Most companies in the software development sector around the world currently follow agile methodologies in their SDLC, today continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) are buzzwords. Automating build and release activities is fast becoming common practice. for a long time Jenkins has been the most widely used CI/CD automation tool, much of this is due to the huge support from the community and the number of plugins it offers.

Today Jenkins is no longer the reference for all CI implementations, different tools have reached the market and one of the most promising in the same domain is CircleCI which modernizes the practices of this CI/ CD by overcoming some of the limitations of Jenkins.

Jenkins has a large user base and easy learning curve at the same time it has a lot of content and community forums around it. The question is should I use CircleCI or Jenkins?

In this article we offer a detailed comparison between both tools, to help you determine which is the most appropriate in certain cases.

Comparison between Jenkins vs CircleCI

We present a comparison between two widely used software in the sector, but with great nuances and differences, both tools have the common objective of simplifying the integration in a quick and easy production process and guaranteeing that any error in the process is identified at an early stage of development.

What is Jenkins?

Jenkins is an open source automation tool developed in Java, it is cross-platform and accessible through a web interface, it is used to compile and test software projects on an ongoing basis.

Jenkins offers continuous integration services for many languages ​​and source code repositories through pipelines. Its great extensibility and open source code are the main reasons for its success.

Most of the tasks and tools involved in SDLC can be automated with Jenkins, allowing team members to increase their performance. It currently has more than 1,200 plugins available to extend the functionality of this tool.

Jenkins Features

  • When it comes to user management, Jenkins leaves nothing to be desired: everything is represented, from a built-in proprietary user management system to Unix logins, plugins for LDAP logins, Active Directory, Google and GitHub and more.
  • Ready packages for all OS types are available in the download center. Java is the only prerequisite it requires.
  • It has a clean and interactive user interface that makes it easy to configure projects. Includes built-in help for most configurations.
  • With the huge number of plugins, it can be configured as a simple CI server and handle CDs for complex projects.
  • It can be used to connect multiple slave nodes, which helps spread the workload across platforms.

What is CircleCI?

CircleCI is primarily a platform that helps automate the software development process by integrating and cloud-based CI continuous integration and CD continuous delivery. It also allows building software by organizing custom jobs with workflows.

This tool reduces the overhead of having a dedicated server as it is cloud based. Its enterprise version also requires simple maintenance. Offers scalable credit-based plans that help deploy apps faster.

It can be configured to deploy code to different environments, including AWS CodeDeploy, AWS EC2 Container Service (ECS), AWS S3, Google Container Engine (GKE), and Heroku.

Also other cloud service implementations are written via SSH or via API client installation. Supports languages ​​built on Linux, C++, Javascript, .NET, PHP, Python, and Ruby.

CircleCI Features

  • Incorporates SSH into build runs and tests when debugging.
  • Runs each task as a new container, preventing stale build data from causing problems.
  • Can be configured to run very complex pipelines efficiently with caching, resource classes.
  • At the end of the execution it announces the status of the task through an email notification.
  • Allows you to configure parallel builds for faster process execution.
  • Separate between build and deployment, the steps required to complete a build are automatically recognized and configured based on the programming language and build system.

Differences between Jenkins vs CircleCI

The main differences between the two tools are:

Multithreading

Jenkins allows you to support multiple workers at once via multi-threading, while CircleCI has built in support for parallelism, which the project setup can achieve.

Build control

In CircleCI, developers have full ability and freedom to create jobs in a single document (circle.yaml). Configuring this software makes backup and sharing easy. Confidential information can be stored in encrypted form.

In Jenkins, the build is done through the web UI, so task configurations are kept in system files, essentially in the database. This process slows down the transfer of data and configuration information to the business.

Debugging

Debugging in Jenkins is a much more complicated development than CircleCI due to the need for manual DevOps testing and built-in team support. On the other side we have CircleCI where debugging is easier thanks to SSH and automated DevOps testing features.

Storage

In Jenkins, we can cache Docker images using a private server, while in CircleCI we cannot cache Docker images.

Encryption

In Jenkins, the keys will be encrypted with the Jenkins plugin and credentials, while in CircleCI we don’t have security like Jenkins.

Web UI

The Jenkins web UI was developed in a different landscape of web technology that is still quite dated. In it, each page load will have to be fully processed by the server, which makes the browsing experience a bit slow process instead, in CircleCI, Web UI is a single page web application that is developed using AJAX , HTML5 and new technologies to make the user experience fast and easy.

Server

Jenkins needs a dedicated server for its operation, as well as regular maintenance. It is essential, the installation of add-ons and dependent tools, as well as the debugging of problems.
On the other hand, CircleCI is a cloud program, in this way, the server is scalable at all times and requires less maintenance. In short, the codes are executed automatically to a new container.

Containers and Docker

In Jenkins, we don’t have built-in support for the Docker workflow; the user needs to install it and make it available in the built environment, whereas at CircleCI we have Docker support built into the workflow.

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Detailed comparison Jenkins vs CircleCI

Criterion CircleCI Jenkins
Configuration and maintenance It requires no initial setup as it is primarily cloud based. The Enterprise version is also easy to configure.

Out-of-the-box solutions available to maintain third-party integrations.

The initial configuration can be done using the packages available for the respective operating systems, it can be a bit tedious.

Maintenance requires a dedicated resource to check compatibility and plugins.

Construction environment Each job will run in a new container where CircleCI will install all its dependencies. Teams must maintain the sanity of the built environment, as jobs run on the same server. Maintaining dependencies also becomes a complex task.
Accessories It offers a decent number of plugins that help integrate with various tools.

The plugins are structured in a standard way and have best practices, making it easy for users.

It offers a large number of plugins that integrate almost all the tools used as part of the SDLC.

Plugins are developed by companies and various community contributors.

Permissions Users can be added through VCS authentication.

Permissions can be automatically inherited from VCS.

It offers permissions based on arrays and roles.

Permissions can be automatically adopted from VCS.

Security The environment will change without notice, leading to more days debugging. The environment changes with the user's permission and gives a warning if it changes.
Parallelism It has the built-in feature to support parallelism, which can be done by changing the project settings, using multiple containers at once. We can run multiple jobs or tests at the same time with multiple threads, but it can cause problems related to database and file systems that will be difficult to debug.

Which tool to use?

The use of one or the other will depend on the requirements and the availability of resources of each particular project.

Recommended use of Jenkins: As we know Jenkins is an Open source tool, so it is a good option to consider when a company can afford to allocate dedicated servers and have the manpower to configure and maintain the Jenkins.

When the workflow has multi-tool integrations, non-bitbucket source control, and Github, also when the build uses highly sensitive data that cannot run in a cloud-provided CI configuration, the configuration of Jenkins.

Recommended use of Circle: You don’t have the initial setup and maintenance overhead. This makes it a go-to option when deployment needs to start in a short period of time. Also, when a company does not have a dedicated resource to maintain the CI environment, CircleCI’s cloud-based platform may be the best option. Parallel execution of builds is an important case where this tool can be considered.