Ansible vs Jenkins vs GitLab – What is the Difference? (Pros and Cons)

Ansible vs Jenkins vs GitLab, What’s the Difference ? Well robust and dependable software is one of the critical elements of the ongoing digital age. Today, we have intelligent devices capable of spectacular computations. However, the software running these devices dictates how these computations are going to deliver us value. It is a clever integration of both hardware and software that makes these devices smart.

With the need for robust software increasing daily, the software industry is trying to conjure up better development methodologies. Automation of mundane and repeatable tasks is a significant focus of these methodologies. With such tasks handled by automated systems, developers can focus on creating better software. One such methodology currently popular is CI/CD, and automation is integrated into all of its tools.

This article takes a closer look at three of the most popular CI/CD tools used in the industry: Ansible vs Jenkins vs Gitlab. It will go through their main functionalities and how they fair against each other.

Ansible vs Jenkins vs GitLab

Understanding CI/CD & Its Processes

The CI/CD methodology stands on two fundamental pillars: continuous integration and continuous development (and/or continuous delivery). It aims to bring together the often compartmentalized development and operations departments. Through CI/CD, you can enable developers to simultaneously test out newly-developed functionalities by rapidly integrating them with the application and checking its stability.

Within the CI/CD framework, you focus on automating crucial processes related to building, testing, and deploying an application. The CI/CD pipeline features the processes of fundamental practices neatly integrated into one workflow. While most of the pipeline is identical to that of other agile-inspired methodologies, a core part of it deals with planning, continuous testing, and monitoring the application.

Comparing CI/CD Platforms

Once new code is committed for merging, the CI/CD pipeline builds the application with the new code integrated and moves ahead on success. Afterward, the application goes through automated QA testing, and once successful, the new functionality is sent for production. While most CI/CD tools offer an environment to develop the application completely under the CI/CD pipeline, some focus only on parts of the workflow.

As you can see, the CI/CD workflow makes it significantly easy to avoid the otherwise inevitable “integration hell” faced by developers. New functionalities are easily integrated and are atomic. If any fault arises, you can quickly weed it out and avoid pulling the application from production. Additionally, application upgrades are also less disruptive and feature more manageable units of change. 

Getting To Know CI/CD Tools: Ansible, Jenkins, and GitLab

There are many open-source and proprietary tools to help you set up and monitor a CI/CD pipeline for application. Among the various options available, Jenkins, Ansible, and Gitlab are famous within the development industry. While capable of many more functionalities, these tools offer a relatively more straightforward interface for implementing CI/CD efficiently. 

Each of the three tools is briefly discussed below:

Originally developed as an open-source project and later acquired by Red Hat, Ansible is not strictly a CI/CD tool. However, it is a popular choice for automating application and system configurations and overseeing general IT automation needs. By closely monitoring configurations, Ansible Server helps you maintain software and avoid vulnerabilities going unnoticed.

Ansible offers an easy way to achieve continuous delivery and easily integrates within any workflows. It continues to be open source and is supported by an active developer community. Ansible also offers network and security automation functionalities and runs on a mainly hybrid cloud approach.

An open-source automation server application at its core, Jenkins allows you precisely the kind of automation needed for CI/CD. It offers an expansive library of plugins that you can choose from and configure your Jenkins server as required. It can function as a regular CI Jenkins server or a delivery hub for your continuous delivery workflow. The plugins enable you to smoothly integrate Jenkins with any other tools you may be using.

Much of Jenkins’ popularity stems from its easy installation and configuration. It runs on a distributed computing infrastructure that offers significant speed and agility. Being open-source, Jenkins has an active security reporting system where vulnerabilities are immediately focused on for resolution.

Developed around the industry-standard version control system Git, Gitlab serves mainly as an open-source repository. It has a CI/CD dedicated product version called Gitlab Server and enables its workflow to ensure that all production code is error-free and up-to-mark. You can build the whole CI/CD pipeline within Gitlab and employ a git-based repository to maintain and monitor your codebase.

Gitlab has some of the best security features among the CI/CD tools. Additionally, it has a simple interface that makes monitoring continuous delivery processes remarkably easy.

Differences Between Ansible, Jenkins, and GitLab (Pros and Cons)

Differences - Ansible, Jenkins, GitLab

Choosing between the different CI/CD tools options can get a bit confusing, especially since all of them are significantly robust. However, once the main differences between them are understood, opting for the right one suiting your requirements is straightforward. After all, some options are paid products while some are free, so your choice can make all the difference. 

The main differences between Ansible, Jenkins, and Gitlab are explained below with their pros and cons:

  • Difference In Ease-Of-Use And Out-Of-The-Box Solutions: All three tools offer different services by default and have different user experiences tied to them. While all of them claim an easy setup, Jenkins is tricky to configure due to its wide variety of plugins available. Ansible and Gitlab are relatively lightweight; Jenkins is a heavier application.

    Ansible is considered to be better in managing big-scale environments with multiple servers running.Gitlab offers services like pre-configured pipelines and comprehensive security features by default. Jenkins is much preferred for the smaller tasks involved in CI/CD, like analyzing code quality and testing.
  • Difference In Continuous Delivery Functionalities: All three tools offer different services when it comes to the continuous delivery part of the CI/CD pipeline. Gitlab provides a dynamic application preview solution for better delivery decisions, a functionality absent in both Jenkins and Ansible. Gitlab also provides you with functionality to oversee a progressive delivery roadmap by offering customized testing, abilities possible in Jenkins only with plugins.
  • Difference In Cloud and Kubernetes Support: Cloud is an essential part of the CI/CD pipeline, and all three tools provide varying levels of support for cloud services. Gitlab provides active Kubernetes monitoring and management, absent in Jenkins, while Ansible has been promising in managing applications inside Kubernetes. Jenkins is primarily a server-based tool, and its product Jenkins X supports Kubernetes to a better degree.

It is interesting to note that you can seamlessly use the trio of tools discussed here in conjunction with each other. Ansible is often integrated with Jenkins to implement CI/CD. Similarly, both Ansible and Jenkins can integrate with Gitlab as well as it is tool-agnostic.

Differences Between Popular CI/CD Tools: Explained

The final choice of the CI/CD tools will depend on the scale of the application and its development and the enterprise’s resources. CI/CD has become immensely popular in the software development industry thanks to its capabilities in helping develop powerful software rapidly. The pipeline ensures the quality of the software and provides the application with a long and productive life.

Avatar for Emad Bin Abid
Emad Bin Abid

I'm a software engineer who has a bright vision and a strong interest in designing and engineering software solutions. I readily understand that in today's agile world the development process has to be rapid, reusable, and scalable; hence it is extremely important to develop solutions that are well-designed and embody a well-thought-of architecture as the baseline. Apart from designing and developing business solutions, I'm a content writer who loves to document technical learnings and experiences so that peers in the same industry can also benefit from them.

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