Continuous Integration (CI)
Drone vs Jenkins
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Harness DevOps Tools Vs. Jenkins
*Last updated: 3/31/2021
Detailed Feature Comparison
Drone Vs. Jenkins
Jenkins was created in 2010 as open-source software, so there is no associated software price. Drone is also open-source. There is, however, a paid version of Drone that provides access to enterprise support and more integrations and features. Additional features include secrets management options, autoscaling, custom plugins, and more.
Jenkins does it all – but at a cost. That cost is a large investment of time and effort (and FTEs). We’ll give credit where it’s due: Jenkins is quite customizable and flexible – both important things. But, it also has a high learning curve. To configure Jenkins, you’ll most likely need to depend on plugins and scripts, both of which require maintenance and can open engineers up to dependency hell. Drone is built upon three pillars that enable engineers to build and test code quickly and accurately: simple, scalable, self-service. Drone installs in under 5 minutes, scales on demand, and all plugins run in containers on their latest version. This means less person hours spent by engineers maintaining the tool, and more time on what matters: getting that code to artifact.
As mentioned above, Jenkins will most likely require you to install plugins and write scripts to get it to function how you need it to. The more complex the setup, the more scripts/plugins needed. Drone is much more intuitive.
Jenkins wasn’t designed to be cloud-native, but developers and DevOps teams have been making it work for years. There is a group of contributors and collaborators focusing on improving Jenkins’ cloud capabilities. For instance, they’ve created a Jenkins Kubernetes operator. While it’s definitely progress, albeit slow, we frankly don’t believe that CI/CD should be that hard.
For GitOps on Jenkins, we’d recommend evaluating Jenkins X because it has built-in GitOps. It’s possible to do it on Jenkins, but harder to set up. Drone comes with built-in GitOps functionality.
Jenkins’ plugin index boasts almost 1800 plugins – with many being abandoned by their authors, unmaintained, or duplicated (ie, 10 plugins that do the same thing). Drone’s 150 plugins are much more manageable. All plugins are containerized and maintained to their latest version. No dependency hell, no updating – only simplicity and portability.
Jenkins does not offer native secrets management capabilities. There are many ways to do it through a third party, such as HashiCorp Vault or Helm Secrets. Drone offers encryption on its open-source version. Meanwhile, the enterprise version offers these alternatives: encrypted, native, or externally, through third-party providers such as AWS Secret Manager, Kubernetes Secrets, and HashiCorp Vault. No matter how you want your secrets to be handled, Drone can rise to the occasion.
Jenkins is less scalable than Drone, and here’s why. Jenkins instances have to be manually spun up, while Drone has autoscalers (through Amazon EC2, Digital Ocean, Google Computer, Hetzner, Open Stack, and Packet). Jenkins also takes up more server space than Drone. Jenkins, in and of itself (and compared to other tools), may not be heavyweight – but when compared specifically to Drone, it is.
Jenkins is one of the most maintenance-intensive CI tools on the market, which is expected from a ten year old product. From our clients’ data, we’ve extrapolated that Jenkins requires between 2-5 FTEs to maintain and administer every year. That time is spent writing scripts, doing research on plugins, maintaining and updating plugins, etc. Drone stamps out maintenance issues at a whopping .25 FTEs needed (that’s not a typo). It’s an extremely portable solution without scripting, plugin maintenance, or dependency hell – or much else in terms of maintenance, for that matter. The plug-and-play nature of Drone ensures the only work you have to perform, other than the initial setup and configuration of course, is administration – such as adding and removing users, permissions, etc.
Free doesn’t always mean free. While Jenkins itself doesn’t cost a cent, it does cost a pretty penny in terms of employee need and time. As mentioned above, our clients have stated it requires between 2-5 FTEs to keep Jenkins up and running. Let’s say your average engineer costs you $180,000, that’s almost a million dollars per year dedicated to a single piece of software. Drone, however, only “costs” .25 FTEs, which on our $180,000 example, results in $45,000. A bit of a difference in total cost of ownership.
Jenkins is open-source – there is no pricing. Drone is free and available for download. It also has an enterprise version that is extremely feature-rich, but does have pricing attached to it. To familiarize yourself with enterprise pricing, please contact sales.
*Please note: Our competitors, just like us, release updates to their products on a regular cadence. We keep these pages updated to the best of our ability, but there are bound to be discrepancies. For the most up-to-date information on competitor features, browsing the competitor’s new release pages and communities are your best bet.
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