Most businesses are transitioning towards the Agile culture and DevOps methodologies to ensure product quality and accelerate delivery speed. In the context of DevOps, an automated and continuous delivery cycle is the backbone that facilitates reliability and fast delivery. Essentially, DevOps focuses on integrating operations with development teams, CI/CD (Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery), as well as automation processes and tasks.
As of 2020, up to 62% of teams at an advanced stage of their DevOps evolution process were already implementing CI/CD workflows to meet their business demands. This is partly a result of organizations adopting more self-service offerings as their DevOps teams evolve. However, in some instances, choosing the right CI/CD pipeline tool can be quite challenging. This article explores the best CI/CD tools for DevOps and their core features to help you make the right choice.
Table of Contents
What is CI/CD?
CI/CD is a DevOps method that combines the concepts of Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery that allows businesses to deliver apps to customers consistently by integrating automation in the software development lifecycle (SDLC).
Continuous Integration: Refers to the process of building automation and code testing every time the Development team changes the Version Control. During an ongoing integration process, Developers merge the changes into a single Version Control repository upon completing every task. This concept relies heavily on various automation tools, such as code management systems and CI servers, to speed up the development and testing of software products.
Continuous Delivery: Describes the concept of deploying frequent and small software changes, such as UI enhancements, bug fixes, and feature improvements. It starts where the Continuous Integration ends. In particular, CD includes testing, staging, and the deployment of CI code. While Continuous Integration falls under Development practices, Continuous Delivery entirely belongs to the realm of Operations.
Best CI/CD Tools
CI/CD tools are designed to automate software Development and Testing processes. They are triggered by commits to the codebase and integrate with code repositories, version control systems, and DevOps tools.
Disclaimer: This list compiles the widely used CI/CD tools for DevOps to help you choose the one that best suits your needs.
1. Gitlab CI/CD
GitLab CI/CD is a software development platform that uses Continuous methodologies, such as Continuous Integration, Delivery, and Deployment. It provides robust planning tools to keep everything synchronized. With it’s code quality security feature, you can analyze the quality of your source code. Additionally, it ensures that all code deployed to Production complies with all code standards you set up for your application. With the help of Auto DevOps, this CI/CD tool can automatically build, deploy, test, and monitor the app.
- Connects to your Cloud provider via OpenID Connect to get temporary credentials for accessing services.
- ChatOps triggers CI tasks from chat with results sent back to channels.
- Allows you to quickly determine browser and server performance effects of pending code changes.
- Its unit test reports identify test failures on merge requests.
- It comes with free-forever features for individual users.
Bonus tip: If you work with Infrastructure as code (IaC) in this article, we cover in detail how to migrate your Terraform state to Gitlab CI/CD.
2. Azure DevOps
Azure DevOps is a cloud service that automatically builds and tests your code. It has a lot of capabilities, including CI/CD, to consistently and regularly test and build code and then ship to any target. It provides cloud-hosted pipelines for Windows, Linux, and macOS. Like GitLab, Azure DevOps can be used for source code management (SCM).
By automating your builds and deployments using Azure Pipeline and Azure Artifacts, it allows you to spend less time fixing bugs and more time being productive. Moreover, choosing Azure DevOps as your preferred CI/CD tool, you can build, test, and deploy applications you create on GitHub. Additionally, you get reliable, fast builds on all platforms via a deep integration with GitHub checks, pull requests, and statuses.
- Facilitates building and modernizing high-performance, scalable apps.
- Enables deployment and scaling of containers on managed Kubernetes.
- Executing event-driven serverless code operations with end-to-end development experience.
- Integration with Azure Board gives you interactive and customizable tools with a rich set of capabilities. These include native support for Scrum, Agile, and Kanban processes.
- Its pricing model varies based on your requirements.
- It has a self-hosted CI/CD model.
3. GitHub Actions
GitHub's Actions makes automating all software workflows easier with world-class CI/CD. It’s the most used CI/CD tool worldwide. Essentially, you can build, test, and deploy the code from GitHub. Furthermore, it connects all your tools to automate each step of the development workflow. Whether you want to deploy a web service, build a container, or automate welcoming new users to open-source projects, it has a specific action for that. Furthermore, you can pair GitHub Actions with Packages to simplify package management, including fast distribution with global CDN, version updates, and dependency resolution.
- Supports Windows, Linux, macOS, ARM, and containers.
- Saves time when using matrix workflows.
- Live logs provide insights into workflows run in real time.
- Comes with a built-in secret store.
- Enables you to use your virtual machines in the cloud or on-premise with self-hosted runners.
- It comes with a free plan, basic for individuals and organizations. Moreover, it has a team and enterprise edition as well, giving you multiple options to choose from.
CircleCI is a CI/CD tool for DevOps that gives you the control you need. This platform is certified with FedRAMP and is also SOC 2 Type II compliant. A notable aspect about CircleCI is that it makes it easy to connect with all of your favorite tools. Primarily, it's a tool built to provide scalability and flexibility to Developers. It emphasizes performance via features such as parallel task execution to accelerates building and testing applications. Additionally, you get an intuitive interface with customizable features. CircleCI is purely a CI/CD tool with no extra features like Azure DevOps and GitLab CI/CD.
- Boasts Industry-leading speed with the fastest CI runner.
- It provides the best way to troubleshoot problems and inspect things like log files, directory paths, and running processes. It also lets you access all jobs using SSH.
- CircleCI’s test splitting allows you to intelligently define where splits occur across a test suit.
- Caching is another popular features as It's one of the most effective ways to make jobs faster on the platform by reusing data from expensive fetch operations from previous jobs.
- Hosts Continuous Integration in the Cloud with options to use self-hosted runners.
- It has three pricing models: performance, scale, and server. You can try it out with its free model.
Jenkins is an open-source automation server and the first CI/CD tool to offer hundreds of plugins to support building and deploying projects. It is a self-hosted solution that doesn’t have a SaaS option. It supports distributed workloads over multiple machines to deliver faster results and optimize performance.
As an extensible automation server, you can use it as a simple Continuous Integration server or turn it into the Continous Delivery hub for any project. Moreover, It's a self-contained Java-based program that you can run out of the box. Installation and maintenance is very easy but still required by the user.
- It can be extended using the plugin architecture, offering endless possibilities.
- An open-source tool backed by strong community support
- Provides capacity to distribute work across various machines.
6. Travis CI
Travis CI is a hosted CI service that builds, tests, and deploys applications and software products on GitHub and Bitbucket. It is the first Continuous Integration service offering free services to open-source projects. You can deploy it either on-premise or with serverless Cloud services for on-demand scaling. Travis CI supports pull request-based workflows and automatically backs up the last build when a new build fails to avoid disruptions and helps disaster recovery.
- Quick setup
- Pull request support
- Live build reviews
- Easy integration with GitHub and BitBucket SCM
- Pre-installed database services
- Linux, macOS, and iOS support
- Clean VMs for every build
- Comes with a 30-day free trial. To get advanced features, you can go for the core or enterprise edition.
7. Bitbucket Pipeline
Bitbucket pipeline is an integrated CI/CD tool integrated into Bitbucket. It helps you automate your code from test to production and lets you track how the pipelines are progressing at every step. Moreover, it provides one place to see which software version is executing in each environment. It allows you to deploy software faster by implementing the Continuous Delivery practices.
- Enables process automation from development to deployment.
- Offers a unified experience with Bitbucket if you are using Bitbucket repositories
- Supports full integration of end-to-end job results to Jira
- It comes with three pricing models: free, standard, and premium.
TeamCity is a general-purpose CI/CD tool that offers the most flexibility for all types of development practices and workflows. It helps maintain a Continuous Integration server for pipeline automation and provides reporting capabilities like disk usage and build time. Moreover, it provides exceptional build history, as well as builds chain tools. TeamCity reports running tests in real-time, keeps the record over the builds, marks unstable tests as odd, and logs their duration.
- No need for plugins.
- Easy integration with several IDEs.
- Provides comprehensive documentation.
- Remote run and pre-tested commit.
- Provides build failure notifications.
- Its professional server license is free forever. You can consider the enterprise edition to use more advanced features and unlimited build configuration.
Semaphore is one of the fastest CI/CD tools for DevOps in the market that enables you to deploy various software updates every day with no technical barriers to adopting CD at scale. There is no need to have an expensive infrastructure or hire supporting staff. All you have to do is define workflows and emphasize on building the next app. Primarily, this tool can do everything from simple sequential builds to multi-stage parallel pipelines. It provides ultimate flexibility, and you can configure your CI/CD environment with Docker images.
- Provides native Docker support and lets you test and deploy Docker-based applications.
- Integrates with GitHub.
- Its self-hosted agents let you build your own CI/CD platforms.
- It comes with a 14-day free trial for startups with a pay-as-you-go model.
Harness is the first software delivery platform to leverage AI. It helps simplify your DevOps processes, feature flags, CI/CD, Cloud costs, and more. You can prioritize what tests to run, automate canary verifications, automate Cloud costs, and determine the impact of changes. Since Harness is a self-service Continuous Integration solution that is container-native, all extensions are standardized, and all builds are isolated. Moreover, its Cloud cost management gives Cloud cost visibility of your microservices, applications, and clusters.
- AI/ML-driven workflows.
- Developer-first experience.
- One pipeline for all.
- Supports Cloud cost management.
- Automated DevSecOps for CI/CD pipelines.
- Harness CD is a self-service continuous delivery model.
- Comes with flexible pricing for every team.
Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery are essential elements of the software development lifecycle. However, some DevOps teams are still looking for the right tool to incorporate into their operations. When selecting a CI/CD tool, it's essential to evaluate your unique business needs and then pick the right tool that best fits your project.
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