January 11, 2021

Best Jenkins Alternatives for Developers & DevOps Teams

Table of Contents

Key takeaway

There are two potential reasons you clicked on an article titled Jenkins Alternatives. Maybe you have a broken software delivery process that requires hours of Jenkins maintenance every day, or maybe you’re just starting to build the first CI/CD pipelines at your company and you heard Jenkins was a nightmare to set up. Either way, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s find an alternative for Jenkins that will work for you. 

Why Engineers Leave Jenkins

Jenkins revolutionized the way companies handle software deployment… a decade ago. But ten years later, Jenkins is getting old - it doesn’t provide an optimal solution for a cloud-native tool stack. Managing Jenkins is like managing an entire application. Someone has to create and maintain Jenkins pipelines. Someone has to maintain and pay for the company’s Jenkins servers. Someone needs a Jenkins PHD to troubleshoot failed deployments. Jeez, no wonder you’re looking for alternatives to Jenkins! Here are some examples of others who did the same. 

Jenkins is a Cumbersome Continuous Integration Solution

Here’s a real world example to illustrate why searching for a Jenkins alternative is the right thing to do. Meltwater used Jenkins for continuous integration. Jenkins lacked key features like autoscaling, forcing developers to wait to complete their build. Adding autoscaling to the company’s Jenkins Pipelines seemed impossible because of all the dependencies that would need to be simultaneously updated. The crucial feature kept getting delayed and developers began losing more confidence in Jenkins.

“It is such a hassle to update Jenkins that you end up avoiding it for months and years.” - Jim Sheldon, Principal Software Engineer, Meltwater

The Jenkins pipeline adoption rate dropped to 15%, and developers began actively looking for better solutions on their own. 

“Teams were running away from Jenkins as fast as possible” - Jim Sheldon, Principal Software Engineer, Meltwater

Jenkins Wasn’t Made for Continuous Delivery

Beachbody used Jenkins for Continuous Delivery, but Jenkins created bottlenecks in their deployment process. Each production deployment took six developers two hours to complete. This huge commitment meant deployments occurred every other week. Jenkins required a significant amount of infrastructure to run, and required a dedicated team of engineers to upgrade and troubleshoot pipelines. 

“Our Jenkins pipelines were manual, brittle and costly to manage” - Bob Chen, Senior Director of DevOps, Beachbody

When Beachbody tried to migrate to Kubernetes, it took the full DevOps team 3 days to onboard a single service to Jenkins. The whole project was estimated to take a full year. 

Jenkins CI Alternatives

Continuous Integration is the process of building and testing artifacts. CI tools integrate with source code repositories like GitHub (or GitHub Enterprise) and Bitbucket to build deployable artifacts. When evaluating continuous integration Jenkins alternatives, you’ll want to consider several factors. First, you’ll want to consider the scalability of the solution. Is it easy to create new pipelines? Can an autoscaler be used to increase instances during times of high internal demand? Second, you’ll want to consider the cost of hosting the solution. How much infrastructure will you have to set up to internally manage your CI instances? Third, you’ll want to consider engineering maintenance effort. How many engineers will be dedicated to updating and troubleshooting the CI pipelines?

Harness Logo

1. Harness CI

Designed to be downloaded, installed, and working in minutes, Harness CI is simple yet powerful. Once downloaded, the Harness CI continuous integration server will work with any source control system, any platform, and any language. The intuitive nature of the product allows pipeline creation in short YAML files, not hundreds of lines of scripts. Each Pipeline step is executed inside an isolated Docker container that is automatically downloaded at runtime. These simple pipelines can handle anything thrown at them thanks to the built-in autoscaler. The tool’s simplicity also makes it easy to add new plugins with hardly any maintenance effort. Harness CI takes less than 100MB of memory, compared to Jenkins at 2GB, and Gitlab at 8GB. All of this translates into an extremely scalable tool that is easy to maintain. 

CircleCI Logo

2. CircleCI

CircleCI was built for speed and scalability. Everything in CircleCi is built with the Version Control System, thereby almost eliminating the need for maintenance. CircleCI also reduces troubleshooting effort by helping users debug potential pipeline issues. The “Orb” system allows 3rd party integrations and plugins to be set up without any hassle. Teams can maximize the efficiency of their build pipelines and increase scalability with customizable RAM and CPU. These features, coupled with CircleCI’s easily shareable configurations, create a standardizable CI solution that can be picked up by anyone in the org.

Travis CI Logo

3. Travis CI

Travis CI was the first CI-as-a-service solution and was designed for open source projects. Travis CI is a streamlined experience that is easy to set up and use. Configurations are created using YAML files, and Travis CI allows users to perform a variety of tests on their builds. Travis CI lacks many of the enterprise-grade features of other CI tools (think security and governance), but that, in turn, means Travis CI requires little effort to maintain. 

Jenkins Alternatives That Are No Better Than Jenkins

Be wary of other CI tools released around the same time as Jenkins. Tools like TeamCity (by JetBrains) and Bamboo will still require manual configuration to function properly. You’ll have to write custom scripts for every Slack, Git, Atlassian Jira, etc. integration. 

Jenkins CD Alternatives

Continuous delivery is the process of deploying artifacts to production. This process includes Q/A, internal approvals, non-production deployments, production deployments, verification steps, and rollbacks. True CD solutions delineate from CI tools by focusing on these process steps. Jenkins is often extended using custom scripts to perform CD functionality. In fact, several years ago, that was about your only option. Not anymore. Modern CD solutions let users create pipelines without custom scripting and easily connect to modern tool stacks. When selecting a Jenkins CD alternative, you’ll want to pay attention to feature parity and ease of use, as difficult tools will struggle to gain internal adoption. 

Harness Logo

1. Harness CD

Harness Continuous Delivery is a SaaS solution that offers advanced out-of-the-box CD functionality. Harness CD automates the creation of deployment pipelines with zero custom scripting. In addition to standard canary deployments,  Harness provides advanced governance capabilities like RBAC, Audit Trails, and SSO. Once a deployment is completed, Harness’ continuous verification will use Machine Learning to detect any deployment anomalies and will automatically roll back if there are issues. Harness has an easy to understand UI, but users also have the option to run everything using GitOps. First-time Harness users can set up and deploy their first pipeline in a half day. 

Argo CD Logo

2. Argo CD

Argo CD automates Kubernetes deployments using GitOps technology. With support for a wide variety of config management tools, SSO integrations, and web hook integrations, Argo CD gives developers a simple yet effective deployment method. Argo reduces administration toil by making application definitions, configurations, and environments declarative and version-controlled. Argo’s stated goal is to make application deployments automated, auditable, and easy to understand.

GitLab Logo

3. GitLab

GitLab makes releases “boring” for the entire DevOps lifecycle. GitLab CI is directly connected with GitLab CD without much room to mix and match tools. This tightly-wound package reduces maintenance cost by streamlining reviews, staging, and production deployment pipelines. Their approach often leads to faster release cycles, which in turn decreases the size and complexity of every deployment. If a company wants to completely standardize its DevOps toolchain, then GitLab offers a one-stop solution. 

Jenkins Alternatives That Are No Better Than Jenkins

Beware of tools like Spinnaker (by Netflix) and GoCD. Both of these open-source platforms require just as much manual setup and maintenance as Jenkins. Remember: the goal is to reduce the amount of management you have to do internally. 

Scale Beyond Jenkins Pipelines with Harness

At one point, Jenkins was the most advanced CI/CD tool on the market. But Jenkins was released at the start of the previous decade. Since then, cloud adoption has increased, and the software development lifecycle has changed dramatically. Jenkins hasn’t kept up with the past ten years of innovation. If you’re going to use a Jenkins alternative, find a modern solution that doesn’t need its own development team. Let someone else build and manage the best CI/CD tool - start your free trial of Harness today.

If you're not ready to take the leap yet, continue your research with our CI/CD Buyer's Guide, a free eBook that compares a ton of CI, CD, and CI/CD vendors.

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