Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD Tools) are combined DevOps best practices of automating different application development stages. At its core, a CI/CD pipeline enforces automation by removing team level silos and incorporating tools that enable efficiency.

During pre-DevOps days, software development and deployment involved manual identification of bugs and then rolling out the fixes. This model essentially made different teams treat their tasks as discreet projects without relating to other components, thereby ignoring effective collaboration.

The concept of Continuous Integration first hit the headlines in 1994, leading to the introduction of  CruiseControl, the first CI tool. Years later, the concept of Continuous Delivery emerged to improve on the demerits of Continuous Integration. Since then, CI/CD practices further enhanced with wider adoption within the industry to the extent that today, most of the DevOps operations are driven by CI/CD that entails automation and team-collaboration in phases, including development, deployment, integration, testing, and monitoring.

A flow chart of CI/CD pipelines

Image Source: https://about.gitlab.com/

 

Popular CI/CD Tools

When choosing a CI/CD tool, it is essential to consider factors such as ease of setup, interoperability, integration with IDE, cloud services, and price per pull/push requests. Let us go through the list of a few popular CI/CD tools while exploring their features.

 

CircleCI

As one of the most used DevOps tools, CircleCI offers a platform that efficiently blends CI/CD with a DevSecOps model. The platform can be configured to run complex pipelines with sophisticated docker layer caching, resource classes for faster workflows, and performance pricing. CircleCI offers a flexible and scalable way of identifying bugs and fixing them, improving applications’ quality. For beginners, it also offers a free trial to evaluate its functionalities and usefulness to your organization.

CircleCI flowchart blending CI/CD with a DevSecOps mode in a single platform

Image Source: https://circleci.com/

 

Key Features of CircleCI:

  • Bitbucket, GitHub, and GitHub Enterprise integration
  • Easy to set personalized notifications straight into the mailbox
  • It can be readily customized to suit specific needs.
  • Faster code testing
  • Web-based and cloud deployment
  • Merging and uploading of predefined commands are automated.
  • Easy to debug codes to identify bugs and fix them

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Jenkins

Jenkins is a widely adopted open-source CI/CD tool that enables automation across all phases of an SDLC, including, build, test, deploy, and deliver. One prominent reason for Jenkins’ popularity is the fact that it allows integration with hundreds of plugins, plus the feature of allowing custom configuration based on your own requirement.  With its real-time error testing and reporting functionality, developers fix bugs and add features to a project module in progress without introducing bugs or compromising the overall project.

Jenkins workflow adopting open-source CI/CD tool approach

Image Source: jenkins.io

 

Key Features of Jenkins:

  • Errors can be checked on-the-go.
  • It comes pre-built with Unix, Windows, and OS X operating system packages.
  • Offers both server and platform functionalities for all projects
  • Allows parallel builds
  • An open-source tool that is available to all organizations free of charge
  • Bundled with over 1500 plugins that extend its functionality
  • Easy to set up and configure
  • Web-based, iOS, Android, and Desktop support
  • Suitable for both large and small-scale projects
  • Integration with popular platforms including Mac Cloud, JFrog, PagerDuty, Datadog, Atlassian, Contegix, Jet Brains, etc.
  • Easy integration with cloud platforms such as Digital Ocean, Google Cloud, Amazon EC2, etc.
  • Automatic code testing and application deployment

 

TeamCity

TeamCity offers a build-management and CI server that lets software developers automate DevOps workflows much faster, and at the same time, avoid code redundancies and other oversights. As one of its essential features, TeamCity CI makes it possible to backup all code changes that can be restored in failures or any version rollbacks.

TeamCity - a build-management and CI server workflow

Image Source: https://blog.jetbrains.com/

 

Key Features of TeamCity:

  • Easy to install and configure
  • Support parallel or simultaneous builds
  • Easy to control application versions making it suitable for large projects
  • Easy integration with cloud services such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon EC2, VMware vSphere, and Kubernetes
  • Offers Visual Studio support
  • Easily to customized interface
  • Provides detailed reports on application development and errors
  • Easy to manage users and assign roles privileges
  • Code quality tracking
  • Interactive and highly customizable
  • Easy change testing without VCS commitments
  • Regularly reports disk usage, server health, and build time.
  • Parent settings and configurations are reusable throughout the project.

 

GitLab CI

GitLab is a self-hosted Git repo provider with features supporting SDLC and project management through version control and issue tracking. As an extension to that, GitLab also offers a feature-rich CI/CD tool that enables Continuous Integration, Delivery, and Deployment to your software workflow without needing any additional third-party application or integration. In essence, this makes GitLab CI stand apart from other platforms with its overall list of features ranging from project planning and source code management to CI/CD and monitoring, thus making it an end-to-end DevOps platform with an easy to use web interface.

GitLab CI flowchart based continuous integration and deployment.

Image Source: https://docs.gitlab.com/

 

Key Features of GitLab:

  • Branching makes code creation and management in a project easy.
  • Rapid integration and faster delivery
  • Supports interoperability – can be built on different machines.
  • Efficient and highly scalable
  • Automated software build, integration, and code verification
  • Deliver secure applications, thus enabling a DevSecOps model
  • It comes with a Free version free can be commercialized for enterprise-grade requirements.
  • Instant identification of script failures
  • Easy analysis of Docker containers and dependencies for known vulnerabilities
  • Dependencies caching
  • Easy integration with the cloud services
  • Different pricing plans for different needs, including the Free basic plan
  • WebIDE makes it possible for easier code editing and testing.

 

Travis CI

Travis CI is another popular open-source CI/CD tool that integrates with GitHub and Bitbucket and is usually considered more user-friendly than its peers. Instead of using the build-agent approach, Travis CI uses a clean room approach for builds. This essentially enables every build to run in a new and consistent environment. While the Free version is entirely cloud-based, the Enterprise version can also be hosted on-premise or private cloud.

The following representation shows a typical CI Pipeline through Travis CI while integrating the workflow into a Docker container. Where Ansible is considered to help automate provisioning, setup, and configuration of the underlying infrastructure.

Travis CI - an open-source CI/CD tool integrating with GitHub and Bitbucket

Image Source: https://blog.travis-ci.com/

Key Features of Travis CI:

  • Supports Mac, Linux, and iOS
  • Integration with GitHub, Bitbucket, etc. for version control
  • Free SaaS version for open-source code development
  • Supports 21 programming languages, including Java, JavaScript, Python, C, C#, Ruby, Perl, etc.
  • It comes with pre-installed database services and message queues.
  • Functional notification systems for push notifications to the mailbox, Slack, etc.
  • Integration with Cloud services
  • Free plan for open-source projects
  • Supports parallel builds
  • Easy installation and configuration

With all the tools and their respective features in mind, it is important to note your specific requirements before choosing one. At the end of it, you need to implement an automated workflow to the maximum possible level that ensures faster builds, efficient error handling and superior team-level collaboration.

Crashtest Security makes integrating vulnerability scanning into any of the CI Tools mentioned here easy.  By integrating vulnerability scanning directly into your CI, you can be sure your builds are secure before deployment. You can read more about how Crashtest integrates into your tech stack here.