Jul 15, 2019 - Chrissie Buchanan  

How to find the right CI/CD solution

What to look for when choosing a CI/CD solution for long-term growth.

Explore GitLab CI/CD

Continuous integration and delivery helps DevOps teams ship higher quality software, faster. But is all CI/CD created equal? What does successful CI/CD implementation look like and how do you know you’re on the right track?

In this four-part series, we talk about modernizing your CI/CD: Challenges, impact, outcomes, and solutions. In parts one and two, we focused on common challenges and revenue impacts. In part three, we discussed the benefits of CI/CD. Today, we’ll talk about how to find the right CI/CD solution for your needs, and see how GitLab CI/CD stacks up.

What is my CI/CD budget?

1. Free vs. Paid

Open source software is an incredible thing: Not only is it a great way to learn new skills, but its collaborative nature lets developers improve and support products they love. Many organizations have adopted open source software for good reason. Open source benefits from a thriving community that contributes new ideas, and creative minds solve problems creatively. Open source innovates, and enterprises get to take advantage of these efforts for free.

While no one can beat the low, low cost of “free” (or at least free in most cases), it’s important to consider more than just cost.

Paid software does have cost attached to it, but it comes with distinct advantages. For one, you will receive better support with paid software, and higher-tier pricing models even have their own dedicated support team. When you pay for a service, you have the right to tell a provider, “I’m having trouble with this and I need your help to fix it.” In the realm of CI/CD, where configuration plays such a big role, this kind of support pays for itself.

If a free product has everything a team needs, that’s great. After all, GitLab Community Edition also offers a complete DevOps lifecycle with CI/CD built in, but there may come a time when an organization has to ask themselves: When is paying for a service the better decision in the long run?

2. Cost/benefit analysis

When evaluating a CI/CD solution, it’s important to measure your organization's current needs vs. expected needs. All organizations have some sort of growth plan or expected growth trajectory and goals to go with them, such as headcount goals, expansion plans, additional products or services, etc. Factoring in costs and benefits, investing in CI/CD has the potential to help you hit those numbers faster.

Room for growth

Will free software give you the room to grow or will it eventually limit you? Will you have the CI pipeline minutes you need for increased output?

Better code quality

Will you be able to produce better quality code and reduce code vulnerabilities?

Increased efficiency

Will you be able to reduce manual tasks and improve operational efficiency?

Weighing these factors, the cost/benefit analysis is largely positive when it comes to paying for CI/CD. Higher-cost plans may be able to offer additional security functionality, support for Kubernetes, additional pipeline minutes, and other perks that can help you maximize your CI/CD. When it comes to modernizing applications later, it can be a lot more expensive the bigger you are. Adopting technologies early, when teams are more nimble, is a much easier and cheaper endeavor.

A dollar isn’t always a dollar, and sometimes the long term benefits far outweigh the cost of additional features. It’s important to analyze your CI/CD budget and identify areas for revenue-generating opportunities.

How does GitLab CI/CD compare to other tools?

GitLab is the only single application for the entire DevOps lifecycle, with CI/CD already built right in. GitLab allows Product, Development, QA, Security, and Operations teams to work concurrently in a single application, allowing for maximum visibility and comprehensive governance. There’s no need to integrate and synchronize outside tools as part of a large, complicated toolchain.

GitLab CI/CD is designed for a seamless experience across the SDLC, and while there are other CI/CD solutions out there, we’re the only application with everything from source code management to monitoring built in. Teams can collaborate in one environment.

Jenkins vs. GitLab

Jenkins is one of the most popular self-managed, open source build automation and CI/CD developer tools. It uses hundreds of available plugins, enabling it to support building, deploying and automating projects.

Weaknesses

Plugins are expensive to maintain, secure, and upgrade.

Compare Jenkins vs. GitLab

Travis vs. GitLab

Travis CI is a hosted, distributed continuous integration service used to build and test software projects hosted at GitHub. Travis CI also offers a self-hosted version called Travis CI Enterprise, which requires either a GitHub Enterprise installation or account on GitHub.com.

Weaknesses

No continuous delivery and GitHub hosting only.

Compare Travis vs. GitLab

Bamboo vs. GitLab

Bamboo Server is a CI/CD solution, part of the Atlassian suite of developer tools. It’s only available in a self-managed configuration and source code is available only to paid customers. Bamboo uses Bitbucket for understanding how source code has changed (SCM), as well as integrations with other tools.

Weaknesses

Those interested in auto-scaling must use Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and pay Amazon separately for their usage.

Compare Bamboo vs. GitLab

Having the right CI/CD in place is a competitive advantage in the current development landscape. Teams that utilize the right CI/CD strategy are going to produce better quality software much faster, and they’re going to free up valuable resources to focus on long-term growth and innovation. When choosing the right solution for you, here are the top things to consider:

  • What is the cost vs. benefit? A revenue-generating expense is not a dollar-for-dollar scenario. When it comes to budget considerations, it’s important to look at the big picture and discuss value as well as cost. If you’re paying the lowest price but not getting everything you need for scale, you’re paying too much.
  • What are customers saying? Word of mouth is a powerful tool. If you’re interested in a particular CI/CD platform, learn about their customers and see what they have to say. Read case studies and look for customers with similar problems to yours so you can see how they solved them.
  • What do industry experts think? Happy customers won’t always point out shortcomings but industry experts can provide the vendor-neutral perspective you need to make an informed decision. Read reports and industry publications to learn how experts evaluate one CI/CD platform from another.
  • What do you think? Independent research is an important last step. You’ve seen what customers think, you’ve seen what experts in the field say, and now it’s time to form your own opinion. Join webinars to learn more about a product and ask questions, and compare product features carefully.
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