Do System Test Cases Grow Old?
by R. Feldt
ArXiv Preprint
Companies increasingly use either manual or automated system testing to ensure the quality of their software products. As a system evolves and is extended with new features the test suite also typically grows as new test cases are added. To ensure software quality throughout this process the test suite is continously executed, often on a daily basis. It seems likely that newly added tests would be more likely to fail than older tests but this has not been investigated in any detail on large-scale, industrial software systems. Also it is not clear which methods should be used to conduct such an analysis. This paper proposes three main concepts that can be used to investigate aging effects in the use and failure behavior of system test cases: test case activation curves, test case hazard curves, and test case half-life. To evaluate these concepts and the type of analysis they enable we apply them on an industrial software system containing more than one million lines of code. The data sets comes from a total of 1,620 system test cases executed a total of more than half a million times over a time period of two and a half years. For the investigated system we find that system test cases stay active as they age but really do grow old; they go through an infant mortality phase with higher failure rates which then decline over time. The test case half-life is between 5 to 12 months for the two studied data sets.


  author =    "Robert Feldt",
  title =     "Do System Test Cases Grow Old?",
  year =      "2014",
  pages =     "343--352",
  booktitle = "Software Testing, Verification and Validation (ICST), 2014 IEEE Seventh International Conference on",
  organization = "IEEE",
  url =       "",
  keywords =  "Software testing, System testing, Empirical study, Statistical analysis"