All development teams know how valuable a quality repository management solution is, as it’s a vital part of collaborative software development.
Repository management solutions allow software developers to manage all changes to the source code, as well as other related files. This creates and maintains multiple versions in a single central location.
There are many repository management services available to software developers. But GitLab and Bitbucket are the two widely used solutions.
While both of these solutions perform similar tasks, they have their unique features. So, choosing the right one could be a bit tricky.
Not to worry, I’m here to help you make your decision. Thanks to some thorough research, I’ve been able to put together an unbiased comparison article, which I’m sure will help you decide on which repository solution to go for.
Will it be GitLab or Bitbucket? Let’s find out.
GitLab is a web-based repository management solution that allows software development teams to collaborate on code, duplicate it, and merge the finished version into their projects.
The GitLab application offers free open and private repositories to users, and it is used by some of the biggest tech names in the world. I’m talking about heavyweights like Sony, IBM, Oracle, SpaceX, NASA, and CERN.
It includes wiki and issue tracking features, as well as a Git repository manager, and CI/CD pipeline features. These are very useful to teams who wish to expand their use of repository management solutions.
It functions under an open source license, and it has some awesome advantages which include easy management, configuration, world-class security, as well as public and private depots.
As for Bitbucket, it’s also a repository management solution and was developed by Atlassian. It’s ideal for development teams that make use of Mercurial or Git revision control systems.
You can use Bitbucket to plan your projects, collaborate on code, test code, and deploy it.
Bitbucket is packed with several features that help you accelerate the development process. For instance, your team can approve code reviews with pull requests. You can also have discussions within the source code, all thanks to the inline comments feature.
Bitbucket pipelines with deployment allow you to build, test, and deploy code with integrated CI/CD. It also has public and private repositories, as well as the ability to seamlessly integrate with Jira. You and your team will also find it fairly easy to use.
That being said, let’s dive straight into the comparison and see how they fare against each other.
You’d agree with me that one of the most important features you have to consider when choosing the right repository management tool is its relation to the open source ecosystem.
Giftlab offers an open source version. You can find the Community Edition source code on their website, while the Enterprise Edition code is proprietary.
Bitbucket is not open source. However, if you decide to invest in its self-hosted version, you can get the full source code, as well as all the extensive product customization options.
It is vital that a repository management service should contain public repository discovery functions in order to assist development teams to discover public projects and keep in touch with other developers.
Thankfully, both Bitbucket and GitLab offer this. However, Bitbucket also allows developers to follow their counterparts with ease. It also helps them connect with developers of the same interests.
That said, I’d score GitLab higher than Bitbucket in this regard.
Developers who integrate Jira with Bitbucket release versions 14% more often than other teams. This is because Jira and Bitbucket integrations allow you to increase your work automation since the tickets are automatically transferred as you finish up the work in Bitbucket.
To add to that, the code in Jira view allows you to include an issue key in a commit or branch name from Bitbucket, while all the changes will be updated automatically in Jira.
Another facilitation I found commendable with the Jira + Bitbucket integration is the ability to view your assigned Jira issue in Bitbucket.
Here are the major benefits of Jira and Bitbucket integrations.
- The integration allows you to create Jira issues from inside Bitbucket’s code review
- You and your team members can interact with Jira projects inside Bitbucket
- The integration allows you to view CI/CD deployment information and pre-planned releases
As you can see, Jira and Bitbucket’s integration is pretty awesome, but can we say the same for GitLab?
Let’s find out.
First of all, I have to point out that Jira and GitLab integration was created to accomplish the same task, just like Jira and Bitbucket integration: To speed up and improve the workflow, and process automation.
The integration is available for cloud and data center users, and it too offers developers a fair share of benefits.
After the integration is set up, you can enjoy some features like –
- Automatic detection and cross-referencing of activities between your GitLab project and all of your projects on Jira
- Ability to mention a Jira issue ID in a commit message or merge request
- Ability to automatically add the comments in Jira with details and a link back to your activities in GitLab
- Ability to close a specific Jira issue when merged to the default branch
That being said, who takes the win in this round? I’d give it to Bitbucket for a few reasons.
Ever since Atlassian went public in 2017, they have witnessed their product suite grow exponentially, with Jira being their flagship product.
It was originally built as a bug tracker but has become more flexible over the years. Now you can use it for tasks like issue tracking, service desk delivery, and project management.
Atlassian owns both Jira and Bitbucket, so you should expect nothing less than a seamless integration between the two. Using the two together allows you to set code commits to automatically update all Jira issues.
The Bitbucket + Jira integration also allows you to create branches from Jira, and this promotes quick and smooth workflows. This has to be one of Bitbucket’s major benefits over GitLab, as you can link the entire development process together with a set of integrated synchronized tools.
Better compatibility aside, I also admire the fact that it doesn’t take long to set up a Jira + Bitbucket integration. All you will expend is a matter of seconds, and I assume you’d want your code deployment and task tracking harmoniously working together quickly.
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Picking the right repository management solution should involve paying special attention to the tool’s ability to allow you to use your previous projects.
And while GitLab is exclusive to Git repositories, Bitbucket offers support for both Git and Mercurial.
Moving to GitLab might be a hassle if you’re using Mercurial or other repositories. Thankfully, GitLab comes with a repository import feature that allows developers to easily migrate from other platforms.
To Bitbucket’s credit, they also support repository imports from Git, Google code, SVN, CodePlex, HG, and SourceForge.
I scored this round a draw.
The semantic search function can be used to speed up the process of searching and viewing results. Semantic search places definition first, followed by usage examples and various names.
Code-aware search is very useful for teams who have several repos and huge codebases, and Bitbucket uses the semantic search function rather than indexing the code as text, to make sure that the results matching your search terms are prioritized.
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GitLab does not offer developers a semantic search function, and since Bitbucket does, I guess we can all agree that the latter takes the win in this round.
One of the most important aspects of using a repository management solution is its flexibility. So how do GitLab and Bitbucket fare against each other in this regard?
GitLab is packed with so many features that allow you to develop your own workflows, but from what I have gathered, I’d say Bitbucket is a lot more flexible, even when compared with other alternatives.
While GitLab allows you to import from Git, SVN, HG, and TFS, Bitbucket also allows you to import from Git and SVN, as well as CodePlex, Sourceforge, and Google Code.
This means you can work just the way you want when you use Bitbucket, and you won’t have to “force a square peg into a round hole” while you’re at it.
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Over the past few years, observers have shown a lot of skepticism regarding the trustworthiness and stability of GitLab. This is because they recently left Microsoft Azure and have moved to their new home: Google cloud.
So, who’s to say the new owners won’t do some tweaks here and there regarding GitLab’s entire outlook? Who’s also to say that GitLab will last on the Google cloud platform long enough?
These, among many others, are questions that developers who are looking to use a repository management solution for the long term would ask themselves.
The anxiety levels regarding the future of GitLab were made obvious, as there was a heavy migration of developers to Bitbucket. And this happened just as it was announced that GitLab would be on Google cloud’s platform.
This level of uncertainty is not the case with Bitbucket, as they have remained under the same roof since the very beginning. As a repository management solution they were developed by, and have been with, the Atlassian company since 2010.
Bitbucket is also a major part of Atlassian’s offering to the engineering community, and it is very unlikely that they will try to sell it anytime soon. That’s if the need ever arises, because as for now, there seems to be no reason to let go of their prized product.
So, if you’re looking for a more stable option between GitLab and Bitbucket, your best choice would be the latter, as they have stayed with the same company for over 10 years, and you can be sure of their stability for another decade.
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One extremely beneficial aspect of Bitbucket is that every repository can have its own wiki made available at the click of a button.
This special feature means that you’re allowed to infuse all the information and notes you need within the platform and keep them close during the course of your development cycle.
To add to that, you can also use the wiki to store your software documentation on an ongoing basis, regardless of whether you need it to be private or public.
In a case where you have more complex requirements, you can integrate Bitbucket and confluence, as this will allow you to work with a lot more powerful publishing tools.
GitLab cannot offer you this type of wiki functionality, so once again, Bitbucket takes the win.
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Bitbucket can allow developers to easily integrate with Trello, that’s if you’re not interested in using Jira. The reason for this seamless integration is that Trello is also a part of the Atlassian software company.
Bitbucket’s power + Trello’s accessible interface allows you to combine for a faster workflow.
GitLab has no Trello integration functionality so it loses this round as well.
GitLab has a very formidable community, one I would say is more universal and vibrant than Bitbucket’s.
GitLab’s development community is augmented by lots of easy-to-use tools which developers can easily use to find and share code amongst themselves.
For this reason, I’ll give GitLab the win in this round.
Bitbucket has lots of useful plugins which developers can work with, as well as other extended native plugins. A single GitLab server can handle as many as 25,000 users, and that’s pretty awesome.
While Bitbucket offers a decent amount of plugins, it doesn’t come anywhere close to GitLab.
The winner here is obvious: GitLab wins this round for me.
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Price may not be so much of an issue for large corporations, but it is for smaller businesses that are on a tight budget. And while both Bitbucket and GitLab offer free plans, there are some differences in their offerings.
Bitbucket has a “Small Team” plan, and this allows up to five team members to collaborate on an unlimited number of software development projects, and the repositories have a limit of 1GB.
You will receive an email notification when you get to that limit, and your team won’t be able to push to the repository until the repository size grows to 2GB.
On GitLab’s free cloud-hosted plan, an unlimited number of users can collaborate on as many projects as they wish, including private and public projects. For this to be possible, they can make use of the 100GB space limit for the repository.
This makes GitLab an ideal choice for a cloud-based solution for private projects.
The community edition is equally a decent option for teams that want to have total control over their codebase, and have the budget to maintain their servers, as this is a self-hosted plan. The major downside to this plan is that you wouldn’t find some of the more advanced features on it.
Both GitLab and Bitbucket offer several paid plans that suit the needs of different teams and sizes. Bitbucket’s cloud-hosted plan begins at $3 per user, per month, while GitLab’s basic plan starts at $4 per user, per month.
Let’s not forget that both tools have self-hosted plans, but GitLab’s self-hosted version offers more advanced features when compared to Bitbucket’s cloud-hosted version.
I’m tempted to call this round a draw, but I’ll give it to GitLab since their self-hosted plan has more advanced features.
That being said, I advise that you do a careful review of all the payment plans available on both GitLab and Bitbucket, just so you choose the one that’s perfect for you.
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Bitbucket and GitLab have many similarities, especially in terms of the basic functions you expect a repository management solution to perform. However, they have a few differences too, and we’ll be taking a look at the major ones below.
- Pull requests
- Inline editing
- Issue tracking
- Code review
- Two-factor authentication
- Markdown support
- Feature-rich API
- Fork/clone repositories
- Hosted static webpage
- Third-party integrations
- Sophisticated permissions management
- Bitbucket offers compatibility testing while GitLab does not
- GitLab allows code refactoring while Bitbucket does not
- Bitbucket allows deployment management while GitLab does not
- Bitbucket offers mobile development while GitLab does not
- Debugging cannot be done on Bitbucket, but it can be done on GitLab
- Web app development can be done on Bitbucket but it cannot be done in GitLab
- Bitbucket allows semantic search while GitLab does not
- GitLab is open source while Bitbucket is not
So, we’ve come to the end of this comparison article, and I hope it has been informative enough for you to make the right choice for you. And while both of these products are great, I am obligated to pick a winner.
I’d have to go with Bitbucket, and that’s for a good number of reasons.
First of all, Bitbucket is the more flexible option, as it offers a broader range of version control systems. It also has incomparable Jira and Trello integrations, which help to make task tracking a lot simpler.
Let’s not forget that both Trello and Jira are part of the Atlassian software company, the parent company of Bitbucket, so integration between the three of them is not an issue.
Bitbucket is also fairly priced, although some may disagree due to the many pricing plans available on both solutions. It all depends on your specific needs.
Bitbucket’s “Small Team” plan lets up to five members of your team collaborate on an unlimited number of software development projects. This makes sense if you’re running a small crew.
Price may be debatable between the two, but Bitbucket’s semantic search ability is undeniable. And this is a key point for me, as GitLab doesn’t have this to offer.
Last but definitely not least, I’ll take Bitbucket over GitLab for the simple fact they aren’t part of all the Silicon Valley power tussles. They have remained with their parent company Atlassian since their birth in 2010, and they look like the more stable solution.
So far, there are no signs that Atlassian is planning to sell Bitbucket, so you can rest assured that you’ll enjoy the same repository management solution for years to come without compromise.
Thanks for reading!