Pester 4.2.0 has a Because…… because :-)

I was going through my demo for the South Coast User Group meeting tonight and decided to add some details about the Because parameter available in the Pester pre-release version 4.2.0.

To install a pre-release version you need to get the latest  PowerShellGet module. This is pre-installed with PowerShell v6 but for earlier versions open PowerShell as administrator and run

You can try out the Pester pre-release version (once you have the latest PowerShellGet) by installing it from the PowerShell Gallery with

There are a number of improvements as you can see in the change log I particularly like the

  • Add -BeTrue to test for truthy values
  • Add -BeFalse to test for falsy values

This release adds the Because parameter to the all assertions. This means that you can add a reason why the test has failed. As JAKUB JAREŠ writes here

  • Reasons force you think more
  • Reasons document your intent
  • Reasons make your TestCases clearer
  • So you can do something like this

Which gives an error message like this 🙂

As you can see the Expected gives the expected value and then your Because statement and then the actual result. Which means that you could write validation tests like

and get a result like this

Or if you were looking to validate your SQL Server you could write something like this

or maybe your security policies allow Windows Groups as logins on your SQL instances. You could easily link to the documentation and explain why this is important. This way you could build up a set of tests to validate your SQL Server is just so for your environment

Just for fun, these would look like this

and the code looks like

This will be a useful improvement to Pester when it is released and enable you to write validation checks with explanations.

Chrissy has written about dbachecks the new up and coming community driven open source PowerShell module for SQL DBAs to validate their SQL Server estate. we have taken some of the ideas that we have presented about a way of using dbatools with Pester to validate that everything is how it should be and placed them into a meta data driven framework to make things easy for anyone to use. It is looking really good and I am really excited about it. It will be released very soon.

Chrissy and I will be doing a pre-con at SQLBits where we will talk in detail about how this works. You can find out more and sign up here

Using the AST in Pester for dbachecks

TagLine – My goal – Chrissy will appreciate Unit Tests one day 🙂

Chrissy has written about dbachecks the new up and coming community driven open source PowerShell module for SQL DBAs to validate their SQL Server estate. we have taken some of the ideas that we have presented about a way of using dbatools with Pester to validate that everything is how it should be and placed them into a meta data driven framework to make things easy for anyone to use. It is looking really good and I am really excited about it. It will be released very soon.

Chrissy and I will be doing a pre-con at SQLBits where we will talk in detail about how this works. You can find out more and sign up here

Cláudio Silva has improved my PowerBi For Pester file and made it beautiful and whilst we were discussing this we found that if the Pester Tests were not formatted correctly the Power Bi looked … well rubbish to be honest! Chrissy asked if we could enforce some rules for writing our Pester tests.

The rules were

The Describe title should be in double quotes
The Describe should use the plural Tags parameter
The Tags should be singular
The first Tag should be a unique tag in Get-DbcConfig
The context title should end with $psitem
The code should use Get-SqlInstance or Get-ComputerName
The Code should use the forEach method
The code should not use $_
The code should contain a Context block

She asked me if I could write the Pester Tests for it and this is how I did it. I needed to look at the Tags parameter for the Describe. It occurred to me that this was a job for the Abstract Syntax Tree (AST). I don’t know very much about the this but I sort of remembered reading a blog post by Francois-Xavier Cat about using it with Pester so I went and read that and found an answer on Stack Overflow as well. These looked just like what I needed so I made use of them. Thank you very much to Francois-Xavier and wOxxOm for sharing.

The first thing I did was to get the Pester Tests which we have located in a checks folder and loop through them and get the content of the file with the Raw parameter

Then I decided to look at the Describes using the method that wOxxOm (I know no more about this person!) showed.
As I understand it, this code is using the Parser on the $check (which contains the code from the file) and finding all of the Describe commands and creating an object of the title of the Describe with the StaticType equal to String and values from the Tag parameter.
When I ran this against the database tests file I got the following results
Then it was a simple case of writing some tests for the values

The Describes variable is inside @() so that if there is only one the ForEach Method will still work. The unique tags are returned from our command Get-DbcCheck which shows all of the checks. We will have a unique tag for each test so that they can be run individually.

Yes, I have tried to ensure that the tags are singular by ensuring that they do not end with an s (apart from statistics) and so had to not check  BackupPathAccess and statistics. Filename is a variable that we add to each Describe Tags so that we can run all of the tests in one file. I added a little if block to the Pester as well so that the error if the Tags parameter was not passed was more obvious

I did the same with the context blocks as well

This time we look for the Context command and ensure that the string value ends with psitem as the PowerBi parses the last value when creating columns
Finally I got all of the code and check if it matches some coding standards

I trim the title from the Describe block so that it is easy to see where the failures (or passes) are with some regex and then loop through each statement apart from the first line to ensure that the code is using our internal commands Get-SQLInstance or Get-ComputerName to get information, that we are looping through each of those arrays using the ForEach method rather than ForEach-Object and using $psitem rather than $_ to reference the “This Item” in the array and that each Describe block has a context block.

This should ensure that any new tests that are added to the module follow the guidance we have set up on the Wiki and ensure that the Power Bi results still look beautiful!

Anyone can run the tests using

before they create a Pull request and it looks like
if everything is Green then they can submit their Pull Request 🙂 If not they can see quickly that something needs to be fixed. (fail early 🙂 )
03 fails.png

Converting a Datarow to a JSON object with PowerShell

This is just a quick post. As is frequent with these they are as much for me to refer to in the future and also because the very act of writing it down will aid me in remembering. I encourage you to do the same. Share what you learn because it will help you as well as helping others.

Anyway, I was writing some Pester tests for a module that I was writing when I needed some sample data. I have written before about using Json for this purpose This function required some data from a database so I wrote the query to get the data and used dbatools to run the query against the database using Get-DbaDatabase

Simple enough. I wanted to be able to Mock $variable. I wrapped the code above in a function, let’s call it Run-Query

Which meant that I could easily separate it for mocking in my test. I ran the code and investigated the $variable variable to ensure it had what I wanted for my test and then decided to convert it into JSON using ConvertTo-Json

Lets show what happens with an example using WideWorldImporters and a query I found on Kendra Littles blogpost about deadlocks

If I investigate the $variable variable I get

data results

The results were just what I wanted so I thought I will just convert them to JSON and save them in a file and bingo I have some test data in a mock to ensure my code is doing what I expect. However, when I run

I get

json error.png

and thats just for one row!

The way to resolve this is to only select the data that we need. The easiest way to do this is to exclude the properties that we don’t need

which gave me what I needed and a good use case for -ExcludeProperty

json fixed.png

Handling Missing Instances when Looping with Pester

In my previous posts about writing your first Pester Test and looping through instances I described how you can start to validate that your SQL Server is how YOU want it to be.

Unavailable machines

Once you begin to have a number of tests for a number of instances you want to be able to handle any machines that are not available cleanly otherwise you might end up with something like this.

01 - error.png

In this (made up) example we loop through 3 instances and try to check the DNS Server entry is correct but for one of them we get a massive error and if we had created a large number of tests for each machine we would have a large number of massive errors.

Empty Collection

If we don’t successfully create our collection we might have an empty collection which will give us a different issue. No tests

02 - no tests.png

If this was in amongst a whole number of tests we would not have tested anything in this Describe block and might be thinking that our tests were OK because we had no failures of our tests. We would be wrong!

Dealing with Empty Collections

One way of dealing with empty collections is to test that they have more than 0 members

Notice the backtick ` before the $ to escape it in the Write-Warning. An empty collection now looks like
03 - uh-oh.png
Which is much better and provides useful information to the user

Dealing with Unavailable Machines

If we want to make sure we dont clutter up our test results with a whole load of failures when a machine is unavailable we can use similar logic.

First we could check if it is responding to a ping (assuming that ICMP is allowed by the firewall and switches) using

This will just try one ping and do it quietly only returning True or False and if there are any errors it shouldn’t mention it

In the example above I am using PSRemoting and we should make sure that that is working too. So whilst I could use

this only checks if a WSMAN connection is possible and not other factors that could be affecting the ability to run remote sessions. Having been caught by this before I have always used this function from Lee Holmes (Thank you Lee) and thus can use

which provides a result like this

04 - better handling.png

Which is much better I think 🙂

Let dbatools do the error handling for you

If your tests are only using the dbatools module then there is built in error handling that you can use. By default dbatools returns useful messages rather than the exceptions from PowerShell (You can enable the exceptions using the -EnableExceptions parameter if you want/need to) so if we run our example from the previous post it will look like

05 - dbatools handling.png

which is fine for a single command but we don’t really want to waste time and resources repeatedly trying to connect to an instance if we know it is not available if we are running multiple commands against each instance.

dbatools at the beginning of the loop

We can use Test-DbaConnection to perform a check at the beginning of the loop as we discussed in the previous post

Notice that we have used -WarningAction SilentlyContinue to hide the warnings from the command this tiime. Our test now looks like
06 - dbatools test-dbaconnection.png
Test-DbaConnection performs a number of tests so you can check for ping SQL version, domain name and remoting if you want to exclude tests on those basis

Round Up

In this post we have covered some methods of ensuring that your Pester Tests return what you expect. You don’t want empty collections of SQL Instances making you think you have no failed tests when you have not actually run any tests.

You can do this by checking how many instances are in the collection

You also dont want to keep running tests against a machine or instance that is not responding or available.

You can do this by checking a ping with Test-Connection or if remoting is required by using the Test-PSRemoting function from Lee Holmes

If you want to use dbatools exclusively you can use Test-DbaConnection

Here is a framework to put your tests inside. You will need to provide the values for the $Instances and place your tests inside the Describe Block

2 Ways to Loop through collections in Pester

In my last post I showed you how to write your first Pester test to validate something. Here’s a recap

  • Decide the information you wish to test
  • Understand how to get it with PowerShell
  • Understand what makes it pass and what makes it fail
  • Write a Pester Test

You probably have more than one instance that you want to test, so how do you loop through a collection of instances? There are a couple of ways.

Getting the Latest Version of the Module

The magnificent Steve Jones wrote about getting the latest version of Pester and the correct way to do it. You can find the important information here

Test Cases

The first way is to use the Test Case parameter of the It command (the test) which I have written about when using TDD for Pester here

Lets write a test first to check if we can successfully connect to a SQL Instance. Running

shows us that the Test-DbaConnection command is the one that we want from the dbatools module. We should always run Get-Help to understand how to use any PowerShell command. This shows us that the results will look like this

01 - gethelp test-dbaconnection

So there is a ConnectSuccess result which returns True or false. Our test can look like this for a single instance


which gives us some test results that look like this

successful test.png
which is fine for one instance but we want to check many.
We need to gather the instances into a $Instances variable. In my examples I have hard coded a list of SQL Instances but you can, and probably should, use a more dynamic method, maybe the results of a query to a configuration database. Then we can fill our TestCases variable which can be done like this
Then we can write our test like this
Within the title of the test we refer to the instance inside <> and add the parameter TestCases with a value of the $TestCases variable. We also need to add a Param() to the test with the same name and then use that variable in the test.
This looks like this
Testcases test.png

Pester is PowerShell

The problem with  Test Cases is that we can only easily loop through one collection, but as Pester is just PowerShell we can simply use ForEach if we wanted to loop through multiple ones, like instances and then databases.

I like to use the ForEach method as it is slightly quicker than other methods. It will only work with PowerShell version 4 and above. Below that version you need to pipe the collection to For-EachObject.

Lets write a test to see if our databases have trustworthy set on. We can do this using the Trustworthy property returned from Get-DbaDatabase. 

We loop through our Instances using the ForEach method and create a Context for each Instance to make the test results easier to read. We then place the call to Get-DbaDatabase inside braces and loop through those and check the Trustworthy property

and it looks like this

testdatabasetrustworthy.png

So there you have two different ways to loop through collections in your Pester tests. Hopefully this can help you to write some good tests to validate your environment.
Happy Pestering

Spend a Whole Day With Chrissy & I at SQLBits

If you would like to spend a whole day with Chrissy LeMaire and I at SQLBits in London in February – we have a pre-con on the Thursday
You can find out more about the pre-con sqlps.io/bitsprecon
and you can register at sqlps.io/bitsreg

Write Your first Pester Test Today

I was in Glasgow this Friday enjoying the fantastic hospitality of the Glasgow SQL User Group @SQLGlasgow and presenting sessions with Andre Kamman, William Durkin and Chrissy LeMaire

I presented “Green is Good Red is Bad – Turning your checklists into Pester Tests”. I had to make sure I had enough energy beforehand so I treated myself to a fabulous burger.

20171110_114933-compressor.jpg

Afterwards I was talking to some of the attendees and realised that maybe I could show how easy it was to start writing your first Pester test. Here are the steps to follow so that you can  write your first Pester test

Decide the information you wish to test
Understand how to get it with PowerShell
Understand what makes it pass and what makes it fail
Write a Pester Test

The first bit is up to you. I cannot decide what you need to test for on your servers in your environments. Whatever is the most important. For now pick one thing.

Logins – Lets pick logins as an example for this post. It is good practice to disable the sa account is advice that you will read all over the internet and is often written into estate documentation so lets write a test for that

Now we need the PowerShell command to return the information to test for. We need a command that will get information about logins on a SQL server and if it can return disabled logins then all the better.

As always when starting to use PowerShell with SQL Server I would start with dbatools if we run Find-DbaCommand we can search for commands in the module that support logins. (If you have chosen something none SQL Server related then you can use Get-Command or the internet to find the command you need)

find-dbacommand.png

Get-DbaLogin . That looks like the one that we want. Now we need to understand how to use it. Always always use Get-Help to do this. If we run

we get all of the information about the command and the examples. Example 8 looks like it will help us

get-dbalogin example

So now try running the command for our disabled sa account

disabled sa account

So we know that if we have a disabled sa account we get a result. Lets enable the sa account and run the command again

not disabled.png

We don’t get a result. Excellent, now we know what happens for a successful test – we get one result and for failed test we get zero results. We can check that by running

login count

The first one has the account disabled and the second one not. So now we can write our Pester Test. We can start with a Describe Block with a useful title. I am going to add a context block so that you can see how you can group your tests.

describe context

and then we will write our test. Pester Tests use the It keyword. You should always give a useful title to your test

it should

Now we can write our test. We know that the command returns one result when we want it to pass so we can write a test like this

login test.png

The code I have added is

which is
  • the code for getting the information about the thing we wanted to test (The count of the disabled sa logins on the instance)
  • a pipe symbol |
  • The Should key word
  • The Be keyword
  • and the result we want to pass the test (1)

Ta Da! One Pester test written. You can run the test just by highlighting the code and running it in VS Code (or PowerShell ISE) and it will look like this for a passing test

passing test

It is better to save it for later use and then call it with Invoke-Pester

invoke

So now you can write your first Pester test. Just find the PowerShell to get the information that you need, understand what the results will be for passing and failing tests and write your test 🙂

Getting the Latest Version of the Module

The magnificent Steve Jones wrote about getting the latest version of Pester and the correct way to do it. You can find the important information here

Spend a Whole Day With Chrissy & I at SQLBits

If you would like to spend a whole day with Chrissy LeMaire and I at SQLBits in London in February – we have a pre-con on the Thursday
You can find out more about the pre-con sqlps.io/bitsprecon
and you can register at sqlps.io/bitsreg

TSQL2sDay – Folks Who Have Made a Difference

tsql2sday

This months TSQL2sDay is an absolute brilliant one hosted by Ewald Cress

the opportunity to give a shout-out to people (well-known or otherwise) who have made a meaningful contribution to your life in the world of data.

Fabulous, fabulous idea Ewald, I heartily approve

Now this is going to be difficult. There are so many wonderful people in the #SQLFamily who are so gracious and generous and willing to share. I am also lucky enough to be part of the PowerShell community which is also equally filled with amazing people. I do not want to write a novel or a massive list of people, I don’t want to risk missing someone out (Ewald, I’m beginning to question whether ‘fabulous’ should become ‘tricky and challenging’ !!)

So after consideration I am only going to talk about 4 wonderful people and the effect they have had on my life, my career and my community involvement but know that I truly appreciate the input that all of the peoples have had and the amazing friendships that I have all over the world. There is no order to this list, these are 4 of the people in equal first with all the other people I haven’t mentioned. This post should really scroll sideways. Interestingly I noticed after writing this that they are in reverse chronological order in my life!

The Hair!

At PASS Summit this year many people came up to me and said “Hey, Beard ……..” The first person who called me that is an amazing inspiring bundle of talented energy called Chrissy LeMaire

Many moons ago, we exchanged messages over social media and email, chatted after a PowerShell Virtual Group presentation and then one day she asked me to join as an organiser for the Virtual Group.

When dbatools was in it’s infancy she asked me to help and since then has given me interesting challenges to overcome from introducing Pester and appveyor to the dbatools development process to creating continuous delivery to our private PowerShell gallery for our summit pre-con forcing me to learn and implement new and cool things. Our shared love of enabling people to do cool things with PowerShell is so much fun to do 🙂

She is so generous and giving of her time and knowledge and has an amazing capability to get things done, whether by herself or by encouraging and supporting others.

We have presented at many conferences together, both SQL and PowerShell and we have the best of times doing so. It is so refreshing to find someone that I am comfortable presenting with and who has the same passion and energy for inspiring people. (It’s also fun to occasionally throw her off her stride mid-presentation (Thank you Cathrine 🙂 )

I am proud to call her my buddy. You are so inspiring Chrissy.

Thank you Ma’am

Amazing Couple

A few months after becoming a DBA I was the only DBA at the company as the others all left for various reasons. I was drowning in work, had no idea what I should be doing. I knew I didn’t have the knowledge and during that time I began to be aware of the SQL community and all the fine resources that it provides.

I then found out about a local user group and emailed the leader Jonathan Allen (He surprised me by reminding of this during our pre-con in Singapore a couple of weeks ago!) Jonathan and his wife Annette run the SQL South West user group and are also members of the SQL Bits committee, Annette is also the regional mentor for the UK. They give an awful amount of time and effort to the SQL Community in the UK. It took a few months before I even had the time to attend a user group and in those early days they both answered my naive questions and passed on so much of their technical knowledge and methodology to me and I soaked it up.

Later on, they invited me to help them to organise SQL Saturday Exeter, encouraged me to speak, gave me fabulous feedback and pointers to improve, encouraged me to volunteer for SQL Bits and have been incredibly supportive. I love them both very much. Neither like having their photo taken so I can’t embarrass them too much.

Next time you see them give them a hug.

Thank you J and A

The First One

Andrew Pruski dbafromthecold and SQL Containers Man

At the time I am talking about he was not a member of the SQL Community although he possessed all of the qualities that describe such a person. Now he is an established blogger and speaker and attender of SQL events.

He is one of the DBA’s who left me on my own!! He is the first SQL DBA I ever worked with. The person who taught me all those important first bits of knowledge about being a SQL DBA. He imparted a great amount of knowledge in a few months with great patience to an eager newbie.

More than that, he showed me that to succeed in IT, you need to do more than just an everyday 9-5, that it requires more time than that. He instilled in me (without realising it) a work ethic and a thirst for doing things right and gaining knowledge that I still have today. He inspired me when I was faced with trying to understand the mountain of knowledge that is SQL Server that it was possible to learn enough. He taught me the importance of testing things, of understanding the impact of the change that is being made. He showed me how to respond in crises and yet was still willing to share and teach during those times.

He has had a greater impact on me than he will ever know and I have told him this privately many times. I will never forgive him for abandoning me all those years ago and yet that is a large part of what made me who I am today. I was forced to have to deal with looking after a large estate by myself and needed to learn to automate fast and he just about left me with the skills to be able to accomplish that.

Massive shout out to you fella. Thank you

All the Others

Seriously, there are so many other people who I wish I could thank.

Every single one of you who blogs or speaks or records webinars that I have watched – thank you.

All of the organisers who ensure that events happen – thank you

All of the volunteers who assist at those events – thank you.

That group of amazing European speakers at the first SQL Saturday Exeter I attended. The cool group, my wife still reminds me of how I came home from that event so inspired by them. How incredibly generous and welcoming they were and how they welcomed me into their group even though I didn’t feel worthy to share their table. They taught me about the lack of egos and humbleness that defines the SQL family. I am proud to call them my friends now. Thank You (You know who you are)

We have a great community, may its ethos continue for a long time.