do not influence each other you should give each test a clean database as a starting point. Creating a new empty database for each test will increase the time your test suite needs to run considerably. Generally, I would advise having all tests run against a single database instance and clean the database after each test.

I used the Respawn library created by Jimmy Bogard that intelligently deletes data from the database. It follows the relationships defined in your model and deletes from the ‘leaf’ tables inwards. The Checkpoint class provides methods that you can use to delete all the data from the database. There are a couple of options when you want to avoid clearing out certain tables or schemas, everything else will be deleted.

If you are dependent on seed data that is in tables that are also modified by tests, then you will have to reseed every time you reset the database using Respawn. (I am not sure if I would consider that test design as a ‘test smell’ since the test depends on things outside of its control.)

I placed the method to reset the database on the fixture as well, as it is convenient to have all the database fixture control in 1 place as a consumer.

using Respawn;

public class DatabaseFixture : IAsyncLifetime
{
    private readonly Checkpoint _emptyDatabaseCheckpoint;

    public DatabaseFixture()
    {
        // Rest of constructor omitted for brevity.

        _emptyDatabaseCheckpoint = new Checkpoint
        {
            // Reseed identity columns
            WithReseed = true,
            TablesToIgnore = new[]
            {
                // DbUp journal does not need cleaning
                "SchemaVersions"
            },
        };
    }

    public async Task ResetDatabaseAsync()
    {
        await _emptyDatabaseCheckpoint.Reset(ConnectionString);
    }

    // Rest of class omitted for brevity.
}

From the test’s InitializeAsync method you should call the ResetDatabaseAsync method on the fixture. This should give you a good starting point for writing your integration tests.

Copy and paste example code

Below you will find some code that you can copy and paste in to your project to get up and running quickly. The InitializeDatabase method is left abstract, you will need to plug in your own schema migrations there.

using System;
using System.Threading.Tasks;
using Microsoft.Data.SqlClient;
using Respawn;
using Xunit;

public abstract class DatabaseFixture : IAsyncLifetime
{
    private const string BaseConnectionString = "Data Source=(localdb)\\MSSQLLocalDB; Integrated Security=True;";

    private readonly string _dbName;
    private readonly Checkpoint _emptyDatabaseCheckpoint;

    public string ConnectionString { get; }

    public DatabaseFixture(string dbName)
    {
        _dbName = dbName + "-" + Guid.NewGuid().ToString();

        _emptyDatabaseCheckpoint = new Checkpoint
        {
            // Reseed identity columns
            WithReseed = true,
            TablesToIgnore = new[]
            {
                // DbUp journal does not need cleaning
                "SchemaVersions"
            },
        };

        var builder = new SqlConnectionStringBuilder(BaseConnectionString)
        {
            InitialCatalog = _dbName
        };

        ConnectionString = builder.ToString();
    }

    public async Task InitializeAsync()
    {
        using var connection = new SqlConnection(BaseConnectionString);
        await connection.OpenAsync();

        await ExecuteDbCommandAsync(connection, $"CREATE DATABASE [{_dbName}]");
        await ExecuteDbCommandAsync(connection, $"USE [{_dbName}]");

        InitializeDatabase();
    }

    public async Task DisposeAsync()
    {
        using var connection = new SqlConnection(ConnectionString);
        await connection.OpenAsync();
        await ExecuteDbCommandAsync(connection, $"EXEC msdb.dbo.sp_delete_database_backuphistory @database_name = N'{_dbName}'");
        await ExecuteDbCommandAsync(connection, "USE [master]");
        await ExecuteDbCommandAsync(connection, $"ALTER DATABASE [{_dbName}] SET SINGLE_USER WITH ROLLBACK IMMEDIATE");
        await ExecuteDbCommandAsync(connection, "USE [master]");
        await ExecuteDbCommandAsync(connection, $"DROP DATABASE [{_dbName}]");
    }

    public async Task ResetDatabaseAsync()
    {
        await _emptyDatabaseCheckpoint.Reset(ConnectionString);
    }

    protected abstract void InitializeDatabase();

    private async Task ExecuteDbCommandAsync(SqlConnection connection, string commandText)
    {
        using var cmd = connection.CreateCommand();
        cmd.CommandText = commandText;
        await cmd.ExecuteNonQueryAsync();
    }
}

Conclusion

That should be enough to get you started with testing your SQL Server integration points. It works really well when testing your DbContext or repository implementations.

This approach also works on Microsoft hosted agents in Azure DevOps using the windows-latest image. Be sure to run sqllocaldb start MSSQLLocalDB before running the actual tests. The database engine is not always started and it can take rougly 20 seconds to start it, resulting in timeouts or test failures.