Continuous Delivery Tools: The 5 You Absolutely Need to Know in 2021

Written by: Kiley Nichols
5 min read
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The following guest blog post was written by Carlos Schults.

The software world evolves at a breakneck pace. What was new and cutting edge not that long ago is routine today and might be gone tomorrow. To not only survive but thrive in this highly competitive scenario, organizations must adapt. They have been increasingly favoring approaches to software development that rely on short development cycles and constant deploys to production. Being able to do that requires an efficient and heavily automated software development pipeline. That's why continuous integration and continuous delivery tools are so essential.

In today's post, we'll cover the five most important CI/CD tools you should be aware of in 2021. By the end of the article, you'll hopefully have a good understanding of the available tooling. You'll be able to make informed decisions about the tools that your organization will benefit the most by adopting.

Let's dig in.

Top 5 Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery Tools Worth Checking Out

Our list features open source and commercial tools. It covers CI and CD solutions, as well as release orchestration tools. We'll also include things that might be considered auxiliary tools, such as feature flag management solutions.

Without further ado, here are the eight tools you should check out.

1. Gradle

Gradle is an open source build tool more often associated with the Java ecosystem, even though it's not exclusive to this platform. It's been considered one of the top 20 open source projects, and it's used by a multitude of developers across a wide range of languages, platforms, and types of applications.

Gradle's ecosystem offers a large number of plugins and integrations. This, combined with Gradle's rich and expressive API, allows you to design and implement the automation workflow that better suits your organization's needs.

Top performance is another one of Gradle's priorities. The tool leverages techniques such as advanced caching and compile avoidance to ensure your builds run in a fast and reliable way.

2. BuildBot

BuildBot is an open source Python-based framework for automating processes in the SDLC. BuildBot's design is based on a coordinator-agent architecture. It can have one or more coordinators—whose primary attributions are managing the activities of the agents and monitoring the codebase for changes—and many agents—who receive jobs and execute them.

BuildBot's setup requires you to configure its coordinators via configuration scripts written in Python. While this may make it harder to set up than most of the other tools, it's aligned with BuildBot's philosophy, which states that instead of being opinionated, CI tools should be flexible and allow their users to design a system that matches their specific workflow.

3. CloudBees Software Delivery Automation

CloudBees Software Delivery Automation is an end-to-end software development and delivery platform including continuous integration, continuous delivery, release orchestration, feature management and value stream management. It enables enterprises to optimize their software delivery process for increased innovation and security by connecting, automating and orchestrating the tools and functions across development, operations and shared service teams. CloudBees Software Delivery Automation reduces the risk and cost of software delivery and allows organizations to get the most out of existing investments.

4. Concourse

Concourse is an open source automation system written in Go, and it's often used for CI/CD purposes. You can download it as a single binary that runs on all of the major platforms. The tool follows a philosophy that tries to avoid coupling your project to a particular CI tool. It does that primarily by having a stateless UI and keeping configuration in declarative text files you can version control.

Concourse's flexibility has a price: you might find its user experience somewhat "spartan" if you compare it to other CI/CD solutions. For instance, Concourse doesn't provide a GUI for its configuration, resorting instead to declarative YAML files. Similarly, you can create job pipelines only by using the accompanying fly CLI. The CLI is also the only way you can interact with Concourse to perform most tasks.

Also, even though there is a GUI for monitoring pipelines, you can't create new pipelines through it, since that would be against Concourse's main ideology.

5. Skaffold

Google's implementation of the K8s API, Skaffold is a client-side only command-line tool that takes away the cluster management responsibilities from a DevOps team. With Skaffold, you get to build and deploy application versions locally and to remote servers.

The most attractive feature with Skaffold has to be the ability to carry out a full battery of operations with a single command: skaffold dev. This initiates a process for your new code that checks for syntactical correctness and builds, tests, and deploys artifacts created from the new version of code.

As if these steps automated by Skaffold weren’t enough, it goes on to monitor and clean the artifacts. It also uses HELM to manage deployments and the configuration files created and updated with each successive cycle of the CI/CD model. Google also has Tekton, a K8s-native framework that many developers have found useful.

Automate CI/CD Tools for Fun and Profit

What do software developers do for a living? The correct answer is not "they write code." The code is just a medium. What we actually do is use automation to make all sorts of processes more efficient. Automation is our bread and butter, but it took us long enough to start using automation to improve the software development process itself.

Fortunately, we're now finally doing it to a large extent. Continuous integration and continuous deployment/delivery are two consequences of this trend. That's why knowing the available CI/CD tools is essential in this day and age. By leveraging the solutions available, you can make your organization reap the benefits of the golden era of automation in software development.

Carlos Schults is a .NET software developer with experience in both desktop and web development, and he’s now trying his hand at mobile. He has a passion for writing clean and concise code, and he’s interested in practices that help you improve app health, such as code review, automated testing, and continuous build.

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