Traditionally, software testing followed a black-box approach, which is effective for monolithic systems often accessed via a graphical user interface. As IT systems got more and more complex, modular and interconnected, newer testing methodologies started evolving. Service-oriented architecture and similar component-based architecture styles are making the IT systems more modular, standardized and reusable with an objective of better business-IT alignment. This has forced testing experts to make a paradigm shift from an application-centric testing approach to a more business-process-centric testing approach. The resulting gray-box testing methodologies, like SOA testing, focuses on the validation of granular business components and their relationships rather than black-box application testing.
The term SOA testing is often frowned upon by idealists because SOA is only an architectural style and hence it does not give a precise meaning when you add the word testing to it. Nevertheless, the term is now being used for all kinds of application interface testing without a graphical user interface (GUI), mainly aimed at testing "headless" components such as Web services, enterprise service buses (ESBs) and process models. This type of testing always requires a tool to simulate the consumers of these interfaces or sometimes to "stub out" the providers that these interfaces consume. This is why we see a wide range of tools in the market tagged as "SOA testing tools."
The term SOA testing is very broad, and sometimes it is difficult for a consultant to recommend a tool that would best fit the testing needs of an organization without doing a complete analysis of its architectural and testing landscape. Moreover, license costs for these tools are very different from each other. Some tools are free, a few of them charge nominal amounts and the rest are expensive. This makes the tool selection even more complex, as you could take a drastic hit on your ROI by selecting the wrong tool -- either because it is under-fit or over-fit (underspecified or over-specified). A structured analysis of the testing needs when selecting a SOA testing tool helps achieve better ROI in the long run. Hence, it is important to understand the use parameters while selecting a SOA testing tool.
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