Jenkins versus GitLab | Comparison of DevOps software

Jenkins and GitLab are popular continuous integration and continuous development tools, but which software is right for you? See how the features of these DevOps tools compare.

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With DevOps, the need to constantly develop, test, and deploy new functionality is critical, and this requires specialized tools to automate and streamline the process to make it seamless. Two popular choices for CI/CD solutions are Jenkins and GitLab, and these tools are well suited for specific DevOps requirements. We compare the features and use cases of Jenkins and GitLab.

What is Jenkins?

Jenkins is a free open source automation server for managing CI/CD. Jenkins runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac servers and has a handy installer to make setup easy.

One of Jenkins’ greatest strengths is its list of over 1,700 utility plugins that make customization and integration very easy. It also gives Jenkins the ability to adapt to almost any requirement.

What is GitLab?

GitLab is an open-source but freemium-based CI/CD management tool that offers full DevOps support, including important built-in features such as issue tracking and version control.

GitLab only runs on Linux-based servers, although it can run on some Windows systems with extensive workarounds. GitLab also has slightly higher requirements than Jenkins and a suitable server will need to have node.js, Git, Ruby and Redis instead of just JRE.

Jenkins vs GitLab: Feature Comparison

Feature Jenkins GitLab
Support for Windows and Mac Yes Nope
Issue Tracking Nope Yes
Extensive plugin support Yes Nope
Support available Nope Yes
Built-in version tracking Nope Yes

Direct Comparison: Jenkins vs. GitLab

Easy installation

Both Jenkins and GitLab offer a very simple and easy installation process, and both of these options are also on-premises tools, so your own server will be required.

Installing Jenkins is very simple. The only prerequisite is that you first install the Java Runtime Environment, then simply download the Jenkins installer and follow the prompts. Once installed, you will create an administrator account and then access tools and features through a web browser interface.

GitLab can be slightly more complicated to install, especially if you don’t have experience with the specific Linux versions it requires. All of the tools and features are included in a single Omnibus package though, so it’s easy to download the package that’s right for your installation.

GitLab offers the possibility to run on Kubernetes, which can be useful if you already have this infrastructure and are familiar with Kubernetes. Docker images are also officially supported

GitLab supports cloud installations using AWS, Google Cloud, or Microsoft Azure. Gitlab offers special preconfigured versions for the three popular cloud services to make installation and configuration easier. When it comes to cloud installs, GitLab is definitely the better choice of the two.

User interface

Both Jenkins and GitLab have convenient user interfaces. With Jenkins, this can be a browser-based interface or through a plugin theme that users can select. With GitLab, there is an option known as the operations dashboard. This shows all projects at a glance along with pipelines and other metrics.

Extensibility

Both of these DevOps tools provide the ability to build, customize, or scale to suit your needs.

Jenkins really shines with its library of plugins that allows it to go from being a simple project management tool to managing an entire product lifecycle. But as new plugins are added, the whole system can start to get a bit cluttered and feel replenished. Extreme scaling can be problematic with Jenkins compared to GitLab.

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With GitLab, although it lacks the Jenkins plugin library, it offers more fully integrated tools aimed at DevOps. This makes it a much better long-term scaling option. While not as directly flexible initially, as flexibility or scaling is pushed, GitLab starts to get ahead in this regard.

Choose Jenkins over GitLab

Jenkins excels in small to medium sized environments where budgets and manpower may be limited. It’s simple to use, super easy to install and configure, and able to scale as your projects grow with extensive plugin support.

GitLab is a more premium tool that seeks to serve medium to large environments where additional DevOps tools such as issue tracking, version control, and complex pipelines all need to be managed. This makes GitLab great at code collaboration and managing code repositories.

Jenkins and GitLab are extremely powerful and mature tools. Deciding between the two is really just a matter of matching their strengths with the environment you plan to use them in.

Margie D. Carlisle