CI/CD Tools: How To Choose The Right One
In today's changing digital world, software development teams are under increasing pressure to deliver high-quality code faster than ever before. CI/CD has emerged as a popular development paradigm to address this challenge, allowing teams to increase the speed of delivery and reduce deployment risk.
There is a wide range of CI/CD tools available. They're all designed to serve similar basic things. Their costs are comparable, with some even being free, and most are easily accessible.
That raises the question: How to choose the most suitable CI/CD tool for your needs?
The article outlines 5 critical factors you need to consider to select the appropriate CI/CD to add to your development toolchain
1. Hosting model: Cloud or On-premise
One of the initial decisions is whether to select self-hosted or cloud-based solutions. Do you require that all of your codebases be kept on-premises? If the answer is yes, you'll need a solution that can be deployed on your servers. This means that your solution must be compatible with your current servers unless you're willing to invest in new infrastructure.
With on-premises, you'll need a dedicated team to help maintain the infrastructure and manage on-site security. You'll also have full control of the cadence of maintenance updates and complete flexibility for expansion and customization. Alternatively, if you already use virtual infrastructure for your development, you can simply add the CI/CD tool.
Some CI/CD tools operate under the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, meaning you are purchasing them as a service, and the tool runs on the vendor's cloud infrastructure. If you opt for this model, you can offload support and maintenance costs to the vendor. But mindful of concerns like where they're hosting the service.
2. Models & Costs
You don't need a huge budget to implement continuous integration, delivery, and deployment. However, it's crucial to have a clear understanding of where your CI/CD budget will be allocated.
Incorporating a CI/CD tool in your development toolchain always comes at a cost. Even if you opt for an open-source tool and host it on your own infrastructure, there will still be expenses to consider. These may include the time required to set up and maintain the tool and the potential loss of productivity as your developers adapt to the new toolchain. Proprietary and SaaS tools will also have costs associated with usage levels.
Here are several factors you should take into account:
- How many builds will you perform? On larger projects, builds may need to be executed multiple times per day, and some vendors impose limitations or charge differently based on this.
- How many concurrent builds are needed to aid development team demands?
- How many users need access - 10, 30 or unlimited?
- How many days, weeks, or months of data retention are required?
Often, there's no clear answers as to which solution provides the best value. Not least as you'll be trading off the costs of CI/CD against the savings in streamlining your development and release cycle
3. Easy integration
Clearly, you need a tool that can work well with your existing toolchain. This means that you should have a good understanding of the tools you are currently using.
Are you already using Jenkins, for instance? Do you deploy a repository service like GitHub or Bitbucket to store your code? Do your build and production environments run on Kubernetes and Docker? If so, you must ensure suitable images are available for the new tool.
Additionally, you need to consider the underlying languages used for your codebase and the compiler toolchains you are using. It's also important to determine if you need to integrate with external tools such as Jira or Confluence and if you want to receive automatic build notifications via Slack.
4. Easy integration
Every high-performing team needs a tool with various features that offers flexibility, scalability, and automation. It should make the build, test, and deployment process adaptable and straightforward. To assist you in the search, here are some recommended features:
- Pipeline as code - such as Jenkins file, YAML files, etc.
- Customization - can you add features or create your own resources?
- Supports containerization - for apps that run Docker and Kubernetes
- Easy setup - ready to run within minutes
- Easy configure your computing and memory needs
- Scalability - enables you to scale up and down according to the workload
- Compliance with regulations: check if the CI/CD tool satisfies the security and regulatory requirements for your industry
- Run builds and tests in parallel.
- Strong support system: Good customer service is vital for any tool. Users should be able to get support from comprehensive and updated documentation.
5. Security, retention and data storage
If you plan to apply a tool that operates on a SaaS service or virtual infrastructure, you'll need to consider security for your data and access keys. In most cases, a CI/CD tool will require access to your SSH keys for the code repository or even your AWS or Azure credentials. Thus, you must make sure that these are properly secured. Many enterprises also view protecting source code as crucial, so you need to look at what sort of protections are provided when your code is being exported from your own servers or repos.
Regarding data retention, your tool should allow you to review past test results and other data for audit and quality assurance purposes, which is especially relevant when using a SaaS vendor. Furthermore, you must evaluate their data retention policy and where your data is stored. For example, a US-based company may face issues if its data is stored on servers located in China.
The main objective is to find a solution that allows developers to concentrate on engineering and handling the complete pipeline with simplicity, executing all quality verifications, and deploying smoothly. As each team has its own specific needs, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Hopefully, the five aspects mentioned above provide a solid foundation to assist your team in narrowing down the options and finding the appropriate CI/CD tool that aligns with your requirements and budget.
If you need assistance to accomplish any of the above-mentioned tips or have any additional inquiries, our team is here to help.