Historical Trivia

This project was inspired by a regression testing tool for Informix stored procedures, originally written by Mark H Sullivan. It was written using a combination of Java, shell scripts and make, and supported a very rudimentary set of directives for running the stored procedures in a certain sequence and comparing the outputs with the specified outputs. All error checking was at runtime, so we had to be careful to avoid "syntax" errors such as using double quotes instead of single quotes. It was also very hard to extend, as I found out when trying to add some new directives.

I re-wrote this tool in C using lex and yacc for the command processor, and Informix ESQL/C to call the procedures themselves. This fixed some of our problems, because the problems associated with debugging missing quotes and newlines were caught earlier on. However, the tool would mysteriously segfault occasionally. Some leaks were caught with dbmalloc, but the problems still remained, so we had to abandon the tool as well.

I re-wrote the tool again using Perl. It used the same input files as the original tool and the C tool, and provided early error checking similar to the C tool. It also provided more intuitive error messages when the tests failed.

Some months later, on another project, I was introduced to JUnit based on a chance remark of a colleague, and software development has never been the same for me since. I was almost an instant JUnit convert.

Some years later, on yet another project, I learned how to associate Java handler classes with XML tags, which forms the basis of much of the architecture of SQLUnit.

Over the years, and especially in my current job, I have been exposed to interface driven development and the use of factories to instantiate implementation classes, which also form the basis of the SQLUnit design.

I started SQLUnit as a Sourceforge project when I was tasked with writing the persistence layer (including development of Sybase stored procedures) for a new application. While JUnit sufficed to test the Java portion of the code, I missed having a regression tool for stored procedures around. So based on what I thought would be useful, and on the lessons learned during the last few iterations of building a similar tool, I set about writing one in my spare time (on my train ride to and from work). I ultimately ended up delivering the project without using SQLUnit, but I hope to use it the next time I have to write a similar application.

SQLUnit would be different from its predecessors in that it would be based on a standard testing framework (Junit), have a clean, expressive and extendable command syntax (XML), and be able to run on any database which provided a JDBC driver.

SQLUnit in its first incarnation only provided for exact equality comparisons between specified results and the results of SQL or stored procedure calls. It used JDBC to get a database connection. Over time, SQLUnit has evolved, so we now have around 6 different ways of getting a database connection, including one by looking up a named DataSource from a JNDI server. The original code only had around 10 tags, now we have around 30.

SQLUnit has been put to various uses by its user community, apart from the one for which it was intended, namely regression testing stored procedures. It has been used to regression test new JDBC drivers against old ones and against a known set of specifications. It has been used to validate ETL runs from operational databases to a data warehouse with a specified degree of accuracy. It has been bundled along with testing suites for commercial applications.

SQLUnit has benefited tremendously from the feedback and criticism from the community, many of which were very insightful and knowledgeable, and have formed the basis of enhancements and features to SQLUnit. It has also benefited from the numerous patches, bug fixes and porting efforts by various members of the community. In short, SQLUnit is what it is today because of the strong community support that it has. Thank you, SQLUnit would not be what it is today without you.