Milhouse on software, engineering, and Emacs.

Temporarily Disable VCR

TL;DR: If you control your application’s “external” dependencies, turning off VCR on your build server can increase the integration exercise of your applications for virtually zero cost. In this post I will show how you can disable VCR in your test suite with an environment variable.

In the project I’m currently working on we have two Rails applications that are tightly related. One application acts as a validator-on-steroids and complex task builder (imagine it as the configure scripts that generate system specific Makefiles). The other, is an asynchronous, isolated, concurrent and task-interdependency aware job executor (think of it as make itself). The first, uses complex business logic to format crazy interdependent tasks for the second to run concurrently.

Those applications communicate over HTTP, and we (of course) use VCR to speed up unit tests. Each application sees the other as an external dependency.

Since we still have no integration/acceptance test suite, we realized we could achieve a little more integration by running our test suite with VCR turned off in the build server. That itself proved to be not as easy as I would’ve guessed beforehand.

This idea makes no sense in the default use case for VCR – isolating your tests from external dependencies, such as the twitter Api – so bear with me.

In order to turn VCR off completely, the setup I made at spec_helper.rb is something like the following:

# Simplified config for demonstration purposes
RSpec.configure do |config|
# ...

  config.around(:each, :vcr) do |example|

VCR.configure do |c|
  c.cassette_library_dir = 'spec/fixtures/vcr_cassettes'
  c.hook_into :webmock

  c.default_cassette_options = {
    record: :once,
    match_requests_on: %i(method uri body)

def handle_vcr(example)
  return run_with_http_interaction(example) if ENV['VCR_OFF']
  VCR.use_cassette(name, options) { }

def run_with_http_interaction(example)
  VCR.turned_off { }

With this setup, you can disable VCR entirely by setting the environment variable VCR_OFF (e.g. VCR_OFF=true bundle exec rspec).

The main trouble was discovering that I had to call WebMock#allow_net_connect! and WebMock#disable_net_connect! around the example execution.

With a little extra care writing the tests so that they work regardless of VCR being on or off, we get more integration exercise between the applications. This does not replace integration and acceptance tests per se, but since the extra cost is almost zero, I see no reason for not doing this.

That’s it.


Check this awesome post about integration tests in SOA apps. Also, take a look at the remote factory girl gem.