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New DevOps deployment tools dangle Jenkins alternatives

A new generation of DevOps deployment tools that minimize the amount of manual labor in DevOps pipeline builds have a leg up with enterprises.

Some enterprises have passed over tried-and-true DevOps tools, such as Jenkins, in favor of new DevOps deployment tools that offer a smoother experience.

One Jenkins rival, Shippable Inc., has expanded its product to encompass both continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) during the last year, and it has added an on-premises alternative for security-sensitive enterprises this week called Shippable Server. Google and Netflix also turned heads with multicloud support in version 1.0 of the open source Spinnaker continuous delivery tool.

IT pros said build automation tempted them to try Shippable.

"I have plenty of experience with other CI/CD tools like Jenkins," said Rommel Tinoco, a DevOps architect and consultant for Ozan.com, a fintech startup in Turkey that's incubated by EFT Software. "Creating pipelines in those tools is not fun -- you have to write a bunch of code."

Shippable is declarative, which means a DevOps engineer specifies how the application should behave, and the CI/CD software makes it so. This avoids the manual setup of infrastructure for test builds and production deployments along with their dependencies. Jenkins also added declarative pipeline syntax this year, but it's still in version 1.0 and has yet to be integrated with the Blue Ocean beta user interface.

"Once I declare what I want to do, [Shippable] goes in the background and does all the stuff I would otherwise have to do," such as creating scripts to provision resources, Tinoco said.

EFT had received support for Jenkins from CloudBees, but Tinoco said it was difficult to get quick responses where he's based in Turkey. Shippable engineers are integrated into his Slack channel and are responsive to support requests within minutes, he said.

Another recent customer of Shippable's hosted DevOps deployment tools will also phase out Jenkins soon.

"Jenkins was OK, but the drawback was I had to host, maintain and upgrade servers myself," said Jeppe Frandsen, senior software architect for Bang & Olufsen, a high-end audio and video retailer based in Denmark.

Shippable still has to refine its product, of course. It must support deep branching models in code repositories, where builds vary by individual branch, Tinoco said. Frandsen said he would like to see new security features released with Shippable Server, such as role-based access control and support for granular security policies, added to the software-as-a-service product, as well.

Shippable has many competitors, such as CircleCI, Travis CI, Concourse CI and Atlassian's suite of DevOps deployment tools. And Jenkins, which also added continuous delivery pipeline features in last year's version 2.0 , still has strong loyalists.

Document sharing and collaboration company Box, for example, will stick with Jenkins, said its co-founder and services architect, Sam Ghods.

"We evaluated a bunch of other solutions and did not find something that makes it worth it to switch," Ghods said.

Box will migrate to Jenkins 2.0 soon and also plans to use Blue Ocean. Box developers have Jenkins command-line interface (CLI) skills, but the user interface is also an easier way to visualize where multiple projects are located and the state they're in, Ghods said.

Google and Netflix tout Spinnaker 1.0

Meanwhile, Jenkins will also have to contend with household names in IT that just threw their hats into the continuous delivery ring.

Two unicorns of the DevOps era launched a different take on continuous delivery this week with version 1.0 of Spinnaker. Netflix first open-sourced Spinnaker in 2015, but this release adds a new CLI tool, called halyard, which makes Spinnaker easier to set up for developers, according to a Google blog post. Google joined the Spinnaker community in 2014; the community also includes Microsoft, Oracle, Target and Veritas.

Given its big-name backing and support for cloud infrastructures, such as Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Kubernetes and OpenStack, DevOps shops are intrigued with the Spinnaker 1.0 release, at least at first glance.

"This is absolutely something that we would consider," said Thomas Davis, director of information security for Memphis, Tenn., household services provider ServiceMaster, which uses all the major public clouds and currently does CI/CD through Jenkins.

We are getting to a maturity point where retooling takes significant work, but we are always in a continuous learning and continuous improvement [mode].
Thomas Davisdirector of information security, ServiceMaster

"We are getting to a maturity point where retooling takes significant work, but we are always in a continuous learning and continuous improvement [mode]," Davis added.

However, analysts said Spinnaker 1.0 is still a work in progress and doesn't address the needs of most enterprises.

"The product is a [minimum viable product] for a limited use case and doesn't support the majority of deployments that take place on premises," said Robert Stroud, analyst with Forrester Research. "Nor does the tool fully address the building of complex pipelines, which is a major integration challenge."

Spinnaker can be used to build pipelines, but integration with third-party approval tools such as ServiceNow and decision trees based on automated test results are not yet supported, Stroud said.  

Spinnaker 1.0 packages the project more accessibly with halyard, but its audience is small for now, agreed Kurt Marko, technology analyst at MarkoInsights in Boise, Idaho.

"[It's] limited to the most sophisticated developers, mostly at companies building software products that are deployed on multiple [cloud service providers]," he said. "It's not the sort of tool most enterprises will need or be ready for right away."

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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