GitLab offers an array of DevOps services, in one platform, all through one cohesive user interface. GitLab is fairly lightweight to host, the workflows in the UI are easy to navigate, and the GitLab forum has its fair share of contributors and positive feedback. GitLab seems like the perfect one-stop-shop… but what’s great in theory actually creates two big issues. 

The first is uncovered by doing a quick search for GitLab integrations. You’ll discover very few exist, and that’s by design. Remember: all one platform. The expectation is you will be entirely using their services.

The only Continuous Integration tool supported? Jenkins. Maybe you just want to use GitLab for CI and want to use a different cd tool? Nope.

By nature, software development is an opinionated field, which is why some open-source developers won’t even entertain using non-open-source projects. It’s why an entire company toolchain can switch under a new CTO. GitLab lacks the flexibility for customers to continue using their preferred solutions.

The second relates to the breadth of the platform. GitLab is spread thin across several highly competitive market segments that each have robust multibillion dollar platforms in competition. The capability of GitLab’s platform solution is not always at parity with its competitors. Hence why it’s even more intimidating to get locked into a platform without major integrations. 

Our Evaluation Methodology

For this evaluation, we took three major DevOps swimlanes that GitLab claims as core competencies and evaluated the competitors in that space. We relied heavily on user reviews and opinions while also considering feature comparison. This is, of course, based on our opinions and we’d love to hear what other thoughts you have on the listed tools. 

Product Alternatives

The three swimlanes we will discuss are:

  1. Software Delivery – The way code reaches production. This includes CI/CD, Cost Management, and Feature Flags. This category is measured by Lead Time, MTTR, Change Failure Rate, Deployment Velocity, and Maintenance effort. 
  2. Source Code Management – Otherwise known as version control, source code management is the process of tracking changes to a source code repository. This category is measured by accessibility and ease of use. A competitor in this space could also be referred to as a collaboration platform.
  3. Agile Project Management – Fundamentally, this exists to promote product iteration. It’s a fairly wide category that includes ticketing systems, ticketing mapping, and team collaboration. 

GitLab claims to compete across all three categories. This means the leaders of each category are offering stiff competition. 

Software Delivery Alternative – Harness

Harness is a SaaS software delivery platform. The platform has five key software delivery modules: Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, Continuous Verification, Cloud Cost Management, and Feature Flags.

Harness is designed to provide a seamless delivery experience from start to finish, but if you already use a tool you’re partial to, Harness operates on an à la carte model. You can choose which modules best suit your needs. Harness’s mission is to help any company deploy like FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google). 

*It should be noted that Harness can also be used on-premise on a corporate server. 

Harness Features

  • Intuitive CI/CD Pipelines – Harness UI makes it easy to set up pipelines and use complex deployment strategies, like canary and blue/green. Once you feel comfortable, everything can be controlled using GitOps.
  • RBAC and Advanced Governance Controls – Security is top of mind for most organizations, and Harness lets you control who gets access to what.  
  • Machine Learning-Driven Deployment Verification – Harness will learn from your deployments to determine if an irregularity occurs that needs your attention. 
  • Automatic Rollbacks – Harness keeps applications from going down by automatically reinstating the previous working version. 
  • Detailed Cloud Cost Visibility – Harness gives granular visibility into an organization’s cloud usage and how application changes affect costs. 

Source Code Management Alternative – GitHub

GitHub hardly needs an introduction. Founded in 2008, GitHub became the de facto source code repository, and hence became the de facto resource for source code management. GitHub succeeds in part because of its widespread adoption, but mainly because it’s an intuitive tool that satisfies developers’ needs. An honorable mention goes to Bitbucket for repository management. 

GitHub Features

  • Codespaces – Code, build, debug, and deploy with an instant cloud development environment
  • Pull Requests – Allow contributors to easily notify you of changes they’ve pushed to a repository, with access limited to the contributors specified.
  • Code Reviews – Review new code, see visual changes, and confidently merge code changes with automated status checks. 
  • Protected Branches – Enforce restrictions on how code branches are merged, including requiring reviews or allowing only specific contributors to work on a particular branch. 
  • Public Repositories – Work with any GitHub member on code in a public repository you control. 

Agile Project Management Alternative – Jira

Jira is an Atlassian product that stands along with other household tech names like Confluence. Jira is designed to help developers plan, track, and report on software projects. Jira is the most tenured product on this list, being released in 2002. This is another example of a tool that became the de facto marketplace option.

Jira Features

  • Project Management Dashboards – Users can choose from scrum boards, Kanban boards, and product roadmaps to organize their thoughts and features.
  • Agile Reporting – Teams have access to a dozen out-of-the-box reports that provide actionable insights into team performance.
  • Issue Tracking – Track bug tickets to specific features to increase product quality.

Evaluate Harness Alongside the Top DevOps Tools

GitLab has stiff competition in several areas, and it’s a shame the platform doesn’t offer more integrations. However, odds are Harness will integrate with your preferred toolsets. To see a more in-depth breakdown between Harness and other providers, take a look at our DevOps Comparison Tools page.