As many of you may know, Spinnaker was famously a result of Netflix building their own Continuous Delivery tool internally back in 2015. In late 2015, they released the tool in parts as open-source and released the first version of Spinnaker in 2017.
Harness has a deep respect for Spinnaker and its contributions to Continuous Delivery; it was the first open-source initiative to take on the challenge.
Like many open-source CD tools, it has its flaws. Users are excited to try Spinnaker because of its low barrier to entry, especially for those who do not want to code. Unfortunately, for many, they realize that Spinnaker may not be enough.
This wouldn’t be an objective evaluation of all Continuous Delivery platforms unless we broke down both the pros and cons of Spinnaker.
Open-Source: This is probably the biggest pro for using Spinnaker. Having a free framework (with restrictions) can give internal teams a lot of development freedom to be creative with how they build their Continuous Delivery platform.
Multi-Cloud Deployments: Spinnaker is useful in a multi-cloud environment, and it can also integrate with Kubernetes.
Infrastructure Provisioners: Spinnaker, for the longest time, did not offer any integration with Terraform. Recently, they launched a Terraform integration that allows you to leverage it.
Lack of Support for Traditional Applications: Spinnaker was designed to be exclusively cloud-native, and does not provide support for applications in Java or .NET.
Lack of Secrets Management: In a world where the need for cybersecurity is at an all-time high, Spinnaker does not offer a built-in secrets management tool. There are third-party integrations available, of course, but the lack of a native tool is still a negative.
On-Prem Only: Spinnaker does not provide a SaaS option and is restricted to those who are looking for an on-prem solution.
There are many different things to consider when choosing the right CD tool that fits your needs. We want to give you as much information and enough resources so that you can make an informed decision. With that in mind, we evaluated the tools below for the following:
Following our analysis, we have provided the top 6 Spinnaker alternatives that we believe are worth checking out in your exploration for the next Continuous Delivery platform.
Harness provides the industry’s first commercial and enterprise-grade Continuous Delivery solution for resource-strapped teams looking for a powerful and simple platform, preventing the need to do the heavy lifting through open-source tooling.
Harness auto-generates all deployment scripts based on built-in or custom deployment templates. It also has machine learning-based Continuous Verification that ensures before-and-after performance and functionality. It comes with deep integrations with standard monitoring systems, and notifications (alerts) can be sent to your organization’s chat tool of choice, such as Slack or Hipchat.
Harness also has a huge focus on compliance and governance, boasting fine-grained RBAC, integrated secrets management, and more. You can also create compliance rules regarding security, performance, and quality, then automatically enforce them in your CD pipelines, and gain a full audit trail documenting every step of the process.
The Harness software delivery platform has Continuous Delivery, Continuous Integration, and Cloud Cost Management modules, allowing you to build, test, deploy, and verify on-demand. Harness is also heavily invested in the open source community with its acquisition of Drone. Lastly, Harness now fully supports Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, and AWS.
See a more in-depth Spinnaker vs. Harness comparison.
In 2018, Intuit acquired a company called Applatix, which is the original creator of Argo. Since then, they have rolled out 3 new projects: Argo CD, Argo Rollouts, and Argo Events.
Argo CD is an open-source GitOps Continuous Delivery solution for Kubernetes. It automates Kubernetes deployments and has support for multiple configuration management tools. It provides automated continuous deployment and SDLC management.
Where Argo CD thrives is its GitOps functionality. It uses a Git repository as the source of truth when defining the state of an application. Argo CD provides a declarative GitOps-based deployment of any Kubernetes resource, including Argo Events, services, and deployments across multiple Kubernetes clusters.
Argo CD’s modern features may become an impediment - the biggest one being Argo CD’s auto-deploy capability. It may require changes in how deployments are triggered: Argo CD “watches” your Docker and Helm chart repos and it can auto-deploy when changes are detected. It can be a great thing for advanced engineers, but beginners will have a big learning curve ahead of them.
Argo CD is definitely a more advanced CD tool. Additionally, Argo CD lacks native secrets management, instead relying on third-party integrations, like HashiCorp Vault. Lastly, you’ll need to integrate with a Continuous Integration tool such as Harness CI or CircleCI, as Argo CD does not solve for CI.
See a more in-depth Argo CD vs. Harness comparison.
Gitlab is a complete DevOps platform that provides source code management, CI/CD, security, value stream management, GitOps, and more. Its roots were as a source code management tool and Git repository. Their Continuous Delivery tool helps accelerate and efficiently improve the software release process. They have an end-to-end DevOps solution, which positions them as a flexible pipeline management system.
GitLab supports all of the major cloud providers, including AWS, Azure, and GCP. They also support container orchestration tools, such as Kubernetes and ECS. They recently released an integration with Terraform.
GitLab has a beautiful UI, but where it lacks is its ease of use. There is definitely a learning curve to utilize the platform. They do not have any Continuous Verification capabilities, but can integrate with tools such as Prometheus - however, that is the only tool they integrate with to increase visibility.
Similarly, they do not have native secrets management capabilities, but do integrate with Hashicorp Vault. They do, however, have good governance and compliance features available on their enterprise-level plans.
See a more in-depth GitLab vs. Harness comparison.
Back in 2005 (yes, 15 years ago), Microsoft Azure began its initial investment into DevOps in order to provide assistance to software development teams who wanted to make software changes with high velocity.
In late 2018, they announced Azure DevOps, which includes a variety of tools for CI/CD, reporting, artifacts, Git repos, testing, and more. They have a wide variety of plugins and extensions, like Slack, that work with the platform.
As a CD tool, Azure DevOps is pretty flexible and provides customizable pipelines. The one (pretty large) downside to Azure DevOps Pipelines is that it requires a high amount of scripting in the setup and configuration process. They do, however, have pipeline templates and triggers that improve the setup process.
Azure DevOps provides support for Azure, Kubernetes, and VM-based resources. Their GitOps functionality is for pipelines only, not for releases. They lack any verification capabilities, and rollbacks are achieved using a plugin. You can view software delivery metrics such as build history and deployment status, but are limited to determining deployment velocity.
See a more in-depth Azure DevOps vs. Harness comparison.
Octopus Deploy is a Continuous Delivery tool that works hand-in-hand with your build server to manage releases and automate deployments. From a functionality perspective, it packs a big punch with a lot of deployment strategy options, good support, and it integrates with most Continuous Integration tools/servers.
From a usability perspective, it is relatively easy to navigate, which can be very attractive for newer development teams. The features are relatively basic - for example, no YAML. They are coming out with configuration-as-code functionality to provide version control in Git repositories.
The simplicity can turn from providing a basic tool that gets the job done to a tool that lacks the features that advanced development teams need to get ship done. There is no observability functionality and the tool lacks useful reporting and metrics.
In the Continuous Delivery space, they are definitely an up-and-coming player to look out for. They have over 450 integrations and are focused heavily on providing a low code tool to teams with little development experience. They have good documentation and support, and they provide regular updates in response to customer needs.
See a more in-depth Octopus Deploy vs. Harness comparison.
Armory is built upon Spinnaker, but boasts extended functionality through Armory’s many modules. It is unfortunately a paid platform, so if you are looking for an open-source alternative to Spinnaker, this is not the right choice for you.
The extended Armory modules include functionality for observability, secrets management, pipelines as code, and expanded governance. Because this is an enterprise build of Spinnaker, you also get support and training, which is something that Spinnaker users frequently mention as lacking.
Because it is built on Spinnaker, it tends to still have similar issues that are experienced on the open-source platform. High maintenance costs and difficult usability make it so that anywhere between 2-4 full-time engineers are needed to keep the platform running - this includes the initial setup and configuration, and ongoing maintenance. Armory Spinnaker also lacks flexibility.
All of this together, it is an expensive solution, and we are unsure if the price is worth the extensibility of the open-source Spinnaker.
There are many other tools available that you may hear about in your search for your next software delivery platform. For the most part, these tools are looped into the CI/CD category but are primarily CI-focused.
Jenkins is another popular open-source platform that many would consider as a popular Spinnaker alternative. It is primarily a CI tool that requires much scripting and toil to extend to CD, and there are Jenkins Alternatives that you should consider as well. Jenkins is getting old in the CI/CD space and we believe that you would be better off with one of the other listed tools above.
See a more in-depth comparison of Harness vs Jenkins.
Another tool in the CI/CD space that is frequently mentioned is CircleCI. As the name mentions, their expertise is in continuous integration as a CI tool, although they do have some functionality as a CD tool.
See a more in-depth comparison of Drone vs CircleCI.
If you are struggling to deliver your software or to build your software delivery solution, it may be time to consider a SaaS solution like Harness. You are looking for alternatives to Spinnaker, so be sure that you invest in a tool that is going to scale as you do. Harness software delivery platform packs a punch with modules for Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and Cloud Cost Management. Build, test, verify, and deploy on-demand with Harness - start your free trial of Harness today.
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