Concourse was created by two engineers in 2014 after trying various Continuous Integration tools that always fell short. They proceeded to open-source the project on GitHub, where it sits at 5.7k stars and is constantly being updated by the creators and contributors (all 320+ of ‘em). Of note would be the roadmap to Concourse v10, where multi-branch setups and PR-driven workflows “won’t suck” (their words, not ours). As we said, constantly being updated - and with good stuff, too. All in all, as far as open-source tools go, it’s a comprehensive tool that enables developers to take code to artifact safely, and even forays into ‘CD tool’ territory as it can be extended to encompass the deployment step as well.
I actually recently wrote the comparison piece between Concourse CI and Drone, and did find some pretty big reasons engineers might turn away from Concourse. Here’s an excerpt from that article:
“The bad: building pipelines on Concourse CI is time-consuming, because you have to do every single step yourself (no templates – every step has to be configured manually). It also lacks features that other CI tools already have, such as flexibility (Concourse pipelines are a bit rigid and basic, poor conditional flow), there’s not much information about past runs in the UI, plugins are quite limited, and there are shortcomings with docker if you employ multiple libraries. The ugly: workers are a constant source of frustration that sometimes don’t work as intended. They worked so poorly that it is now being deprecated in favor of Prototypes (should be available in Q2). Lastly, at the time of this writing, Concourse CI has 750 open issues on GitHub – so there are definitely lots of kinks to work out.”
Based on all this info and how Concourse can be a wee bit too complex for the features it boasts, we understand why you’re here, looking for Concourse CI alternatives - and we have a few for you to look over. Hopefully these alternatives make your software development experience easier! For a more comprehensive look at all of these and more, check out our buyer’s guide to CI/CD.
GitLab, originally a source code management/version control tool based on Git (like GitHub and Bitbucket, for reference), introduced a CI/CD solution to their product suite. They support all major cloud providers, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). They also support container orchestration tools, such as Kubernetes and ECS. In terms of infrastructure, GitLab recently released a Terraform integration.
A major incentive to use GitLab is the ease and built-in functionality. Everything can be in one platform. A single application can take care of the entire DevOps lifecycle, from source control management to release and monitoring. Only one application is needed for integration and permissions. Within GitLab, it provides you with deeper insights such as programming languages used in the repository, code coverage history and number of commits per month, day and hour. This allows users to have visibility and a more thorough understanding of the CI/CD process.
If you were using (or evaluating) Concourse for both CI and CD, you should take a glance at GitLab. Having one-stop CI/CD pipelines is definitely a boon.
CircleCI is regarded highly within the industry as it helps developers push successful green builds safely and securely. The tool focuses on testing all code changes submitted and has been used by many well-known companies. Like Concourse CI, build configurations live in a file that must be added for the pipeline to run. Having these configuration files, and having them live in source control management, allows developers to change builds on a per branch basis.
Each build run in CircleCI runs in a clean Linux container that can be directly accessed through SSH. This allows for quick and advanced debugging to find out why a pipeline failed.
CircleCI has a resource called Orbs for reusing specific workflow and pipeline configurations. This resource makes writing and customizing CircleCI’s config simple as they adhere to a Reusable Configuration feature that allows the developer to define parameterized configuration elements and reuse those elements throughout the project config file.
CircleCI can do a lot. You can use many different languages (Ruby, Python, PHP, and Java - oh my!), frameworks, and dependencies in your build and there is even an API for custom integrations. It also provides built-in Docker container support and iOS support. Even though it provides all of these features, it does currently lack security and governance, which more experienced users need – and the list of integrations and plugins that are built-in isn’t extensive. As far as Concourse CI alternatives go, CircleCI is pretty up there.
Harness is devoted to the open-source community and plans on keeping their enterprise pricing model consistent, as well as keeping Drone fully open-source. This past March, Harness released some new features in Drone 2.0. This update included a new look and feel which enhances the developer experience, as there are graphics to depict build time, charts, and a pipeline visualizer. Like Concourse CI, Drone can be integrated with GitHub and Bitbucket, but also other source control management tools. It runs as a GitOps process, and looks for a yaml file for configuration. They also can both authenticate with GitHub, for example, but Drone offers a user management screen.
Drone is container-native so all builds are isolated and all extensions are standardized. It also has around 150 containerized plugins! This allows for easy customization and adds extensibility to the tool. If a plugin a user is looking for doesn’t exist, they can create one and it can be as easy as writing bash/a shell script. To make it usable by others, the user can add it to the Drone registry website by sending in a pull request. That is the power of open-source.
Drone offers extensive support when building in a VM, Docker, K8s, or MacStadium. This support is manifested in the form of a runner. In Drone, a runner polls the server for workloads to execute. These runners are optimized for different use cases and runtime environments and this is when Drone shines.
If you’re looking for a full CI/CD solution, Harness has your back! With Harness comes Continuous Deployment, Continuous Verification, Cloud Cost Management, and Feature Flags (coming soon!) - along with Continuous Integration Enterprise. Harness, the premier commercial and enterprise-grade Continuous Delivery solution, is incredibly powerful and built for teams with abundant or limited resources alike by ensuring a self-service, simple, smart approach to software delivery. Get your software development process to the next level and install Drone on Linux today.
While there is definitely a lot of good to Jenkins (mostly due to the extensibility of the platform when it comes to plugin and scripts), the reality is it’s a ten year old tool that wasn’t built to be cloud native. And while yes, the extensibility is very good, having to rely on scripts and plugins isn’t a good thing in itself. For one, plugin authors often abandon their plugins (leaving you to scramble to find a new plugin or write your own), plugins can create dependency chains, plugins can introduce security vulnerabilities, etc. We don’t feel comfortable recommending a product that relies so heavily upon added extensibility.
When evaluating tools that are right for your solution, it’s important to look at all the options and alternatives to see which is the most fitting for your needs. Each CI tool has its own differentiating features that make it stand out to users. To evaluate even more providers not mentioned in this blog and see a more in-depth breakdown including feature comparisons, go to our DevOps Tools Comparison pages.
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