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The ReleaseTEAM Blog: Here's what you need to know...

CI/CD Vendors: A closer look at GitLab

Happy Holidays! This month we’re looking at how GitLab tackles continuous integration and continuous deployment. For an introduction to CI/CD, see our previous post.

GitLab’s Entry into the CI/CD Landscape

Over the past several years, GitLab has invested heavily in evolving from git repository hosting and version control to becoming an end-to-end DevOps toolchain. One area that GitLab has continued to invest in continuous integration and continuous deployment capabilities.

In 2022 alone, GitLab has released capabilities, including improvements to the rule-based configuration that saves developers from editing YAML files directly, epic-linking, security improvements, observability capabilities, and tracking of all DORA metrics.

There is no standalone or discounted price for GitLab CI/CD when organizations use another code repository such as GitHub or BitBucket, so total costs will be higher than using GitLab for both code repositories and CI/CD. Organizations should weigh budgets versus capabilities and the importance of developer choice in tools when evaluating CI/CD tools.

GitLab Features at a Glance:

  • Website: https://about.gitlab.com/company/
  • Founded: 2011, the first version of GitLab CI was created in 2012
  • Number of employees: 1800+
  • Written in: Ruby, Go, and Javascript. Config files use YAML
  • Deployment models: Self-managed and SaaS
  • Version Control System integrations: GitLab, GitHub, BitBucket. External repos are supported in Premium and Ultimate tiers only

In 2019, GitLab ranked as a “Challenger” in the Gartner Application Release Management MQ. GitLab was rated a Strong Performer in the Forrester Wave: Continuous Delivery and Release Automation report for Q2 2020. GitLab has continued to invest in DevOps capabilities since those reports came out.

How GitLab CI/CD works:

An infographic of how GitLab CI/CD works
Figure 1: GitLab CI/CD process (source: https://docs.gitlab.com/ee/ci/introduction)

In this example process (Image 1), a developer pushes code changes, which GitLab CI/CD builds and tests. If errors are found, the developer can fix them right then, while they are working on that section of code. Once the code passes, GitLab CI/CD creates a Review App for code review and approval. Once approved, the code is merged, CI/CD runs again, and the code is deployed to production.

One of the primary advantages of GitLab CI/CD is that, for developers who already use GitLab, it’s embedded into the developer’s existing workflows. This reduces application and context switching, reduces the number of integrations that need to be installed and maintained, and can speed up time-to-market.

GitLab Pricing:

GitLab CI/CD is included in all paid tiers of GitLab, but the number of minutes and which features are available varies. Organizations may purchase additional CI/CD minutes or install their own runners to avoid using CI/CD minutes associated with GitLab shared runners.

Because the GitLab tiers include the GitLab product and capabilities, prices may not appear to be an “apples to apples” comparison with other single-purpose CI/CD tools.

GitLab CI/CD Support

CI/CD support is part of GitLab support. Both Premium and Ultimate tiers have Priority Support, with SLAs ranging from 30 minutes (if GitLab is completely unusable or CI pipelines are failing on all projects) to 24 hours. A CI pipeline failing on one or some projects is a non-emergency ticket.

ReleaseTEAM is an implementation partner for GitLab, not just for CI/CD but for every phase of the DevOps lifecycle.

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