Bazel vs Gradle vs Apache Maven

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Apache Maven

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Apache Maven vs Bazel vs Gradle: What are the differences?


Apache Maven, Bazel, and Gradle are popular build automation tools used in the software development process. While all three tools serve the purpose of building, testing, and packaging software, they have distinct differences that make them stand out from one another.

  1. Build Language:

Apache Maven uses XML as its build language, which provides declarative configuration. It follows a convention-over-configuration approach, where developers need to adhere to the predefined project structure and naming conventions. On the other hand, Bazel and Gradle use a more flexible and expressive build language. Bazel uses a domain-specific language called Starlark, while Gradle uses Groovy or Kotlin scripts for build configuration. This allows developers to have more control and expressiveness in defining the build process.

  1. Build Performance:

Bazel and Gradle offer improved build performance compared to Apache Maven. Bazel uses a fine-grained and incremental build system, which allows it to cache build artifacts and only build the necessary parts of the codebase, resulting in faster build times. Gradle also provides an incremental build feature, which intelligently analyzes the changes in the codebase and only rebuilds the affected parts. However, Apache Maven lacks such build optimizations and tends to have slower build times, especially for larger projects.

  1. Build Scalability:

Bazel excels in build scalability, particularly for large-scale projects or monorepos. It is designed to handle massive codebases by utilizing a distributed build system, where multiple machines can contribute resources for the build process. This enables Bazel to efficiently parallelize the build across multiple machines and reduce the overall build time. While Gradle also provides some level of build parallelization, it might not be as efficient as Bazel for extremely large projects. Apache Maven, on the other hand, doesn't offer built-in support for distributed builds or scalability.

  1. Ecosystem and Plugin Support:

Apache Maven has a mature and extensive ecosystem of plugins, making it easy to integrate with various tools, frameworks, and libraries. It has a wide range of plugins for common tasks like code quality, code coverage, deployment, and more. Bazel has a growing ecosystem of plugins and rules, but it might not be as comprehensive as Maven's ecosystem. Gradle also has a rich ecosystem of plugins, which is continuously expanding due to its increasing adoption. It offers a plugin system that allows developers to easily extend Gradle's functionality as per their requirements.

  1. Compatibility and Portability:

Apache Maven projects are generally highly portable and can be easily shared across different environments. It relies on standard directory structures and conventions, making it compatible with various IDEs and CI/CD tools out of the box. Bazel, on the other hand, requires a specific configuration and setup, which might not be as readily portable. Gradle provides a balance between the two, offering portability while also providing more flexibility in customizing the build process.

  1. Intended Use Case:

Apache Maven has been widely adopted in the Java ecosystem and is commonly used for traditional Java projects and frameworks. It provides a standardized way of building, testing, and packaging Java applications. Bazel, originally developed by Google, is geared towards large-scale software development and is commonly used for monorepos or projects with high reliance on dependency management and build scalability. Gradle, while also widely used in the Java ecosystem, aims to be a general-purpose build automation tool and supports multiple programming languages and platforms. It offers a flexible and extensible build system suitable for a variety of project types.

In Summary, Apache Maven relies on XML for configuration and follows a convention-over-configuration approach; Bazel and Gradle use more expressive build languages, offer better build performance and scalability, have different levels of ecosystem and plugin support, vary in compatibility and portability, and target different use cases.

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Pros of Bazel
Pros of Gradle
Pros of Apache Maven
  • 28
  • 20
    Deterministic incremental builds
  • 17
  • 16
  • 14
    Enforces declared inputs/outputs
  • 10
    High-level build language
  • 9
  • 5
    Multi-platform support
  • 5
  • 4
    Dependency management
  • 2
    Windows Support
  • 2
  • 1
    Android Studio integration
  • 110
  • 51
    Easy to use
  • 47
    Groovy dsl
  • 22
    Slow build time
  • 10
    Crazy memory leaks
  • 8
    Fast incremental builds
  • 5
    Kotlin DSL
  • 1
    Windows Support
  • 138
    Dependency management
  • 70
    Necessary evil
  • 60
    I’d rather code my app, not my build
  • 48
    Publishing packaged artifacts
  • 43
    Convention over configuration
  • 18
  • 11
    Consistency across builds
  • 6
    Prevents overengineering using scripting
  • 4
    Runs Tests
  • 4
    Lot of cool plugins
  • 3
  • 2
    Hard to customize
  • 2
    Runs on Linux
  • 1
    Runs on OS X
  • 1
    Slow incremental build
  • 1
    Inconsistent buillds
  • 1
  • 1
    Good IDE tooling

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Cons of Bazel
Cons of Gradle
Cons of Apache Maven
  • 3
    No Windows Support
  • 2
    Bad IntelliJ support
  • 1
    Poor windows support for some languages
  • 1
    Constant breaking changes
  • 1
    Learning Curve
  • 1
    Lack of Documentation
  • 8
    Inactionnable documentation
  • 6
    It is just the mess of Ant++
  • 4
    Hard to decide: ten or more ways to achieve one goal
  • 2
    Bad Eclipse tooling
  • 2
    Dependency on groovy
  • 6
  • 1
    Inconsistent buillds
  • 0
    Not many plugin-alternatives

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What is Bazel?

Bazel is a build tool that builds code quickly and reliably. It is used to build the majority of Google's software, and thus it has been designed to handle build problems present in Google's development environment.

What is Gradle?

Gradle is a build tool with a focus on build automation and support for multi-language development. If you are building, testing, publishing, and deploying software on any platform, Gradle offers a flexible model that can support the entire development lifecycle from compiling and packaging code to publishing web sites.

What is Apache Maven?

Maven allows a project to build using its project object model (POM) and a set of plugins that are shared by all projects using Maven, providing a uniform build system. Once you familiarize yourself with how one Maven project builds you automatically know how all Maven projects build saving you immense amounts of time when trying to navigate many projects.

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Mar 24 2021 at 12:57PM


What are some alternatives to Bazel, Gradle, and Apache Maven?
Pants is a build system for Java, Scala and Python. It works particularly well for a source code repository that contains many distinct projects.
A bundler for javascript and friends. Packs many modules into a few bundled assets. Code Splitting allows to load parts for the application on demand. Through "loaders" modules can be CommonJs, AMD, ES6 modules, CSS, Images, JSON, Coffeescript, LESS, ... and your custom stuff.
Ansible is an IT automation tool. It can configure systems, deploy software, and orchestrate more advanced IT tasks such as continuous deployments or zero downtime rolling updates. Ansible’s goals are foremost those of simplicity and maximum ease of use.
Buck encourages the creation of small, reusable modules consisting of code and resources, and supports a variety of languages on many platforms.
It is used to control the software compilation process using simple platform and compiler independent configuration files, and generate native makefiles and workspaces that can be used in the compiler environment of the user's choice.
See all alternatives