DevOps can work extremely well with CI/CD tools, but the complex nature of these systems often gives the engineering team a headache. Luckily many companies have realized the need for strong foundations in this area and have created software to help you manage your pipelines.
Today, we will explain what you should be looking for in a CI/CD tool and which are the best products available at the moment.
What To Look For In A CI/CD Tool?
Think About Your Needs
If you are considering a CI/CD tool, then you will already be aware of an issue or section that needs to be improved. Your goals may not be the same goals that creators were considering, so don’t go forward thinking your concepts will automatically be matched. Instead, consider your aims as you browse through the tools.
Another factor to keep in mind is whether CI/CD was prioritized in the design. You may find some organizations promote CI/CD features, but it wasn’t designed as the main selling point. An example of this would be tools like Chef, which offers a deploy tool, but is mostly designed as an automation stack.
Make a note of what you are expecting to find, what the system needs to be useful to your company, and what aspects are the most important. And remember to think long-term as well! Don’t just think about what you need now. Think about when the company grows. Will the CI/CD tool scale with it? Does it have the governance features you’ll most likely need? There’s lots to think about, and it’s helpful to make a list of future needs to consider.
Find Tools That Scale Easily
As your business grows, you will need a system that can grow with you. Be sure that the CI/CD pipeline you use can adapt to your growth and doesn’t stay stagnant. Some tools definitely are less scalable than others, and you’ll need to do some research in that area. Google is your friend! Try Googling the tool name along with “scalable” or “scalability” for some reviews from users.
Massive space for growth might not be necessary for your company, but if you go too small, you may find a bottleneck of production slowing you down.
Remember that scaling is more than just how much code you can push through; it’s also the amount of developers that might join in the future and the number of quality checkers or ops people needed as your business expands.
Find a tool that works for you, and make sure scalability doesn’t become a concern two years down the road.
Keep Security In Mind
If you end up using an open-source system, then this discussion is even more important. Either way, security should always be a major factor in your business.
Some CI/CD tools come with built-in security features, which means you don’t have to put extra work into weaving protection through the development stages. Ideally, you should pick a tool that offers this ability; however, if the tool you need doesn’t have specific security controls, you can still use it. But you may need to instill a cultural shift in your teams and put security at the front of your mind.
4 Best CI/CD Tools for DevOps
Now you know what to look for, we can go into detail about the best CI/CD tools available to you.
The first tool on our list is from Harness. They have created a CI/CD platform aimed at an enterprise level and premier commercial companies, but they also have a source available version of their CD product, and smaller plans for smaller organizations. It is a powerful system that is incredibly scalable, simple, and smart. Onboarding engineers is easy, and once in the system, it’s not unheard of to be able to create a pipeline in 15 minutes.
If you are already using Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platforms, or Microsoft Azure as cloud provider, then Harness would be a great accompaniment.
The deployments are automatically generated through Harness’s CI/CD system. The system has built-in templates, but also allows you to custom build your own. This means you can avoid scripting altogether if the templates offered are suitable.
The systems also have machine learning capabilities to automatically monitor your software and app for possible problems after deployment. Any abnormalities will be noted, and the data will be sent to you.
In the software itself, you can find the typical systems such as Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and Continuous Verification. However, you can also find Feature Flags, Cloud Cost Management, and modules that guide you through building, testing, and everything else you hope to learn.
The Features You Can Expect From Harness:
- Accelerate Metrics, Reporting, and Dashboards
- Advanced Deployment Strategies like Canary and Blue-Green
- Continuous Verification
- Command Line Interface
- Freemium Options
- GitOps Functionality
- SSO, RBAC, & Secrets Management
- On-Premise and SaaS
Over the last year, Zuul has had a boom in traction. It is another open-source tool, but this one was once owned by the OpenStack foundation and is now considered independent.
Its specialty is in project gating, which means the features stop you from merging code that is broken. If you are not a strong coder, or you often find that code is left broken for a while before someone notices there is an issue, then Zuul is your solution. It will stop the broken code from existing with your main branch, thereby preventing permanent damage.
Another way in which Zuul protects you is through their speculative future states. When following the Continuous Integration, Zuul will produce changes and test them in the speculative future states. It does this assuming the tests will pass.
This method allows the system to figure out all of the flaws and learn how to mend the code. You can expect these testing configurations in the software:
Zuul creates testing queues that run in parallel to each other. They change based on orders given, but Zuul knows which of your systems and codes relies on one another. If one has been changed, (and it will break the system if the other isn’t changed too,) then it will take the initiative and update the other systems connected to it.
You can tell Zuul what it can expect and what to do when this known factor comes into play. For example, you can tell the software that a change will occur depending on a known repository. This change could be from the same system or a different one. When the tests come through you, know that Zuul will adapt to the change ensuring the project dependency is accounted for.
Lastly, when Zuul tests a sequence, it will make sure that all the systems connected pass before landing the patch. It is sophisticated enough to ensure all the systems are safe through the change.
Jenkin’s main aim is to help you manage code in a way that will allow you to handle more options. In their mind, more options mean more possibilities. Going back to their plugins, each one offered can be edited and enhanced to easily fit into your systems, or you can use them as they are to boost productivity.
Every part of the Jenkins system is designed to be easily modifiable. This means you can add in any elements that are beneficial to your company, and you can expand the software as you grow.
This will save you a lot of time, as you won’t have to search for new CI/CD tools as you expand, nor will you need a workarounds to install new plugins.
Jenkins is more than just a tool for expansion, though. It is also fantastic for spotting errors and informs your developers about the possible issues. This will make your test runs smoother and the problem-solving element easier.
These combined elements make productivity faster and building pipelines easier. You can use the tool of multiple different operating systems, including clouds.
We would like to mention that Jenkins is really a CI tool, though it can be extended to CD. This requires scripting and maintenance, so the upfront savings due to it being open-source can often backfire. What we mean by that is, with all the developer and DevOps hours you’ll spend on maintenance, administration, and scripting, you could potentially be better off acquiring a true CI/CD system.
GitLab started off as a source code manager. They’ve expanded to provide CI/CD as well, along with other features. GitLab focuses more on Continuous Integration, though it can be extended to Continuous Delivery as well.
GitLab was written in Ruby, and focuses on enterprise-level clients, though there are plans to accommodate smaller companies as well.
The system is compatible with most platforms and languages.
GitLab also allows you to use parallel builds, and you can split the builds over different machines. Some developers prefer this method as it can create faster results. There isn’t a limit to how many machines you can connect, which means you can scale up or scale down as much as you need.
If you use every aspect of GitLab and not just GitLab CI, you’ll notice that it gives you complete cycles from start to finish.
It might not be as simple as the other CI/CD tools we have shown you, as there is a steep learning curve, but it can give you a lot of room to work with.
Each of these tools focus on different elements of the CI/CD process. Each covers the full spectrum, but their aim on a specific area of the DevOps process can help you decide which tool fits your software best.