This post is a direct follow-up to Microservices test architecture where I’ve introduced new kinds of tests to our example project.

Wild Workouts uses Google Cloud Build as CI/CD platform. It’s configured in a continuous deployment manner, meaning the changes land on production as soon as the pipeline passes. If you consider our current setup, it’s both brave and naive. We have no tests running there that could save us from obvious mistakes (the not-so-obvious mistakes can rarely be caught by tests, anyway).

In this article I will show how to run integration, component, and end-to-end tests on Google Cloud Build using docker-compose.

The current config

Let’s take a look at the current cloudbuild.yaml file. While it’s pretty simple, most steps are being run several times as we keep 3 microservices in a single repository. I focus on the backend part, so I will skip all config related to frontend deployment now.

  - id: trainer-lint
    name: golang
    entrypoint: ./scripts/
    args: [trainer]
  - id: trainings-lint
    name: golang
    entrypoint: ./scripts/
    args: [trainings]
  - id: users-lint
    name: golang
    entrypoint: ./scripts/
    args: [users]

  - id: trainer-docker
    entrypoint: ./scripts/
    args: ["trainer", "$PROJECT_ID"]
    waitFor: [trainer-lint]
  - id: trainings-docker
    entrypoint: ./scripts/
    args: ["trainings", "$PROJECT_ID"]
    waitFor: [trainings-lint]
  - id: users-docker
    entrypoint: ./scripts/
    args: ["users", "$PROJECT_ID"]
    waitFor: [users-lint]

  - id: trainer-http-deploy
    entrypoint: ./scripts/
    args: [trainer, http, "$PROJECT_ID"]
    waitFor: [trainer-docker]
  - id: trainer-grpc-deploy
    entrypoint: ./scripts/
    args: [trainer, grpc, "$PROJECT_ID"]
    waitFor: [trainer-docker]
  - id: trainings-http-deploy
    entrypoint: ./scripts/
    args: [trainings, http, "$PROJECT_ID"]
    waitFor: [trainings-docker]
  - id: users-http-deploy
    entrypoint: ./scripts/
    args: [users, http, "$PROJECT_ID"]
    waitFor: [users-docker]
  - id: users-grpc-deploy
    entrypoint: ./scripts/
    args: [users, grpc, "$PROJECT_ID"]
    waitFor: [users-docker]

Notice the waitFor key. It makes a step wait only for other specified steps. Some jobs can run in parallel this way.

Here’s a more readable version of what’s going on:

We have a similar workflow for each service: lint (static analysis), build the Docker image, and deploy it as one or two Cloud Run services.

Since our test suite is ready and works locally, we need to figure out how to plug it in the pipeline.

Docker Compose

We already have one docker-compose definition, and I would like to keep it this way. We will use it for:

  • running the application locally,
  • running tests locally,
  • running tests in the CI.

These three targets have different needs. For example, when running the application locally, we want to have hot code reloading. But that’s pointless in the CI. On the other hand, we can’t expose ports on localhost in the CI, which is the easiest way to reach the application in the local environment.

Luckily docker-compose is flexible enough to support all of these use cases. We will use a base docker-compose.yml file and an additional file with overrides just for the CI. You can run it by passing both files using the -f flag (notice there’s one flag for each file). Keys from the files will be merged in the provided order.

docker-compose -f docker-compose.yml -f up -d

To run it on Cloud Build, we can use the docker/compose image.

- id: docker-compose
  name: 'docker/compose:1.19.0'
  args: ['-f', 'docker-compose.yml', '-f', '', 'up', '-d']
  waitFor: [trainer-docker, trainings-docker, users-docker]

Since we filled waitFor with proper step names, we can be sure the correct images are present. This is what we’ve just added:

The first override we add to makes each service use docker images by the tag instead of building one from docker/app/Dockerfile. This ensures our tests check the same images we’re going to deploy.

Note the ${PROJECT_ID} variable in the image keys. This needs to be the production project, so we can’t hardcode it in the repository. Cloud Build provides this variable in each step, so we just pass it to the docker-compose up command (see the definition above).

    image: "${PROJECT_ID}/trainer"

    image: "${PROJECT_ID}/trainer"

    image: "${PROJECT_ID}/trainings"

    image: "${PROJECT_ID}/users"

    image: "${PROJECT_ID}/users"


Many CI systems use Docker today, typically running each step inside a container with the chosen image. Using docker-compose in a CI is a bit trickier, as it usually means running Docker containers from within a Docker container.

On Google Cloud Build, all containers live inside the cloudbuild network. Simply adding this network as the default one for our is enough for CI steps to connect to the docker-compose services.

Here’s the second part of our override file:

      name: cloudbuild

Environment variables

Using environment variables as configuration seems simple at first, but it quickly becomes complex considering how many scenarios we need to handle. Let’s try to list all of them:

  • running the application locally,
  • running component tests locally,
  • running component tests in the CI,
  • running end-to-end tests locally,
  • running end-to-end tests in the CI.

I didn’t include running the application on production, as it doesn’t use docker-compose.

Why component and end-to-end tests are separate scenarios? The former spin up services on demand and the latter communicate with services already running within docker-compose. It means both types will use different endpoints to reach the services.

We already keep a base .env file that holds most variables. It’s passed to each service in the docker-compose definition.

Additionally, docker-compose loads this file automatically when it finds it in the working directory. Thanks to this, we can use the variables inside the yaml definition as well.

      context: docker/app
      # The $PORT variable comes from the .env file
      - "$PORT"
      # All variables from .env are passed to the service
      - .env
    # (part of the definition omitted)

We also need these variables loaded when running tests. That’s pretty easy to do in bash:

source .env
# exactly the same thing
. .env

However, the variables in our .env file have no export prefix, so they won’t be passed further to the applications running in the shell. We can’t use the prefix because it wouldn’t be compatible with the syntax docker-compose expects.

Additionally, we can’t use a single file with all scenarios. We need to have some variable overrides, just like we did with the docker-compose definition. My idea is to keep one additional file for each scenario. It will be loaded together with the base .env file.

Let’s see what’s the difference between all scenarios. For clarity, I’ve included only users-http, but the idea will apply to all services.

Scenario MySQL host Firestore host users-http address File
Running locally localhost localhost localhost:3002 .env
Local component tests localhost localhost localhost:5002 .test.env
CI component tests mysql firestore-component-tests localhost:5002
Local end-to-end tests - - localhost:3002 .e2e.env
CI end-to-end tests - - users-http:3000

Services ran by docker-compose use ports 3000+, and component tests start services on ports 5000+. This way, both instances can run at the same time.

I’ve created a bash script that reads the variables and runs tests. Please don’t try to define such a complex scenario directly in the Makefile. Make is terrible at managing environment variables. Your mental health is at stake.

The other reason for creating a dedicated script is that we keep 3 services in one repository and end-to-end tests in a separate directory. If I need to run the same command multiple times, I prefer calling a script with two variables rather than a long incantation of flags and arguments.

The third argument in favor of separate bash scripts is they can be linted with shellcheck.

set -e

readonly service="$1"
readonly env_file="$2"

cd "./internal/$service"
env $(cat "../../.env" "../../$env_file" | grep -Ev '^#' | xargs) go test -count=1 ./...

The script runs go test in the given directory with environment variables loaded from .env and the specified file. The env / xargs trick passes all variables to the following command. Notice how we remove comments from the file with grep.

Running tests

I have the end-to-end tests running after tests for all the services passed. It should resemble the way you would usually run them. Remember, end-to-end tests should work just as a double-check, and each service’s own tests should have the most coverage.

Because our end-to-end tests are small in scope, we can run them before deploying the services. If they were running for a long time, this could block our deployments. A better idea in this scenario would be to rely on each service’s component tests and run the end-to-end suite in parallel.

- id: trainer-tests
  name: golang
  entrypoint: ./scripts/
  args: ["trainer", ""]
  waitFor: [docker-compose]
- id: trainings-tests
  name: golang
  entrypoint: ./scripts/
  args: ["trainings", ""]
  waitFor: [docker-compose]
- id: users-tests
  name: golang
  entrypoint: ./scripts/
  args: ["users", ""]
  waitFor: [docker-compose]
- id: e2e-tests
  name: golang
  entrypoint: ./scripts/
  args: ["common", ""]
  waitFor: [trainer-tests, trainings-tests, users-tests]

The last thing we add is running docker-compose down after all tests have passed. This is just a cleanup.

- id: docker-compose-down
  name: 'docker/compose:1.19.0'
  args: ['-f', 'docker-compose.yml', '-f', '', 'down']
  waitFor: [e2e-tests]

The second part of our pipeline looks like this now:

Here’s how running the tests locally looks like (I’ve introduced this make target in the previous article). It’s exactly the same commands as in the CI, just with different .env files.

    @./scripts/ common .e2e.env
    @./scripts/ trainer .test.env
    @./scripts/ trainings .test.env
    @./scripts/ users .test.env

Separating tests

Looking at the table from the previous article, we could split tests into two groups, depending on whether they use Docker.

Feature Unit Integration Component End-to-End
Docker database No Yes Yes Yes

Unit tests are the only category not using a Docker database, while integration, component, and end-to-end tests do.

Even though we made all our tests fast and stable, setting up Docker infrastructure adds some overhead. It’s helpful to run all unit tests separately, to have a first guard against mistakes.

We could use build tags to separate tests that don’t use Docker. You can define the build tags in the first line of a file.

// +build docker

We could now run unit tests separately from all tests. For example, the command below would run only tests that need Docker services:

go test -tags=docker ./...

Another way to separate tests is using the -short flag and checking testing.Short() in each test case.

In the end, I decided to not introduce this separation. We made our tests stable and fast enough that running them all at once is not an issue. However, our project is pretty small, and the test suite covers just the critical paths. When it grows, it might be a good idea to introduce the build tags in component tests.

Digression: A short story about CI debugging

While I was introducing changes for this post, the initial test runs on Cloud Build kept failing. According to logs, tests couldn’t reach services from docker-compose.

So I started debugging and added a simple bash script that would connect to the services via telnet.

To my surprise, connecting to mysql:3306 worked correctly, but firestore:8787 didn’t, and the same for all Wild Workouts services.

I thought this is because docker-compose takes a long time to start, but any number of retries didn’t help. Finally, I decided to try something crazy, and I’ve set up a reverse SSH tunnel from one of the containers in docker-compose.

This allowed me to SSH inside one of the containers while the build was still running. I then tried using telnet and curl, and they worked correctly for all services.

Finally, I spotted a bug in the bash script I’ve used.

readonly host="$1"
readonly port="$1"

# (some retries code)

telnet "$host" "$port"

The typo in variables definition caused the telnet command to run like this: telnet $host $host. So why it worked for MySQL? It turns out, telnet recognizes ports defined in /etc/services. So telnet mysql mysql got translated to telnet mysql 3306 and worked fine, but it failed for any other service.

Why the tests failed though? Well, it turned out to be a totally different reason.

Originally, we connected to MySQL like this:

config := mysql.Config{
   Addr:      os.Getenv("MYSQL_ADDR"),
   User:      os.Getenv("MYSQL_USER"),
   Passwd:    os.Getenv("MYSQL_PASSWORD"),
   DBName:    os.Getenv("MYSQL_DATABASE"),
   ParseTime: true, // with that parameter, we can use time.Time in mysqlHour.Hour

db, err := sqlx.Connect("mysql", config.FormatDSN())
if err != nil {
    return nil, errors.Wrap(err, "cannot connect to MySQL")

I looked into environment variables, and all of them were filled correctly. After adding some fmt.Println() debugs, I’ve found out the config’s Addr part is completely ignored by the MySQL client because we didn’t specify the Net field. Why it worked for local tests? Because MySQL was exposed on localhost, which is the default address.

The other test failed to connect to one of Wild Workouts services, and it turned out to be because I’ve used incorrect port in the .env file.

Why I’m sharing this at all? I think it’s a great example of how working with CI systems can often look like. When multiple things can fail, it’s easy to come to wrong conclusions and dig deep in the wrong direction.

When in doubt, I like to reach for basic tools for investigating Linux issues, like strace, curl, or telnet. That’s also why I did the reverse SSH tunnel, and I’m glad I did because it seems like a great way to debug issues inside the CI. I feel I will use it again sometime. 😄


We managed to keep a single docker-compose definition for running tests locally and in the pipeline. The entire Cloud Build run from git push to production takes 4 minutes.

We’ve used a few clever hacks, but that’s just regular stuff when dealing with CI. Sometimes you just can’t avoid adding some bash magic to make things work.

In contrast to the domain code, hacks in your CI setup shouldn’t hurt you too much, as long as there are only a few of them. Just make sure it’s easy to understand what’s going on, so you’re not the only person with all the knowledge.

With this post, we wrap up the first refactoring session of Wild Workouts. We’re going to move on to strategic patterns now. Thanks for reading, and see you soon! 👋