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Home Guide CircleCI vs Jenkins: A Detailed Comparison

CircleCI vs Jenkins: A Detailed Comparison

By Bharath Shrikanth, Community Contributor -

Most IT companies around the globe currently follow agile methodologies in their SDLC. Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI-CD) are buzzwords in software development. Automation of build and release activities is quickly becoming a common practice. Jenkins has by far been the most widely used CI-CD automation tool. This is because of the enormous community support and the huge number of plugins it offers.

Many other companies have recently developed tools to address CI-CD Automation and Orchestration requirements.

Jenkins is no longer the go-to tool for all CI implementations. CircleCI, TeamCity, TravisCI, Spinnaker, etc., have made it into the market, and more teams are opting for them to overcome the shortcomings of Jenkins.

This article will compare Jenkins with one of the most promising tools in the same domain, CircleCI.

Importance of choosing the right CI tool

Choosing the right CI tool is crucial because it impacts a software development team’s development process, collaboration, testing, deployment, and overall productivity. By selecting a suitable CI tool, teams can optimize their workflows, deliver high-quality code more rapidly, and ultimately enhance the success of their software projects. 

Here are some reasons why selecting the right CI tool is important:

  1. Streamlined Development Process 
  2. Faster Feedback Loop and Improved Collaboration
  3. Continuous Deployment:
  4. Extensibility and Integration
  5. Scalability and Performance

What is CircleCI?

CircleCI is primarily a cloud-based CI orchestration tool. An Enterprise version can also be set up on one’s own infrastructure. It was founded in 2011 and is based out of San Francisco. This tool helps in automating installation and delivery processes. It is quite simple to configure and maintain.

CircleCI vs JenkinsCircleCI reduces the overhead of having a dedicated server as it is cloud-based. The enterprise version is also low on maintenance. The cloud-based platform offers scalable credit-based plans that help deploy applications faster.

Features of CircleCI

  • Serves around 30,000 clients and can run a million daily tasks.
  • Offers performance-based scaling options.
  • Incorporates SSH into the build and test runs to debug.
  • Enables setting up parallel builds for faster execution of the process.
  • Runs every task as a new container, preventing stale build data from causing issues.
  • Announces the end of task execution via Email Notification.
  • It offers numerous orbs (plugins) that help connect the existing tool setup.
  • Offers cached third-party configurations and application specifications instead of system deployment.

What is Jenkins?

Jenkins is an open-source automation tool. Initially developed by Hudson, Jenkins was later separated into a new tool and was made open source. Its extensive community support and contribution have made it the most popular of open-source CI-CD tools. This has also led to the development of over 1,500 plugins for various integrations with other tools.

CircleCI vs JenkinsThrough the years, Jenkins has gained wide popularity in the DevOps community due to its versatility and huge community support.

Features of Jenkins

  • With the enormous number of plugins, it can be set up as a simple CI server and handle CD for complex projects.
  • It can be used to connect multiple slave nodes, which helps in distributing the workload across platforms.
  • Almost any tool can be integrated into Jenkins, owing to the enormous number of plugins available in its update center. Most companies that develop tools themselves also release a plugin for Jenkins.
  • Owing to its highly distributed nature and huge plugin support, there are a lot of possibilities for what Jenkins can do.
  • Ready packages for all OS flavors are available on the download center. Java is the only prerequisite it requires.
  • Has a neat and interactive UI which makes configuring projects easy. There is built-in help for most configurations.

CircleCI vs Jenkins: Detailed Comparison

Here is a tabular format to better gauge the differences between Jenkins and CircleCI.

Criteria CircleCIJenkins
Build Configuration
  • Builds are configured using the circle.yaml file
  • This config will be like any other repo and can be called using CircleCI
  • Helps in version control of the configurations and makes sharing of build configs easy
  • Builds are configured through the Jenkins web interface or the Jenkins pipeline-as-a-code groovy syntax
  • Settings are stored in the Jenkins file system on the Jenkins master node
  • Build configurations cannot be easily shared as there is no version control integration for storing the config files
Setup and Maintenance
  • No initial setup is required as it is primarily cloud-based. The Enterprise version is also easy to set up
  • Out-of-the-box solutions available to maintain third-party integrations
  • New features will be available to the users as soon as they are released in the cloud version
  • Initial setup can be done using the packages available for respective OSes
  • The initial setup is easy, but the configuration becomes a bit tedious
  • Maintenance requires a dedicated resource to check the compatibility of Jenkins and the plugins installed as Jenkins and plugin developments do not happen in sync. Plugins are interdependent, causing a huge dependency chain
Build EnvironmentEvery job will be run in a new container where CircleCI will install all the dependenciesThe teams need to maintain the sanity of the built environment as jobs are run on the same server. Maintaining dependencies also becomes a tedious task
User InterfaceHas an interactive UI and undergoes frequent upgradesIs heavy and clumsy. It is comparatively slower and has more of a legacy UI
Plugin Support
  • Offers a decent number of Orbs – plugins that help integrate with various tools
  • Orbs are structured in a standard way and have common best practices making it easy for the users
  • Offers a plethora of plugins integrating almost all tools used as a part of the SDLC
  • Plugins are developed by companies and various community contributors
  • They do not have a standard structure and thus become difficult for the users
  • Offers scalable systems to accommodate significant build processes and running jobs in parallel
  • Cache dependencies and Docker layers help in speeding up the builds
  • Build nodes need to be scaled to scale up Jenkins for faster executions
  • Execution speed depends on the efficiency of the plugins


Support for ParallelismComes with an in-built feature to enable parallelism. This is achieved by running multiple containers at onceBuilds jobs can be run in parallel using multi-threading
  • Users can be added via VCS Authentication
  • Permissions can be automatically adopted from VCS
  • Offers matrix-based and role-based permissions.
  • Permissions need to be set up manually and cannot be imported from other security systems. As an alternative, many teams place Jenkins behind their AD or Oauth systems
  • Application-level security coupled with runtime isolation using containers provides a secure build environment
  • SOC II and FedRAMP certified
  • Only a single layer of security surrounding the CI fleet
  • Additional security can be manually set up
  • Various levels of security for OSS plugins
Docker WorkflowBuilt-in support for Docker in Workflow can be accessed by adding services section in circle.yamlNo built-in support for Docker. Plugins can be installed and Docker support can be enabled in the build environment.
DebuggingFeatures like SSH and automated DevOps testing features make it easier to debugDebugging needs manual DevOps testing and integrated team support

Jenkins vs CircleCI: Which Tool to Use?

CircleCI and Jenkins are both competent tools. Which tool to select among these depends on a particular project’s requirement and resource availability. Both tools can do fairly well for a basic CI setup and cater to the requirements.

  • CircleCI does not have the overhead of initial setup and maintenance. This makes it a go-to choice when the implementation needs to get going in a short span. Additionally, when a company does not have a dedicated resource to maintain the CI environment, the cloud-based platform of CircleCI helps. Parallel execution of builds is another case for which CircleCI can be considered.
  • Jenkins is an open-source tool. It would surely be the go-to choice when a company can afford to allocate dedicated servers and manpower to set up and maintain Jenkins. When the workflow has multiple tool integrations, source control other than bitbucket and Github, and when the build uses highly confidential data that cannot be run over a cloud-provided CI setup, the in-house setup of Jenkins can be used.

Importance of Testing On Real Devices

No matter which CI/CD server is chosen, testing the application’s cross-platform compatibility is mandatory. It is the only way to guarantee that the software delivers seamless and consistent UX irrespective of the device and browser used to access them.

Emulators and simulators do not offer the real user conditions that software must run within, making the results of any tests on them inaccurate. Consider testing websites and apps on a real device cloud, preferably one that offers the latest devices, browsers, and OS versions. This applies to both manual and automated testing.

BrowserStack’s real device cloud provides 3000+ real browsers and devices for instant, on-demand testing. It also provides a cloud Selenium grid for automated testing, which can be accelerated by 10X with parallel testing. The cloud also provides integrations with popular CI/CD tools such as Jira, Jenkins, TeamCity, Travis CI, and much more.

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