Top 5 CI/CD Tools to Look Out For

Automation and continuous integration/continuous development (CI/CD) can have a huge positive impact on how developers and IT operations work. For example, one of the key takeaways from GitLab’s  2020 Global DevSecOps Survey was how CI/CD tools are enabling dev and ops to be more productive by eliminating the need for manual intervention in tasks such as testing, dependency checks, merging code, and pushing from one environment to another.

Of course, to get the most out of CI/CD in your DevOps pipeline, you need the right culture, practices, and tools. With all the options for CI/CD tools available, it can be hard for a beginner to know where to get started. To help you hit the ground running, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 CI/CD tools available today. For each tool, we will give you a crash course on what it is, as well as what its features and benefits are.

1. JFrog Pipelines

The JFrog Logo

What is it?

As DevOps CI/CD workflows scale, they can become difficult to manage and maintain. JFrog Pipelines is a next-gen CI/CD pipeline automation and workflow orchestration tool that provides centralized management of multiple pipelines. It allows you to manage pipelines across multiple environments and CI/CD tools (e.g. GitLab, Jenkins, etc.). Additionally, native integration with the broader JFrog platform allows for component analysis, security & compliance scanning, and policy enforcement.

Features and benefits:

  • Interactive dashboard with real-time metrics

  • Cloud-based SaaS (software as a service) and on-premises offerings

  • No scripting needed, native steps simplify the creation of complex pipelines

  • Pipelines-as-Code with simple YAML syntax

  • Granular security

  • Scalable – can support thousands of users in an HA (high-availability) environment

  • Extensible – Supports a wide variety of operating systems and tech stacks and integrates with most popular DevOps CI/CD tools

  • Native integration with JFrog platform

See JFrog Pipelines

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2. GitHub Actions

GitHub Actions logo

Source: Github

What is it?

GitHub is already a giant in the code repository space, and GitHub Actions enables teams to implement CI/CD workflows natively on the GitHub platform.

 GitHub Actions is an event-driven automation tool. That means for any GitHub event — such as a commit, issue creation, or pull request — you can automatically trigger workflows. For example, a pull request can be configured to automatically run a suite of tests.

The value of GitHub Actions is simple: CI/CD processes that used to require multiple integrations and services can run directly in your GitHub repository. This means less complexity and less friction in your development pipelines.

Features and benefits:

  • Build, test, and deploy directly from Github

  • Automatic workflows can be initiated by any GitHub event (push, pull, issue creation, etc.)

  • Real-time logging

  • Built-in secret stores

  • Large library for creating custom actions

  • Supports most major platforms and languages


3. GitLab

User-added image

Source: GitLab

What is it?

GitLab is an open source (you can view the source code on GitLab) web-based service that labels itself “a complete DevOps platform”. Like GitHub, one of the main features of GitLab is the ability to act as a source code repository. However, GitLab goes beyond just being a code repository and layers in many DevOps CI/CD features to help teams automate their pipelines. The idea behind GitLab is to bring features of source code management and CI/CD tools that build, test, and deploy code under one roof.

One of the downsides of GitLab is that not all features are available at all tiers, and the Gold/Ultimate tier can get pricey.

Features and benefits:

  • Source code management

  • Build/deploy/test functionality

  • Cloud-based SaaS (software as a service) and on-premises offerings

  • Time tracking

  • Analytics

  • Static application security testing


4. CircleCI

User-added image

Source: CircleCI Brandfolder

What is it?

CircleCI is a cloud-based CI/CD tool that is one of the most popular modern alternatives to Jenkins. It has a reputation for speed, performance, and scalability. Many big names – including Facebook and Spotify – use CircleCI as part of their CI/CD workflows.

CircleCI integrates with BitBucket and GitHub and enables development teams to test their code after every commit, and create workflows sophisticated enough for large scale DevOps pipelines. CircleCI places a strong emphasis on speed as well. For example, the platform enables the use of multiple executors (virtual machines or containers that run automated tests) in parallel to increase throughput.

Despite being an enterprise-grade tool, CircleCI is also straightforward to begin working with. A simple YAML-based configuration and frequently updated HTML5 GUI (graphical user interface) make getting started with CircleCI easy.

Features and benefits:

  • Simple initial configuration

  • Integrates with GitHub and BitBucket

  • Scalable cloud platform

  • Deploy to a wide variety of environments including AWS, Heroku, NPM, and JFrog Artifactory

  • Can SSH in to build environment for debugging

  • Optimized for speed, can run 80+ parallel executors on paid tiers


5. Argo CD

User-added image

Source: CNCF/Argo Logo

What is it?

Argo CD has become one of the most popular “GitOps” tools for Kubernetes (K8s) in the past few years.  Part of the reason for its surge in popularity is that it’s a cloud-native and open source favorite. Released under the Apache 2.0 license, Argo is a CNCF (Cloud Native Computing Foundation) incubating project with a 95% Core Infrastructure Initiative Best Practices score.

Argo uses git-based repositories (like GitHub) as a source of truth for the desired state of Kubernetes-based applications. It then acts as a Kubernetes controller that monitors the app and can proactively identify and resync clusters that have deviated from their desired state.

Features and benefits:

  • Automate K8s deployment

  • Supports a variety of configuration management templates (YAML, Helm, etc.)

  • Broad single Sign-On support (Oauth2, LDAP, GitHub, SAML, and more)

  • Rollback to any configuration in a supported repository

  • Config drift detection

  • Webhook integrations

  • Support for complex deployments like blue/green

  • Health status reporting for monitored apps


Next steps: get started with your first CI/CD pipeline

The tools on our list are great starting points for researching which CI/CD tools you need for your DevOps pipeline. If you’re ready to get started with your first CI/CD pipeline demo project, you’re welcome to check out our Pipelines Step-By-Step tutorial.