9 CI/CD best practices for DevOps teams Continuous delivery vs. continuous deployment: Which to choose?

10 Jenkins alternatives for developers

Looking for an alternative to Jenkins in your CI/CD environment? Consider options from Atlassian, GitLab, Spinnaker and more to see if they better fit your development needs.

Jenkins is one of the most popular open source CI tools available to the software development community, but some DevOps professionals' criteria when evaluating their CI/CD pipelines might mean Jenkins won't come out on top. Perhaps they are unfamiliar with Groovy, the de facto programming language for Jenkins pipelines, and prefer a YAML-based tool instead. Perhaps they prefer a fully managed cloud-based CI engine rather than self-hosted Jenkins. Maybe a years-long Jenkins user just wants to try something new.

If Jenkins isn't the right fit for CI in a development environment, there are other tools that could fit the bill.

Let's explore several Jenkins alternatives that might better meet your organization's development pipeline needs.

GitHub Actions for YAML fans

GitHub was once solely a source control system. However, ever since Microsoft purchased the SaaS-based Git vendor in 2018, GitHub has expanded beyond the world of merges and commits.

GitHub Actions is a cloud-based release management service that uses YAML files to describe the steps to be performed in a continuous delivery pipeline. A key benefit to developers is that they can maintain and version the YAML-based pipeline alongside the source code for the project it is intended to deploy. This tightly integrates the source code and the automated build pipeline that is used to deploy it.

GitLab for those who ported off GitHub

Despite the first three letters of the name, GitLab is more than just a cloud-based, distributed version control system based on Git. It also provides a full suite of tools, making it a comparable offering to Jenkins.

For organizations that moved to GitLab after Microsoft purchased GitHub, it might make sense to explore the GitLab suite of CI tools as a Jenkins alternative.

Bamboo for those who use Atlassian Jira

Atlassian provides a complete suite of DevOps-related collaboration and pipeline tools, such as Jira for ticket tracking, Bitbucket for version control and the Fisheye revision-control browser. If an organization already uses one or some of these technologies, Atlassian Bamboo is a pretty sensible alternative to Jenkins.

JFrog Pipelines for an artifact focus

The goal of a continuous integration pipeline is to move deployment artifacts, such as EAR files, component libraries and even Docker containers, from one test environment to the next, and finally to production deployment. Given the emphasis a release management system places on the artifact, many Artifactory clients choose JFrog Pipelines as an alternative to Jenkins.

Pipelines combines CI/CD tools acquired from Shippable in 2019 with JFrog's artifact repository, with an emphasis on grouping multiple sets of binaries into builds. The company says this is a better way to manage dependencies between changes from multiple development teams, instead of parallel pipelines for separate source code repositories.

Spinnaker for the cloud-native crowd

Netflix is a long-cited reference case for DevOps done right, and the company has open sourced many in-house development tools to help others pursue their own DevOps journeys. One of these tools is Spinnaker, a continuous delivery tool now backed by Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others.

Netflix is heavily vested in the cloud-native approach to application development and delivery.  Spinnaker reflects that approach through integrations with cloud and container hosting technologies such as Docker, Kubernetes, VMware and Amazon EC2. Spinnaker is a proven cloud-native CD tool that can serve as a Jenkins alternative for some CD functionality to support a cloud-focused approach.

Note that Spinnaker only addresses the continuous delivery side of a CI/CD pipeline, so you'll need a CI component as well. If you're satisfied with Jenkins' CI capabilities but need a separate CD tool set, integrate the two together for a full CI/CD pipeline.

TeamCity for developer-focused Agile teams

The foundation of any automated build pipeline is the code software developers write, which is why TeamCity is a great choice for organizations that put developers first.

JetBrains, the vendor behind the popular IntelliJ Java IDE, also offers TeamCity. JetBrains has expertise on how to keep developers productive, and TeamCity extends that knowledge into the release management field.

AWS CodePipeline for Amazon users

As organizations move more operations to the cloud, it makes sense to use a cloud-based tool to manage the deployment and delivery process. For Amazon users, AWS CodePipeline provides CI/CD functionality that tightly integrates with other AWS services such as Amazon Beanstalk, the Elastic Container Service and Amazon CodeGuru.

Since AWS CodePipeline runs within an organization's Amazon cloud environment, it is easy to assign this CI/CD tool management rights to the various other AWS products that need to participate in a deployment. This can often be a pain point when interacting from outside of the AWS network. AWS CodePipeline takes this pain point away.

Azure DevOps Server for .NET and Java apps

In the same way there are benefits for Amazon users to run their automated builds with AWS CodePipeline, Azure users can choose Microsoft's Azure DevOps Server (formerly Team Foundation Server) to manage software deployments to Microsoft's cloud.

Historically, organizations that worked with Java EE or Jakarta EE applications were unlikely to investigate Microsoft-based products such as .NET technologies. However, in the past few years Microsoft has embraced the Java community -- it acquired JClarity, recruited former Java Champions and Java EE evangelists from Oracle, and most significantly just released its own version of the OpenJDK runtime. Furthermore, Azure's support for Docker and Kubernetes eliminates the difficulties associated with the deployment of Java-based apps to the Microsoft cloud.

For Azure users, or for those that manage applications written in both Java and .NET, Azure DevOps Server could be a compelling Jenkins alternative.

Roll your own with Maven and Gradle

If a team seeks a Jenkins alternative because it feels the tool is too complex, or its automated builds require significant customizations, another option is to build your own continuous integration server.

Maven provides a comprehensive set of build, test and deploy tools. It offers built-in facilities to package applications, not only as Java-based artifacts such as EAR, JAR and WAR files, but also as Docker images that teams can test and deploy into a Kubernetes cluster.

The Gradle API enables Java developers to schedule tasks, monitor deployments and interact with external system. If none of the Jenkins alternatives listed here fit your needs, and you have access to talented software developers who understand your automated build needs, the best Jenkins alternative might just be the one you build on your own.

CloudBees CI for a new spin on Jenkins

An organization that uses open source Jenkins may not need a Jenkins alternative so much as an extended version of the tool with professional support.

To expand CI efforts but not abandon Jenkins, consider CloudBees CI (formerly CloudBees Core). This self-service continuous integration server provides both on-premises and cloud-based offerings, supports rapid onboarding and can scale across many development teams.

If an organization wants to use Jenkins but with professional support, CloudBees CI might be the right choice.

Jenkins alternatives roundup

In review, if you are looking for an alternative to Jenkins, the following 10 CI/CD platforms are worth a look:

  • GitHub Actions
  • GitLab
  • Atlassian Bamboo
  • JFrog Pipelines
  • Spinnaker
  • JetBrains TeamCity
  • AWS CodePipeline
  • Azure DevOps Server (formerly Microsoft Team Foundation Server)
  • Maven and Gradle
  • CloudBees CI (formerly CloudBees Core)

A continuous integration server is a key component of the modern DevOps stack. Choose the one that best suits your needs -- whether it is Jenkins or another option-- and enjoy the digital transformation that ensues.

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