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Difference between Jenkins vs Gitlab CI

By Garima Tiwari, Community Contributor -

Table of Contents

With the growing use of online platforms and the rise in the number of online products/service providers, user expectations are, to put it lightly, high. Releasing advanced features regularly is essential to keep up with tough online competition and retain customers.

This is where the concepts of Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Development (CD) come into the software development process. Through CI/CD, the businesses are able to put up their software applications for their audiences’ use and add advanced features from time to time via release cycles.

Jenkins and Gitlabs are open-source CI/CD servers that enable automation for various stages of software development, testing, and deployment. This article compares these two widely used CI/CD servers. But before they are compared, let’s discuss these servers and how they function individually.

What is Jenkins?

Jenkins is an automation server that is self-contained and open source. It allows the building, testing, and deployment of every software release cycle. Through its fleet of plugins (over 1700) that seamlessly integrate with most CI/CD tools, Jenkins offers flexibility and covers almost all functional requirements.

Moreover, since Jenkins is written in Java, it is compatible with any system with Java Runtime Environment (JRE) installed. This makes Jenkins widely usable due to its easy availability.

Jenkins is one of the most popular CI/CD automation servers in existence due to the following features:

  • Easy Installation: It is self-contained and offers complete installation packages for various operating systems such as Windows, Mac OS X, and Unix-based systems. To install Jenkins, all one needs is JRE installed in the system.
  • Easy Configuration: Configuring Jenkins is easy as it can be set up through its web interface. The web interface is very user-friendly, and configuration becomes easier with the built-in help offered by Jenkins.
  • Open Source: Jenkins is open source so one can save on the hefty cost of license fees.
  • Distribution: Jenkins allows its users to distribute the workload across various machines located at different locations. With builds, tests, and deployments placed across multiple platforms, the process becomes faster as the system offers more productivity by working in parallel on different systems. This saves time and reduces the time frame of release cycles.
  • Extensible: Due to strong plugin support, Jenkins can be used to deliver over a fleet of functionalities. One can use Jenkin for projects as simple as those requiring a CI server to complex projects involving CD.
  • Plugins: Jenkins offers comprehensive support for a wide range of plugins, where the user has the flexibility to choose a plugin that fits their business requirements. The massive number of plugins (1700+) are updated continuously and offer every possible CI/CD functionality.
  • Strong Community Support: Jenkins has a strong and vibrant community of technical experts who support others working on Jenkins. This makes finding solutions to possible issues easier through mutual cooperation and sharing ideas.

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Advantages of Jenkins

  • Jenkins has a huge plugin library
  • It is self-hosted
  • Extremely easy to debug runners
  • Has complete control of the workspace
  • Easy to set up and deploy nodes
  • Supports various languages

Disadvantages of Jenkins

  • Plugin integration is cumbersome
  • Have to set up small projects manually
  • Does not provide analytics to track the pipeline

What is GitLab?

GitLab CI is a self-contained platform that supports the DevOps lifecycle through its web-based services. It manages the Git repository through its Continuous Integration and Deployment pipelines, issue-tracking features, and wiki to store relevant files.

GitLab works on a freemium basis, i.e., it offers both free and paid services. It enables automation of the entire DevOps lifecycle, which involves planning, building, testing, deployment, and monitoring through release cycles.

Stages of DevOps Lifecycle

GitLab enables Concurrent DevOps, which speeds up the development lifecycle. Through its services, GitLab combines Development, Security, and Ops to deliver faster with utmost security. It is written in Ruby, but the tech stack includes Go, Ruby on Rails, and Vue.js.

GitLab has gained a lot of traction in the CI/CD landscape due to the following features:

  • Insights: GitLab offers business insights that help manage the business aspects of the product. These insights allow users to keep track of changes implemented in the system and their implications on product performance. However, this feature is only available for paid versions.
  • User Role Management: It offers user role compliances to make the process more streamlined and secure. In addition to this, GitLab also provides user statistics that help in resource management and improve project management efficiency.
  • Issues Tracking: Tracking and assigning issues is easy with Gitlab through Task Lists, Thread Discussions, Labels, Milestones, Importing of issues from JIRA, and many more features, that allow effective resolution of issues through proactive, effortless tracking.
  • Merge Management: Collaborating and Version Control become seamless with GitLab due to easily implemented code merge requests and merge management systems done upon code review of branches.
  • Plugins: GitLab is well supported by several plugins that help make the different stages of DevOps a lot more efficient. These plugins can be used depending on business requirements.
  • Support: GitLab offers Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and 24×5 Technical Support to paid users. They also have extensive and comprehensive documentation, covering a vast number of issues.
  • Community: It has a vibrant community forum that allows the users and technical experts from different parts of the world to connect, share their ideas, and collaborate to build better DevOps practices.

Advantages of GitLab

  • Has a good Docker integration
  • Easy to scale runners
  • Allows parallel job execution
  • Supports directed acyclic graph to build relationships between different jobs
  • Easy to create new jobs and handle conflicts
  • Excellent security and privacy policies

Disadvantages of GitLab

  • Artifacts need to be manually uploaded and downloaded for each job
  • Cannot test before actually merging the branch
  • Does not support stages within phases

Difference Between Jenkins and GitLab CI

Tabulated below is the detailed difference between Jenkins vs Gitlab CI.


Ease of InstallationEasy to InstallEasy to Install
Plugins1700+ plugins availableLimited Plugins
PrerequisitesJRE should be installedRuby, Go, Git, Node.js, and Redis should be installed
Operating Systems SupportedWindows, Mac OS X, and Unix-like OSSupports only particular Unix-like OS such as Ubuntu, Debian, Red Hat Linux, Scientific Linux, Oracle Linux, CentOS, and OpenSUSE. It does not support Windows and macOS
Open SourceOpen Source and FreeOpen Source and Freemium
Issue TrackingDon’t have such functionalityOffers various features for issue tracking and management
ExtensivenessHighly extensive as it can be used as a simple CI server or can be transformed into a complex CD system with the help of pluginsOffers scalability to enhance the DevOps lifecycle for a project
SupportOffers documentation and open source community support, but no technical support is provided as part of the SLAProvides 24×5 support for paid users and only self-support documents to free users as part of the SLA 

Which one is better: Jenkins vs GitLab CI?

One of the most asked question among those evaluating Jenkins vs Gitlab CI is “Can GitLab replace Jenkins?.”

Both Jenkins and GitLab have their own set of pros and limitations, which means choosing between them is subjective to the scenario they will be used for. Although Jenkins offers more flexibility and just requires JRE as a prerequisite, it lacks support for SLA and project management features that GitLab offers. However, each of them is at par when supporting CI/CD for a software project through their advanced infrastructure and features.

So to answer the question, “Can GitLab replace Jenkins?”

No, GitLab and Jenkins have it own set of features and deciding which one to pick entirely depends on the project requirements and the priorities.

No matter which CI/CD server is chosen, testing the application’s cross-platform compatibility on real browsers and devices 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 simply do not offer the real user conditions that software must run within, making the results of any tests run 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 selenium 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.

integrationsAdditionally, there are in-built debugging tools that let testers identify and resolve bugs immediately. BrowserStack also facilitates Cypress testing on 30+ browser versions with instant, hassle-free parallelization.

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