Testing with feature flags

To run a specific test with a feature flag enabled you can use the QA::Runtime::Feature class to enable and disable feature flags (via the API).

Note that administrator authorization is required to change feature flags. QA::Runtime::Feature automatically authenticates as an administrator as long as you provide an appropriate access token via GITLAB_QA_ADMIN_ACCESS_TOKEN (recommended), or provide GITLAB_ADMIN_USERNAME and GITLAB_ADMIN_PASSWORD.

feature_flag RSpec tag

Please be sure to include the feature_flag tag so that the test can be skipped on the appropriate environments.

Optional metadata:

name

  • Format: feature_flag: { name: 'feature_flag_name' }
  • Used only for informational purposes at this time. It should be included to help quickly determine what feature flag is under test.

scope

  • Format: feature_flag: { name: 'feature_flag_name', scope: :project }
  • When scope is set to :global, the test will be skipped on all live .com environments. This is to avoid issues with feature flag changes affecting other tests or users on that environment.
  • When scope is set to any other value (such as :project, :group or :user), or if no scope is specified, the test will only be skipped on canary and production. This is due to the fact that administrator access is not available there.

WARNING: You are strongly advised to first try and enable feature flags only for a group, project, user, or feature group.

  • If a global feature flag must be used, it is strongly recommended to apply scope: :global to the feature_flag metadata. This is, however, left up to the SET’s discretion to determine the level of risk.
    • For example, a test uses a global feature flag that only affects a small area of the application and is also needed to check for critical issues on live environments. In such a scenario, it would be riskier to skip running the test. For cases like this, scope can be left out of the metadata so that it can still run in live environments with administrator access, such as staging.

Note on requires_admin: This tag should still be applied if there are other actions within the test that require administrator access that are unrelated to updating a feature flag (ex: creating a user via the API).

The code below would enable a feature flag named :feature_flag_name for the project created by the test:

RSpec.describe "with feature flag enabled", feature_flag: {
  name: 'feature_flag_name',
  scope: :project
  } do

  let(:project) { Resource::Project.fabricate_via_api! }

  before do
    Runtime::Feature.enable(:feature_flag_name, project: project)
  end

  it "feature flag test" do
    # Execute the test with the feature flag enabled.
    # It will only affect the project created in this test.
  end

  after do
    Runtime::Feature.disable(:feature_flag_name, project: project)
  end
end

Note that the enable and disable methods first set the flag and then check that the updated value is returned by the API.

Similarly, you can enable a feature for a group, user, or feature group:

group = Resource::Group.fabricate_via_api!
Runtime::Feature.enable(:feature_flag_name, group: group)

user = Resource::User.fabricate_via_api!
Runtime::Feature.enable(:feature_flag_name, user: user)

feature_group = "a_feature_group"
Runtime::Feature.enable(:feature_flag_name, feature_group: feature_group)

If no scope is provided, the feature flag is set instance-wide:

# This will affect all users!
Runtime::Feature.enable(:feature_flag_name)

Working with selectors

A new feature often replaces a vue component or a haml file with a new one. In most cases, the new file or component is accessible only with a feature flag. This approach becomes problematic when tests must pass both with, and without, the feature flag enabled. To ensure tests pass in both scenarios:

  1. Create another selector inside the new component or file.
  2. Give it the same name as the old one.

Selectors are connected to a specific frontend file in the page object, and checked for availability inside our qa:selectors test. If the mentioned selector is missing inside that frontend file, the test fails. To ensure selectors are available when a feature flag is enabled or disabled, add the new selector to the page object, leaving the old selector in place. The test uses the correct selector and still detects missing selectors.

If a new feature changes an existing frontend file that already has a selector, you can add a new selector with the same name. However, only one of the selectors displays on the page. You should:

  1. Disable the other with the feature flag.
  2. Add a comment in the frontend file to delete the old selector from the frontend file and from the page object file when the feature flag is removed.

Example before

# This is the link to the old file
view 'app/views/devise/passwords/edit.html.haml' do
  # The new selector should have the same name
  element :password_field
  ...
end

Example after

view 'app/views/devise/passwords/edit.html.haml' do
  element :password_field
  ...
end

# Now it can verify the selector is available
view 'app/views/devise/passwords/new_edit_behind_ff.html.haml' do
  # The selector has the same name
  element :password_field
end

Working with resource classes

If a resource class must behave differently when a feature flag is active, toggle a variable with the name of the feature flag inside the class. This variable and condition ensure all actions are handled appropriately.

You can set this variable inside the fabricate_via_api call. For a consistent approach:

  • Use an activated check, not a deactivated one.
  • Add the word activated to the end of a variable’s name.
  • Inside the initialize method, set the variable’s default value.

For example:

def initialize
  name_of_the_future_flag_activated = false
  ...
end

Cleanup

After the feature flag is removed, clean up the resource class and delete the variable. All methods should use the condition procedures of the now-default state.

Managing flakiness due to caching

All application settings, and all feature flags, are cached inside GitLab for one minute. All caching is disabled during testing, except on static environments.

When a test changes a feature flag, it can cause flaky behavior if elements are visible only with an active feature flag. To circumvent this behavior, add a wait for elements behind a feature flag.

Running a scenario with a feature flag enabled

It’s also possible to run an entire scenario with a feature flag enabled, without having to edit existing tests or write new ones.

Please see the QA README for details.

Confirming that end-to-end tests pass with a feature flag enabled

End-to-end tests should pass with a feature flag enabled before it is enabled on Staging or on GitLab.com. Tests that need to be updated should be identified as part of quad-planning. The relevant counterpart Software Engineer in Test is responsible for updating the tests or assisting another engineer to do so. However, if a change does not go through quad-planning and a required test update is not made, test failures could block deployment.

Automatic test execution when a feature flag definition changes

If a merge request adds or edits a feature flag definition file, two package-and-qa jobs will be included automatically in the merge request pipeline. One job will enable the defined feature flag and the other will disable it. The jobs execute the same suite of tests to confirm that they pass with if the feature flag is either enabled or disabled.

Test execution during feature development

If an end-to-end test enables a feature flag, the end-to-end test suite can be used to test changes in a merge request by running the package-and-qa job in the merge request pipeline. If the feature flag and relevant changes have already been merged, you can confirm that the tests pass on the default branch. The end-to-end tests run on the default branch every two hours, and the results are posted to a Test Session Report, which is available in the testcase-sessions project.

If the relevant tests do not enable the feature flag themselves, you can check if the tests will need to be updated by opening a draft merge request that enables the flag by default via a feature flag definition file. That will automatically execute the end-to-end test suite. The merge request can be closed once the tests pass. If you need assistance to update the tests, please contact the relevant stable counterpart in the Quality department, or any Software Engineer in Test if there is no stable counterpart for your group.