The great CI war of 2023

Modern DevOps-based application delivery relies on continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines as a set of automated processes that allow software changes to be quickly and safely deployed to production. This is typically accomplished by creating and maintaining a master branch of the software that can be rapidly updated and by using automated testing to ensure that changes do not break the software or introduce new bugs.

With the popularity of CI/CD in modern development workflows, there has been an increasing number of platform offerings to help automate code builds and application tests. In this article, we discuss popular CI tools, how they support rapid integration cycles, and their most appropriate use cases.

What are CI/CD tools?

Simply put, CI is the practice of frequently merging code changes into a shared repository, while CD is the practice of automating build, test, and deployment processes. An essential role of CI/CD tools is to act as an intermediary that transforms build assets into production-ready artifacts. These tools perform automated tests on a shared repository, then build and publish the artifact to be deployed into a workflow.

While a CI tool focuses on automating the process of compiling code changes and merging them into a central repository, a CD tool focuses on automating the process of delivering code changes to production servers. Combined, these tools are essential for the early discovery of performance and security bottlenecks, eliminating quality issues more rapidly than traditional development cycles.

CI tool recommendations for different use cases

As each CI tool is built differently and comes with its own strengths and weaknesses, it's important to choose the one that best fits your use case. The following section contains the most appropriate use cases for each of the CI tools described above.

Why Jenkins CI

  • To enforce coding standards by setting up rules that will refuse to commit code that does not adhere to the standards. This helps prevent simple mistakes from going into production, and also helps keep the codebase clean and consistent.
  • For enhanced scalability, Jenkins CI allows the configuration to support multiple builders and executors to handle large build jobs without latency. This makes Jenkins CI an ideal choice for organizations with a large team of developers or complex build processes.
  • For unmatched customization through its extensive plugin ecosystem
  • For managing and monitoring distributed builds across multiple platforms
  • For stability: Having been around for many years and used by some of the largest organizations in the world, the Jenkins platform is extremely reliable.

Why Travis CI

Free for open source projects: This means that anyone can build and test their code without incurring charges.

Easy to set up and use: It integrates seamlessly with GitHub, so you can simply push your code to GitHub, and Travis CI will automatically start building and testing it. There's no need to install any special software or set anything up on your server.

Reliable and fast: It runs your builds in parallel on multiple servers, so you don't have to wait for one build to finish before starting another. And if one build fails, you can fix the problem and push the code again—Travis CI will automatically rerun the build and test it again.

Why CircleCI

Offers multiple server hosting options and can be configured to run complex pipelines with Docker caching, resource classes, and advanced caching mechanisms

Built for speed and includes filters to sort jobs and pipelines, making it appropriate for teams looking to implement an ordered series of jobs or run a build job on specific branches

Unparalleled iOS support, with dedicated macOS build images that are updated regularly to keep up with the latest Apple operating system releases

Makes it easy to run parallel tests on multiple devices, so you can quickly and easily test your app across a wide range of devices and ensure that it works flawlessly on all of them. This makes it a huge time-saver compared to other CI tools that require you to set up and manage separate build environments for each device type.

Why GitLab CI

Enforces artifact storage and pipeline administration capabilities, making it appropriate for managing updates and releases in modern CI workflows

Highly scalable thanks to its distributed architecture and can handle large projects with ease. The architecture allows developers to easily add more runners to a project without worrying about performance issues.

Why Bitbucket Pipelines

  • Automatically builds CI capabilities into the Bitbucket code hosting and collaboration tool. This makes the solution appropriate for teams with smaller workloads looking to get started without undergoing an extensive process of deploying a CI server.
  • Offers a configuration-as-code approach, which means that your CI pipelines can be stored alongside your code in your Bitbucket repository. This brings an efficient approach to version controlling your pipelines and collaborating with other developers on their design.
  • Uses a special build agent that is optimized for performance. This can lead to faster build times and better overall reliability.

Why GitHub Actions

  • Considered perfect for use cases already involving GitHub repositories for quickly getting started
  • Highly customizable, as it allows built-in actions available out of the box or by creating your own custom actions. Besides building and testing code, you can also use GitHub Actions to automate workflows.
  • Able to handle complex dependencies, allowing you to create workflows that quickly complete complex tasks
  • Allows you to use the language, framework, or tool of your choice, as everything is containerized


In this article, we have covered a range of different CI tools that can help streamline the development process. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, each tool has its own strengths and weaknesses that make it suited for different use cases. By taking the time to evaluate your needs and choose the right tool for the job, you can ensure that your project is set up for success from the start.

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