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Building Your CI/CD Pipeline: A Comparison of 5 (Mostly) Open-Source Tools

Jul 19, 2021

For today’s tech leaders, continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines are pivotal for streamlining application development. CI/CD pipelines automate your application building, testing, and deployment, making it easier for your team to deliver the latest version of your app in record time.

Whether you have an existing CI/CD pipeline in place or you’re looking to build one from scratch, you’ll need user-friendly tools to support your journey. Experienced app development teams typically rely on open-source tooling to build their pipelines, not only because they are most cost-effective but also because they are continually improved by a vast community of tech experts.

In this blog, we’ll compare five (mostly) open-source tools to help your team choose the right programs for your project. We’ll focus on five key criteria: flexibility, cost, security, maintenance, and user experience.

1. Jenkins

Jenkins is a popular open-source CI/CD builder tool, in large part because it’s been around for more than a decade. Jenkins has dozens of plugins to customize your pipeline, making it both a flexible and cost-effective option. Because the tool is mature, you won’t have to worry about maintenance or security—those issues are addressed on an ongoing basis by a community of developers. Plus, Jenkins’s plugins give you a high level of visibility into the health of your job.

It’s important to note that Jenkins is only a pipeline builder. It doesn’t have a built-in code repository, so you’ll need a choose one to support deployment. Jenkins also requires its own server, whether you operate it in the cloud or on-premises.

Takeaway: Jenkins is a reliable, flexible, and cost-effective builder tool that allows you to work on-prem or in the cloud.

2. CircleCI

Like Jenkins, CircleCI is a pipeline builder tool. It packages many of the same features as Jenkins in an enterprise offering. There is a free offering for this tool, but if you have a more robust pipeline you’ll have to pay as you move up the tiers.

Many DevOps teams gravitate toward CircleCI because it has a much more mature user interface than Jenkins. CircleCI takes Jenkins features and offers a more user-friendly experience—though, as we noted above, you’ll likely have to pay for that upgrade. CircleCI was also designed as a SaaS solution, so it’s made to run in the cloud.

Takeaway: CircleCI offers many of the same features as Jenkins, with a more mature user interface. Unlike Jenkins, it’s cloud-native. However, it’s not as cost-effective depending on the size of your pipeline.

3. GitLab CICD

GitLab CICD was designed as a code repository tool, meaning that its original purpose was to store deployed code. However, the developers have added CI/CD builder capabilities over the years meaning that you can now use this tool as both a builder tool and a code repository.

GitLab can be used on its own or combined with Jenkins or CircleCI to house your code. It is a mature tool with a well-designed user interface that makes it easy for your team to learn and operate.

Takeaway: GitLab is a cost-effective code repository that can also be combined with a builder tool or used independently and a mature solution.

4. GitHub Actions

Launched in 2020, GitHub Actions is the youngest tool on this list. While GitHub is primarily a code repository tool, like GitLab you can also use it to build your pipeline.

Because GitHub Actions is fresh on the market, it doesn’t yet have all the configurations options that GitLab offers. However, its user-friendly interface gives it a leg up on GitLab.

Takeaway: GitHub Actions might not be a mature solution, but it’s ideal for cloud-native DevOps teams looking for a GitHub native CI/CD solution with a great UI.

5. AWS CI/CD Offerings

If your organization runs on AWS, you can also use several AWS tools to build your CI/CD pipeline, including CodeCommit, CodePipeline, CodeBuild, and CodeDeploy. While AWS tools aren’t open-source, we’d be remiss if we failed to mention them, as they are built to work easily with AWS platforms, and since their price point is quite low. You can pick and choose which offerings you want to build into your pipeline—for example, you could choose to use AWS CodeCommit with your existing Jenkins pipeline.

Because these tools run on AWS, they are cloud-native and ideal for organizations building pipelines in the cloud. They also are backed by AWS’s security and uptime guarantees and require very little maintenance.

Takeaway: AWS CI/CD tools are well-priced SaaS-friendly offerings with superior security and little maintenance. Plus, you can pick and choose what components you want to use.

Choosing the Right Tool for Your Team

Ultimately, all of these tools are great options to build your CI/CD pipeline, and the choice comes down to your individual preferences and priorities. You’ll want to select a flexible, low-maintenance tool that integrates with your SaaS or on-prem environment and is easy for your team to use. It also often makes sense to opt for the tool that is most familiar to you, to mitigate the learning curve. Keep these factors in mind as you select the tool (or tools) that make the most sense for your pipeline project.

As a leading provider of application development services with deep knowledge in the field, Enquizit can help your organization build a CI/CD pipeline that streamlines your deployment process. Learn more about CI/CD in our e-book “Streamlining App Development: 8 Steps To Building a Corporate CI/CD Pipeline the Right Way.”

Asim Iqbal

Asim is Enquizit’s CTO and a member of the founding team. He has been an SME on security, storage, and resilience as well as Enquizit’s Lead Architect and VP of Solution Architecture. Among his professional endeavors is the implementation of a weather modeling HPC setup for Environment Canada, storage design and implementation for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind’s library, Media ingestion, encryption, and transcoding architecture for Bell Satellite TV, Cloud infrastructure, resilience, and security architecture and implementation for The Common Application and complete migration of Harvard Business Review’s Primary and DR data center to AWS. He maintains a strong personal interest in frictionless technical designs focused on end-user happiness and employee satisfaction, still thinks that ‘Data Availability Architect’ (from his early days working with HPE) is the coolest certification title ever and is an ex-CISSP. He neither confirms nor denies his purported afflictions with coffee, slow travel, and cats with unbridled spirits.

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