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====================================
Fakes and Stubbing and Mocks, Oh My!
====================================
This page seeks to provide an overview on mocking and a related task:
redirecting function calls to test-only code. Note: many people use the term
"mocking" to refer to the latter (and that's fine!), but we'll try and keep the
concepts separate in this doc.
KUnit currently lacks specific support for either of these, in part due to the
fact there's enough trade-offs that it's hard to come up with a generic
solution.
Why do we need this?
====================
First, let's consider what the goal is. We want unit tests to be as
lightweight and hermetic as possible, and only test the code we care about.
A canonical example in userspace testing to consider is a database.
We'd want to verify that our code behaves properly (inserts the right rows to
the database, etc.), but we don't want to bring up a test database every time
we run our tests.
Not only will this make the test take longer to run, it also adds more
opportunities for the test to break in uninteresting ways, e.g. if writes to
the database fail due to transient network issues.
If we can construct a "fake" database that implements the same interface, which
is simply an in-memory hashtable or array, then we can have much faster and
more reliable tests. Unit tests simply don't need the scability and features of
a real database.
Fakes versus mocks
==================
We'll be using terminology roughly as defined in
https://martinfowler.com/bliki/TestDouble.html, namely:
- a "test double" is the more generic term for any kind of test-only replacement.
- a "mock" is a test double that specifically can make assertions about how its
called and can return different values based on its inputs.
- a "fake" is a test double that mimics the semantics of the code it's replacing
but with less overhead and dependencies, e.g. a fake database might just use
a hash table, or a fake IO device which is just a ``char buffer[MAX_SIZE]``, or UML itself (in a sense).
| Mocks generally are written with support from their testing framework, whereas fakes are typically written without them.
| KUnit currently lacks any features to specifically facilitate mocks, so it's recommended to create and use fakes.
Downsides of mocking
--------------------
Very briefly, using mocks in tests can make tests more fragile since they test
"behavior" rather than "state."
What do we mean by that? Let's imagine we're testing some userspace program
with gMock-like syntax (a C++ mocking framework):
.. code-block:: c
void send_data(struct data_sink *sink)
{
/* do some fancy calculation to figure out what to write */
sink->write("hello, ");
sink->write("world");
}
void test_send_data(struct test *test)
{
struct data_sink *sink = make_mock_datasink();
EXPECT_CALL(data_sink, write("hello, "))
.WillOnce(Return(7));
EXPECT_CALL(data_sink, write("world"))
.WillOnce(Return(5));
send_data(sink);
}
And now let's say we've realized we can make our code twice as fast with more
buffering, effectively changing it to:
.. code-block:: c
void send_data(struct data_sink *sink)
{
sink->write("hello, world");
}
| Oops, now our mock-based tests are failing since we've changed how many times we call ``write()``!
| Contrast this to a state-based approach where ``write()`` might just append to some ``char buffer[MAX_SIZE]``. In that case, we can validate ``send_data()`` worked by just using ``KUNIT_EXPECT_STREQ(test, buffer, "hello, world")`` and it would work for either implementation.
A further downside is that the test author has to mimic the behavior
themselves, i.e. the return values for each ``write()`` call. This means if
the test author makes a mistake or tests just don't get updated after a
refactor, the mock can behave in unrealistic fashion.
This can and *will* eventually lead to bugs.
Upsides of mocking
------------------
| This is not to say that one should never test "behaviour", i.e. use mocking.
| E.g. imagine we *wanted* the example test to validate that we only call ``write()`` once since each call is super-expensive.
| Or consider when there's no easy way to validate that the state has changed, e.g. if we want to validate that ``prefetchw()`` is called to pull a specific data structure into cache.
| It's also easier easier to use a mock if we want to force a certain return value, e.g. if we want to make a specific ``write()`` call fail so we can test an error path.
| With our ``data_sink`` example above, it's hard for an append into a ``char buffer[MAX_SIZE]`` to fail until we hit ``MAX_SIZE``, but for real code that might be writing to disk or sending data over the network, failure could happen for ~any call. And it's valuable to test that our code is robust against such failures.
Function redirection
====================
| Regardless of what kind of test double you use, they're useless unless you can swap out the real code for them.
| For lack of a better term, we'll refer to this as function redirection: how do I make calls to ``real_function()`` go to my ``fake_function()``?
| In other test frameworks (Python's unittest, JUnit for Java, Googletest for C++, etc.), this is fairly easy. This is because they rely on techniques like dynamic dispatch, which has language support.
| We can and do re-implement dynamic dispatch in the kernel in C, but this adds runtime overhead which may or may not be acceptable in all contexts.
The problem boils down to `adding another layer of indirection
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_theorem_of_software_engineering>`_
and we have various options to choose from, which we'll describe below.
For each of these, let's consider the following code:
.. code-block:: c
static void func_under_test(void)
{
/* unsafe to call this function directly in a test! */
send_data_to_hardware("hello, world\n");
}
Run time (ops structs, "class mocking")
---------------------------------------
This is the most straightforward approach and fundamentally boils down to doing
this:
.. code-block:: c
static void func_under_test(void (*send_data_func)(const char *str))
{
send_data_func("hello, world\n");
}
Being a bit more sophisticated, we can introduce a struct to hold the
functions:
.. code-block:: c
struct send_ops {
void (*send)(const char *str);
/* maybe more functions here in real code */
};
TODO(dlatypov@google.com): write about "class mocking", `RFC here
<https://lore.kernel.org/linux-kselftest/20201012222050.999431-1-dlatypov@google.com/>`_
Pros:
~~~~~
- Simplest implementation: "it's just code."
- This is the only approach here where we can limit the scope of the
redirection.
- The subsequent approaches **globally** redirect all calls to
``send_data_to_hardware()``, potentially in code not-under-test we
dont want to mess with.
- There are plenty of such structs throughout the kernel.
- And users don't need any special support from KUnit.
Cons:
~~~~~
- ~Everyone knows about this convention but still want "mocking." It's not seen
as sufficient by itself.
- Requires the most invasive code changes if the code isn't already using this
pattern.
- Introduces runtime overhead (an indirect call, another function
argument, etc.)
- If ``func_under_test()`` is publicly exposed, but ``send_data_func()`` is not
(most likely the case), users need to workaround this.
- The `RFC for "class mocking"
<https://lore.kernel.org/linux-kselftest/20201012222050.999431-1-dlatypov@google.com/>`_
requires a lot of boilerplate, even after providing macros to take care of
most of it.
- This is fundamentally a limitation of C (as opposed to C++ where
classes have language support). It’s unlikely we can improve much
here.
Compile time
------------
This involves using compiler directive, macros, etc. to change the code when
compiling KUnit tests, or for your specific test. E.g. a straightforward
approach could be
.. code-block:: c
void send_data_to_hardware(const char *str)
{
#ifdef CONFIG_MY_KUNIT_TEST /* or some other, more generic check */
test_send_data(str);
return;
#endif
/* real implementation */
}
This pattern is generally useful and recommended `here
<third_party/kernel/docs/tips.html#injecting-test-only-code>`__ for injecting
other kinds of test-only code.
.. note::
This example makes it so that ``send_data_to_hardware()`` no longer
works for the whole kernel, including other tests if they happen to
compiled along with ``CONFIG_MY_KUNIT``, even if it's set as
``CONFIG_MY_KUNIT_TEST=m`` (!). See :ref:`hybrid-approaches` for a
discussion on how to mitigate that.
Pros:
~~~~~
- Also easy to understand.
- No runtime overhead, unlike the option above.
Cons:
~~~~~
- Requires invasive changes to the function we're trying to stub as opposed to
the coder-under-test itself.
- So it's not suitable if you don't own ``send_data_to_hardware()``.
- We don't want to pollute normal code by doing this at a large scale.
- So it probably should only be used sparingly in narrow contexts, e.g.
in static functions.
Link time (__weak symbols)
--------------------------
We can avoid refactoring to the code-under-test and only have minimal changes
to ``send_data_to_hardware()`` by pushing the indirection into the linker.
More specifically, we can make use of "weak symbols", which would allow tests
to define their own definitions and override the original
``send_data_to_hardware()``, e.g.
.. code-block:: c
void __weak send_data_to_hardware(const char *str)
{
/* real implementation */
}
/* In test file */
/* Since the real function is __weak, we can override it here. */
void send_data_to_hardware(const char *str)
{
/* fake implementation */
}
We can minimize the risk of accidentally overriding functions by using a macro
like
.. code-block:: c
/* Now we can mark functions __weak only while building tests */
#ifdef CONFIG_KUNIT
#define __mockable __weak
#else
#define __mockable
#endif
Pros:
~~~~~
- No runtime overhead.
- No changes needed to the code-under-test, ``func_under_test()``.
- And overall, very minimal changes needed to non-test code.
Cons:
~~~~~
- Initial feedback when something similar was included in the initial KUnit RFC
is that this is adding more complexity.
- ``ftrace`` and friends exist and allow for patching binaries.
- Note that this is a much more stripped-down version of what the KUnit
RFC called "function mocking," so it's not as big of a concern.
- **Not possible to limit the scope of the redirection.** The real definition
is discarded by the linker.
- Can also only have one fake definition at any time.
- See :ref:`hybrid-approaches`.
- Won't work with tests built as modules.
- More complicated, harder to understand, and less explicit.
- E.g. if you forgot to include the replacement definition in the
compilation unit, the code will happily call the original one without
any warning or indication.
- Your test might want the real function to be called, so building your
test together with someone else's might cause failures if they
redirected it.
.. _hybrid-approaches:
Hybrid approaches (limiting scope)
----------------------------------
Summarizing, the main issue with the two approaches above is that they have
effects globally and for the full life of the kernel, not just during tests.
How can we get around this? Why, of course, by adding another layer of
indirection. Using some cleverness, we can use runtime indirection while
building tests, but not pay the cost for normal builds.
Say we want to redirect/intercept calls to ``kmalloc()``. Too many callsites
need to use it so that stubbing it out is unwise (and would break KUnit
itself). So we can introduce a ``__weak`` wrapper around it like so:
.. code-block:: c
#ifdef CONFIG_KUNIT
#define __mockable_wrapper __weak
#else /* avoid the performance overhead for real builds */
#define __mockable_wrapper __always_inline
#endif
void __mockable_wrapper kmalloc_wrapper(size_t n, gfp_t gfp)
{
return kmalloc(n, gfp);
}
This adds more boilerplate, but lets us manage the scope of the code affected
by the redirection. We can also limit the temporal scope of the redirection if
our replacement is defined like:
.. code-block:: c
/* In the test file. This is the definition that overrides the __weak version */
static void* (*kmalloc_ptr)(size_t n, gfp_t gfp) = kmalloc;
void* kmalloc_wrapper(size_t n, gfp_t gfp) {
return kmalloc_ptr(n, gfp);
}
/* elsewhere in test case: use a fake implementation and then revert back */
kmalloc_ptr = my_fake_kmalloc;
KUNIT_EXPECT_EQ(some_test_function(), 42);
kmalloc_ptr = kmalloc;
Note that we can do the same thing using compile-time indirection
.. code-block:: c
#ifdef CONFIG_MY_KUNIT_TEST /* or some other, more generic check */
static void* (*kmalloc_ptr)(size_t n, gfp_t gfp) = kmalloc;
#endif
void* kmalloc_wrapper(size_t n, gfp_t gfp) {
#ifdef CONFIG_MY_KUNIT_TEST
return kmalloc_ptr(n, gfp);
#endif
return kmalloc(n, gfp);
}
/* in test file, use the fake for one call */
kmalloc_ptr = my_fake_kmalloc;
KUNIT_EXPECT_EQ(some_test_function(), 42);
kmalloc_ptr = kmalloc;
See :ref:`managing-state` for more details on cleanly handling state in test
doubles. In particular, one could use "named resources" instead of global
variables like ``kmalloc_ptr``. That approach would also be thread-safe, unlike
this example.
Pros:
~~~~~
- No runtime overhead outside of tests.
- For the link-time based approach ``__always_inline`` should eliminate
the potential function call overhead.
- With the compile-time approach, the code is unchanged unless the
relevant tests are being built.
- Able to limit the scope of the redirection to code we care about.
- Are also able to limit how long the redirection is in place.
Cons:
~~~~~
- The code-under-test (``func_under_test()``) needs to be changed to use this
new wrapper, somewhat hurting legibility.
- Requires a decent amount of boilerplate for every single function we might
want to stub.
- Probably best reserved for only a few key functions. We could have
shared implementations for some, e.g. ``kmalloc()``, if they're
flexible enough (e.g. allow assigning arbitrary function pointers
like in the second example).
- Inherits issues of the other approach, e.g. ``__weak`` won't work with
modules, etc.
Binary-level (ftrace et. al)
----------------------------
TODO(dlatypov@google.com): write me
Pros:
~~~~~
- TODO
Cons:
~~~~~
- TODO
TODO(dlatypov@google.com): include section on worked example use cases.
.. _managing-state:
Storing and accessing state for fakes/mocks
===========================================
One of the challenges of implementing both mocks and fakes is how to track
state. We can't pass in additional parameters since that'll change the function
signature, so we need some way of stashing state somewhere.
Below, we have two examples of how you can do so fairly cleanly.
Using named resources
---------------------
We can use ``current->kunit_test`` with ``kunit_add_named_resource`` to store
and retrieve test-specific data, e.g.
.. code-block:: c
/* in some shared file, mock_write.h/c */
/* Store some data per-test and have a kunit_resource handle for it. */
struct mock_write_data {
int times_called;
bool should_return_error;
};
static struct kunit_resource mock_write_data_resource;
int mock_write_init(struct kunit *test, struct mock_write_data *data) {
data->times_called = 0;
data->should_return_error = false;
return kunit_add_named_resource(test, NULL, NULL, &mock_write_data_resource,
"mock_write_data", data);
};
int mock_write(const char *data)
{
struct kunit_resource *resource;
struct mock_write_data *mock;
if (!current->kunit_test)
return -1;
resource = kunit_find_named_resource(current->kunit_test, "mock_write_data");
if (!resource) {
KUNIT_FAIL(current->kunit_test, "mock_write called before mock_write_init()!");
return -1;
}
mock = resource->data;
mock->times_called++;
return mock->should_return_error ? -1 : 0;
}
/* Then in the test file, can use the mock like so */
static void example_write_test(struct kunit *test)
{
struct mock_write_data mock;
mock_write_init(test, &mock);
mock.should_return_error = true;
KUNIT_EXPECT_LT(test, mock_write("hi"), 0);
mock.should_return_error = false;
KUNIT_EXPECT_EQ(test, mock_write("hi"), 0);
KUNIT_EXPECT_EQ(test, mock.times_called, 2);
}
Storing state without KUnit
---------------------------
The approach above is tied to KUnit, but it's obviously possible to come up
with ways to do it without that dependency.
For example, if you're targeting an ops struct, we can employ some
``container_of()`` shenanigans.
To make the example a bit simpler, let's assume our ops struct passes a pointer
to itself for each operation.
.. code-block:: c
struct writer {
int (*write)(struct writer *writer, const char *data);
};
/* in mock_writer.h/c */
struct mock_writer {
struct writer ops;
int times_called;
bool should_return_error;
};
static int mock_write(struct writer *writer, const char *data)
{
struct mock_writer *mock = container_of(writer, struct mock_writer, ops);
mock->times_called++;
return mock->should_return_error ? -1 : 0;
}
void init_mock_writer(struct mock_writer *mock) {
mock->ops.write = mock_write;
mock->times_called = 0;
mock->should_return_error = false;
}
/* Then in the test file */
static void example_simple_test(struct kunit *test)
{
struct mock_writer mock;
struct writer *writer = &mock.ops;
init_mock_writer(&mock);
mock.should_return_error = true;
KUNIT_EXPECT_LT(test, writer->write(writer, "hi"), 0);
mock.should_return_error = false;
KUNIT_EXPECT_EQ(test, writer->write(writer, "hi"), 0);
KUNIT_EXPECT_EQ(test, mock.times_called, 2);
}
If this seems unrealistic, that's because it is, but it's not too far from the
truth. E.g. ``struct inode`` has a ``struct inode_operations *i_ops`` member
and each operation takes a ``struct inode*`` as an argument (or a ``struct
dentry`` which we can easily convert over via ``d_inode()``).
So in that more realistic example, we'd have:
.. code-block:: c
struct mock_inode {
struct inode real;
/* mock/fake state stuff */
int readlink_err;
int get_acl_err;
};
static struct posix_acl *mock_get_acl(struct inode *inode, int type)
{
struct mock_inode *mock = container_of(inode, struct mock_inode, real);
if (mock->get_acl_err)
return ERR_PTR(get_acl_err);
return posix_acl_alloc(3, GFP_KERNEL);
}
static int mock_readlink(struct dentry *dentry, char __user * buffer, int buflen)
{
/* get mock_inode indrectly */
struct inode *inode = d_inode(dentry);
struct mock_inode *mock = container_of(inode, struct mock_inode, real);
return mock->readlink_err;
}
struct inode_operations mock_inode_operations = {
.get_acl = mock_get_acl,
.readlink = mock_readlink,
/* ... */
};
void mock_inode_init(struct mock_inode *mock)
{
/* ... */
mock->real.i_ops = &mock_inode_operations;
}