In the modern software age, there are different levels of complexity, process snags, and challenges during the development and release of an application. All these bring to the forefront the element of continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD).
As tasks are integrated into a main repository several times a day, steps are automated and it becomes necessary to adopt a continuous integration approach to improve efficiency.
Ultimately, a simple, consistent, and repeatable integration process reduces costs, helps you discover problem areas faster, delivers high-quality assurance, and dissolves conflicts smoothly.
Continuous integration and development require a lot of work, which is why you need a tool that will make things move fast enough.
GitLab and Jenkins are among the best and most popular CI/CD tools that can help you ace the process while meeting your project and company needs. However, it can be daunting trying to pick between the two especially where there are several similarities.
In this comparison post, we’ll explain what GitLab and Jenkins are, how they work, their features, pricing details (if any), and what makes them similar or different from each other. We’ll also share our recommendation for the best tool between them at the tail end of this post.
GitLab is a complete, web-based, and open-source DevOps platform that allows you to manage projects in repository style. The platform is delivered as a single application and helps your teams improve cycle time from what would take weeks to a matter of minutes.
Plus, GitLab helps you increase developer productivity while reducing development process costs and time to market.
Initially, GitLab was released as a standalone project and integrated into the main GitLab software. Today, the single server can manage over 25,000 users and provides planning, packaging, release, SCM, configuring, and scrutinizing as other similar tools do.
GitLab also makes integration straightforward and simple and can track bottlenecks and workflow issues within the pipelines along with project and team management.
You can set up the interface, create new projects, or add your team and work to get started. Once your workflow gets going within the project, you can try out GitLab features and get familiar with its possibilities.
GitLab is built on GitHub software license, which is owned and controlled by Microsoft.
Jenkins is another open-source automation server with hundreds of plugins that help you build, deploy, and automate any project. The self-contained server can be installed through native system packages, or you can run it as a standalone by any machine that has Java Runtime Environment.
The CI tool allows for seamless, ongoing testing, development, and deployment of newly created code. This way, you can commit changes to source code, and they’ll be built continuously – a process that can occur multiple times a day.
The server continuously monitors each commit thereby increasing the efficiency of code builds and verification. This way, the tester can use fewer resources and enjoy a faster integration process.
Jenkins was initially named Hudson in 2004 by Kohsuke Kawaguchi, and renamed to Jenkins after an infrastructure-based dispute between Oracle and the Hudson community.
The server is written completely in Java and launched under the MIT license with a powerful set of features for automating tasks related to building, testing, deploying, integrating, and releasing software.
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GitLab is feature-rich with integrated tools that help you manage, plan, créate, configure, and monitor your projects as well as software development. Here’s a list of the most powerful features you’ll find on GitLab.
If you have cross-functional teams, GitLab provides integrated workflows and helps you manage your source code. This way, it’s easier to coordinate, share, and collaborate with your teams. You can also track and merge branches, enable concurrent work, and audit changes for faster software delivery.
GitLab also helps you collaborate efficiently from anywhere. The tool helps people work better together whether they’re spread across multiple zones or the same location.
You can adopt agile software development practices by breaking work into smaller increments and accelerating software development and delivery. The planning features help you keep agile adoption closely linked to software delivery thereby streamlining the process.
GitLab also helps you maximize the value of your software factory so you can visualize, measure, and optimize your development and delivery workflows. Consequently, you’re able to deliver the greatest amount of value to your customers.
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With GitLab, you can improve security and quality through its DevSecOps feature. Embedded testing, security scans, and quality assurance are implemented in every pipeline, which makes it easier for developers to give the right feedback at the right time.
GitLab provides IT delivery at the speed of business which is critical to success. This feature also enables teams to accelerate delivery without compromise.
As organizations move to cloud-native approaches, GitLab’s cloud transformation evolves them to app architecture, which is basically to building and shipping cloud-native apps.
GitLab’s Day 2 operations feature help support teams at all stages of maturity. It balances teams that need robust processes to build and deploy apps by relying on small primitives that provide gradual app customization.
GitLab also provides a streamlined process that helps you simplify the value stream so you can deliver business solutions to your clients without ticket provisioning.
This feature can be integrated with your end-to-end DevOps lifecycle so you can achieve improved availability and performance.
If you’re worried about audits, GitLab can help with compliance through its workflows, audit trails, and clear approval process. This process eases delivery at the speed of DevOps with native compliance.
GitLab is flexible so it scales with your business as it grows. Whether you’re starting out or you’re an enterprise with branches worldwide, the tool can scale to your uptime requirements and needs.
GitLab also deploys your apps to Amazon Web Services and to Google Cloud with tight GKE integration.
You can use GitLab’s education solutions to transform teaching and learning, modernize campus infrastructure, and advance scientific research.
Jenkins is known for its automated build process, easy setup, and vast documentation. The tool is considered reliable for DevOps testing, meaning you don’t have to monitor the whole build process compared to other tools.
Here are some of the features that make all this possible.
Jenkins’ plugin ecosystem is broad with over 1500 tools you can use ranging from language-specific tools to build tools. Plus, it’s easier to customize and you won’t have to buy expensive plugins to use separately.
Jenkins works on multiple platforms including Windows, Mac, Unix, and others. You can also combine it with Docker for extra speed and high consistency on your automated jobs.
Jenkins offers an easy way to configure and install its procedures. The process is pretty simple, straightforward, and trouble-free so you can get it done quickly. If you need help, you can use the provided support documentation and tailor the tool to your needs.
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With Jenkins, you get a remote access API in XML, Python, and JSON/JSONP for easier extensibility of your project.
Jenkins supports parallel execution and testing. Plus, you can integrate Jenkins with other tools that aren’t similar to it and receive alerts if your build worked or didn’t work. You can also execute multiple builds in parallel across virtual machines to accelerate your test suites.
With Jenkins, you can run distributed work easily and effortlessly by running tasks through a distinct machine. This way, there won’t be any impact on your user interface and you can use the same instance on other associated tasks.
This is the main server that handles scheduling of build jobs, selecting agents in the master ecosystem to dispatch builds, and monitoring agents as and when required. It also presents build results and reports to developers.
This is a remote machine connected to the Master. The feature listens to commands from the Master, executes build jobs dispatched by it, and is flexible enough for you to run the build and execute tests on it.
The pipeline is a group of events or jobs interlinked in a certain sequence. It’s also a suite or set of plugins that support the implementation and integration of CD pipelines in the tool.
You get a set of tools for modeling simple or complex pipelines as code through pipeline DSL syntax.
Each job or task in the pipeline depends on one or more jobs or events and consists of build, deploy, test, and release states, which also have their own events that execute in sequences.
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This is a text file in which a Jenkins pipeline is written. The file contains the steps you need to run the pipeline. Among the benefits of this file include using it to create a pipeline build process for all branches, executing pull requests, auditing pipeline trails, and more.
GitLab integrates with services such as Campfire, Jira, Flowdock, Jenkins, Slack, and Pivotal Tracker. The software also integrates with third-party apps, and directly through the code so that integrations feel like native apps. Besides that, the tool features code quality and security checks so you don’t end up compromising on projects.
Thanks to its plugins, Jenkins integrates with practically every tool in the CI or CD toolchain.
GitLab offers a free plan for individual users with all stages of the DevOps lifecycle, and you can bring your own CI runners. It also provides for static websites through GitLab Pages and 400 CI or CD minutes monthly.
A Premium plan is available for $19 per user per month, so you can enhance your team’s coordination and productivity. The plan offers everything in the Free plan, plus faster code reviews, Ops Insights, project management, release controls, and 10,000 CI or CD minutes monthly.
The Ultimate plan costs $99 per user per month and offers everything from the Premium plan along with advanced security testing, compliance, portfolio management, and free guest users. You also get value stream analytics and 50,000 CI or CD minutes per month.
Jenkins is a completely free and fully open source automation server so you don’t have to pay anything to use it.
|Platform||Open source DevOps||Open source automation server|
|Hosting type||Self and on-premise||Self and on-premise|
|Native CI/CD||Depends on requirements||Native|
|Unique features||Plugins||Keeps CI/CD code management in one place|
|Set up and installation||Easy||Easy|
|Pipelines||Yes||Yes, through Jenkins Pipeline|
|App performance||Shows performance metrics||❌|
|Ecosystem||✅ (through plugins)||✅|
Premium plan $19 per user per month
Ultimate plan $99 per user per month
|Completely free and open source|
- Easy to set up and install
- Easy node set up and code deployment
- Very intuitive
- Flexible and versatile with its features
- Good credentials management
- Self-hosted giving you complete control over workspaces
- Highly scalable
- Better Docker integration
- Simple pricing plans
- Built-in templates
- Great project management
- Merge request integration
- Good privacy policies and security
- Supports different languages
- Regular interface updates can be confusing
- Doesn’t provide reports
- You have to define and upload artifacts per job
- Doesn’t support stages within phases
- Complex plugin integration
- Doesn’t offer analytics for overall pipeline tracking
- You set up yourself so you incur overhead for smaller projects
- Created by developers, for developers
- Fully open source and completely free to use
- Rich plugin ecosystem
- Scales as technology advances
- Easy integration with other cloud platforms
- Easy to deploy in a GitOps friendly way
- Customizable to make it look like other modern CI/CD systems
- Simple overall architecture to deploy
- Built with Java so it’s portable
- Doesn’t need you to run tons of backing services
- You can extract metrics easily from your build system to other platforms
- Scalable through leveraging your infrastructure to build projects
- Integrates with SSO without paying tax levies for enterprise software
- Can be deployed for multiple teams
- You can auto-discover new pipelines and repositories
- Support for annotations in PodTemplates
- It’s more feature-driven and developer-centric
- You may face some issues when changing settings in the platform
- Lots of redundant plugins, some of which are no longer maintained
- Not all Jenkins plugins are compatible with Declarative Pipelines
- There’s no maintained YAML interface
- PodTemplate approach is problematic for modern environments
- Documentation is out of date or stale
- Has a limited set of features so you’ll need plugins to extend functionality
- Outdated and non-user-friendly interface
- Community managed
- Builds and tests code multiple times a day
- Requires some technical skills to monitor its activity
- Not that easy to maintain
- Hard to install and configure
- CIs regularly break due to some small setting changes
GitLab and Jenkins have a lot in common, which can make it a bit harder to choose. While Jenkins is completely free and open source, making it appealing to those with tight budgets, GitLab also offers a free plan and two premium plans with more features to access.
Plus, Jenkins offers an excellent framework for developing and testing new codes, which leads to faster delivery of software that’s of better quality. The platform helps you avoid costly log jams and delays so that your developers can shine through.
On the other hand, GitLab is more focused on a centralized, integrated, and features-based platform for web developers. Like Jenkins, you get great project management and tracking for code development.
Ultimately, the choice comes down to the features that will help your DevOps team create better quality software.
For this round though, we recommend GitLab. The tool offers several important developer features for free including a CI/CD pipeline, free container registry, and superior data portability.
Plus, you get Kubernetes integration, integrated monitoring, quick actions, and so much more. A free plan is available so you can test GitLab before committing to the paid plans to access more features.
Scott L. Macarthur is a marketing consultant and an online author. He is mostly engaged in providing his expertise to startups and SMBs. He is also an author on TheNextWeb.