Test sharding

When the test corpus is large or the execution time becomes long, we offer the possibility of splitting the tests across several devices: sharding.

Sharding has prerequisites for the test runner to support sharding.

The majority of the main test runners already supports sharding so no additional work is required. These already support sharding: instrumentation tests, host-side driven tests, GTest.

There are two types of sharding we support in Tradefed: local and distributed. They share some similarities, so this page describes the common properties and then the specifics of each.

Common properties

Both forms of sharding assume the same properties from the tests runners: Shards need to be independent and deterministic. The first step of both shardings is to build the complete ordered list of the tests and then split them into different groups/shards.

The main difference of the sharding forms is in the way they execute the tests. More details in the sections below.

Local sharding

Local sharding means all the devices involved in the execution of the sharded invocation are connected to the same physical host.


Local sharding takes advantage of all the devices being connected to the same host by creating a pool of tests that needs to be executed and having each device polling tests when it is free (that is, done with the previous test). This results in an optimized device utilization. We also call it dynamic sharding.


--shard-count XX

Distributed sharding

Distributed sharding means all the devices involved in the execution of the sharded invocation can live anywhere and be connected to different physical hosts.


Distributed sharding occurs upon building the list of tests, and the content of each shard executes only the currently requested shard. So all distributed shards build the same list at first and then execute a mutually exclusive subset of it, which results in all the tests being executed.

The main property of this form being the shards are completely unaware of each other and can fail independently.

The main drawback is that the shard length isn't necessarily balanced simply because we cannot predict in advance the runtime of each test in each shard. The distribution is made to have approximately the same number of test cases in each shards.


--shard-count XX --shard-index XX

Token sharding

Token sharding can be used with local sharding only. The flag is inoperational in non-local sharding use cases. Sometimes one of the devices involved in sharding holds special resources that others don't, such as a SIM card. Some tests might only work when that special resource is available and would fail otherwise.

Token sharding is our solution to such use cases. Test modules are able to declare which special resource they need in their AndroidTest.xml, and Tradefed routes the tests to a device that has the resource.

XML configuration

<option name="config-descriptor:metadata" key="token" value="SIM_CARD" />

The value of the token matches Tradefed's TokenProperty and is associated with a handler in TokenProviderHelper.

This allows for test modules to be run against devices that can properly execute the tests.

What if no devices can run the test?

If no devices available have the resource matching the test module, the test module is failed and skipped because it can't execute properly.

For example, if a test module requests a SIM card to run but no devices have a SIM card, the test module fails.


Pass this feature flag to the main Tradefed command line: