CircleCI vs Semaphore: What are the differences?
What is CircleCI? Automate your development process quickly, safely, and at scale. Continuous integration and delivery platform helps software teams rapidly release code with confidence by automating the build, test, and deploy process. Offers a modern software development platform that lets teams ramp.
What is Semaphore? The continuous integration and delivery platform powering the world’s best engineering teams. Semaphore is the fastest continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) platform on the market, powering the world’s best engineering teams.
CircleCI and Semaphore can be categorized as "Continuous Integration" tools.
Some of the features offered by CircleCI are:
- Language-Inclusive Support
- Custom Environments
- Flexible Resource Allocation
On the other hand, Semaphore provides the following key features:
- Docker, Kubernetes, iOS support & 100+ preinstalled Tools
- Customizable Continuous Delivery Pipelines
- Customizable Stages, Parallel Execution and Control Flow Switches
"Github integration" is the top reason why over 218 developers like CircleCI, while over 19 developers mention "Easy setup" as the leading cause for choosing Semaphore.
Instacart, Lyft, and StackShare are some of the popular companies that use CircleCI, whereas Semaphore is used by CrowdFlower, Lost My Name, and GrowthHackers. CircleCI has a broader approval, being mentioned in 925 company stacks & 372 developers stacks; compared to Semaphore, which is listed in 40 company stacks and 17 developer stacks.
What is CircleCI?
What is Semaphore?
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When it comes to continuous Integration services, the choice is hard. There are several solutions available and it looks like the dev scene is very split. We've read and reviewed several solutions and we ended up making the choice between Codeship and Semaphore . Although Semaphore is used by slightly more developers, we've experienced a faster and easy flow using Codeship. Both do integrate Slack and GitHub very well, so this is not a point to set them apart. Both have a complex pricing system that is not that easy to calculate and predict. However, out in the wild, we found Codeship to have a better price point at heavy use.
Often enough I have to explain my way of going about setting up a CI/CD pipeline with multiple deployment platforms. Since I am a bit tired of yapping the same every single time, I've decided to write it up and share with the world this way, and send people to read it instead ;). I will explain it on "live-example" of how the Rome got built, basing that current methodology exists only of readme.md and wishes of good luck (as it usually is ;)).
It always starts with an app, whatever it may be and reading the readmes available while Vagrant and VirtualBox is installing and updating. Following that is the first hurdle to go over - convert all the instruction/scripts into Ansible playbook(s), and only stopping when doing a clear
vagrant up or
vagrant reload we will have a fully working environment. As our Vagrant environment is now functional, it's time to break it! This is the moment to look for how things can be done better (too rigid/too lose versioning? Sloppy environment setup?) and replace them with the right way to do stuff, one that won't bite us in the backside. This is the point, and the best opportunity, to upcycle the existing way of doing dev environment to produce a proper, production-grade product.
I should probably digress here for a moment and explain why. I firmly believe that the way you deploy production is the same way you should deploy develop, shy of few debugging-friendly setting. This way you avoid the discrepancy between how production work vs how development works, which almost always causes major pains in the back of the neck, and with use of proper tools should mean no more work for the developers. That's why we start with Vagrant as developer boxes should be as easy as
vagrant up, but the meat of our product lies in Ansible which will do meat of the work and can be applied to almost anything: AWS, bare metal, docker, LXC, in open net, behind vpn - you name it.
We must also give proper consideration to monitoring and logging hoovering at this point. My generic answer here is to grab Elasticsearch, Kibana, and Logstash. While for different use cases there may be better solutions, this one is well battle-tested, performs reasonably and is very easy to scale both vertically (within some limits) and horizontally. Logstash rules are easy to write and are well supported in maintenance through Ansible, which as I've mentioned earlier, are at the very core of things, and creating triggers/reports and alerts based on Elastic and Kibana is generally a breeze, including some quite complex aggregations.
If we are happy with the state of the Ansible it's time to move on and put all those roles and playbooks to work. Namely, we need something to manage our CI/CD pipelines. For me, the choice is obvious: TeamCity. It's modern, robust and unlike most of the light-weight alternatives, it's transparent. What I mean by that is that it doesn't tell you how to do things, doesn't limit your ways to deploy, or test, or package for that matter. Instead, it provides a developer-friendly and rich playground for your pipelines. You can do most the same with Jenkins, but it has a quite dated look and feel to it, while also missing some key functionality that must be brought in via plugins (like quality REST API which comes built-in with TeamCity). It also comes with all the common-handy plugins like Slack or Apache Maven integration.
The exact flow between CI and CD varies too greatly from one application to another to describe, so I will outline a few rules that guide me in it: 1. Make build steps as small as possible. This way when something breaks, we know exactly where, without needing to dig and root around. 2. All security credentials besides development environment must be sources from individual Vault instances. Keys to those containers should exist only on the CI/CD box and accessible by a few people (the less the better). This is pretty self-explanatory, as anything besides dev may contain sensitive data and, at times, be public-facing. Because of that appropriate security must be present. TeamCity shines in this department with excellent secrets-management. 3. Every part of the build chain shall consume and produce artifacts. If it creates nothing, it likely shouldn't be its own build. This way if any issue shows up with any environment or version, all developer has to do it is grab appropriate artifacts to reproduce the issue locally. 4. Deployment builds should be directly tied to specific Git branches/tags. This enables much easier tracking of what caused an issue, including automated identifying and tagging the author (nothing like automated regression testing!).
Speaking of deployments, I generally try to keep it simple but also with a close eye on the wallet. Because of that, I am more than happy with AWS or another cloud provider, but also constantly peeking at the loads and do we get the value of what we are paying for. Often enough the pattern of use is not constantly erratic, but rather has a firm baseline which could be migrated away from the cloud and into bare metal boxes. That is another part where this approach strongly triumphs over the common Docker and CircleCI setup, where you are very much tied in to use cloud providers and getting out is expensive. Here to embrace bare-metal hosting all you need is a help of some container-based self-hosting software, my personal preference is with Proxmox and LXC. Following that all you must write are ansible scripts to manage hardware of Proxmox, similar way as you do for Amazon EC2 (ansible supports both greatly) and you are good to go. One does not exclude another, quite the opposite, as they can live in great synergy and cut your costs dramatically (the heavier your base load, the bigger the savings) while providing production-grade resiliency.
I initially chose CircleCI for a personal project because I was not satisified with using Travis CI in the past. When it came time to develop my CI/CD config on Circle, I was pleasantly surprised with the fantastic documentation, invaluable collection of example configs and helpful support provided. The free tier they provide is quite robust for most small projects and the platform is updated frequently with nice features.
Areas where CircleCI could improve:
- the UI is a bit slow (you can feel the local machine straining to load all the code) and it is not as intuitive as it could be
- many UI elements receive updates and/or changes that are not always reflected in the current docs
Regarding Continuous Integration - we've started with something very easy to set up - CircleCI , but with time we're adding more & more complex pipelines - we use Jenkins to configure & run those. It's much more effort, but at some point we had to pay for the flexibility we expected. Our source code version control is Git (which probably doesn't require a rationale these days) and we keep repos in GitHub - since the very beginning & we never considered moving out. Our primary monitoring these days is in New Relic (Ruby & SPA apps) and AppSignal (Elixir apps) - we're considering unifying it in New Relic , but this will require some improvements in Elixir app observability. For error reporting we use Sentry (a very popular choice in this class) & we collect our distributed logs using Logentries (to avoid semi-manual handling here).
We are using GitLab CI and were very happy with it. The integration of all tools like CI/CD, tickets, etc makes it very easy to stay on top of things. But be aware, Gitlab currently does not have iOS build support. So if you want to exchange that for CircleCI / Codeship to have to invest some effort. We are using a managed Mac OS device and installed the Gitlab runner there, to have iOS builds.
We actually started out on Travis CI, but we've migrated our main builds to CircleCI, and it's been a huge improvement.
The reason it's been a huge improvement is that Travis CI has a fundamentally bad design for their images, where they start with a standard base Linux image containing tons of packages (several versions of postgres, every programming language environment, etc). This is potentially nice for the "get builds for a small project running quickly" use case, but it's a total disaster for a larger project that needs a decent number of dependencies and cares about the performance and reliability of their build.
This issue is exacerbated by their networking infrastructure being unreliable; we usually saw over 1% of builds failing due to transient networking errors in Travis CI, even after we added retries to the most frequently failing operations like
apt update or
pip install. And they never install Ubuntu's point release updates to their images. So doing an
apt install, or especially
apt upgrade would take forever. We ended up writing code to actually uninstall many of their base packages and pin the versions of hundreds of others to get a semi-fast, semi-reliable build. It was infuriating.
The CircleCI v2.0 system has the right design for a CI system: we can customize the base image to start with any expensive-to-install packages we need for our build, and we can update that image if and when we want to. The end result is that when migrating, we were able to delete all the hacky optimizations mentioned above, while still ending up with a 50% faster build latency. And we've also had 5-10x fewer issues with networking-related flakes, which means one doesn't have to constantly check whether a build failure is actually due to an issue with the code under test or "just another networking flake".
We use CircleCI because of the better value it provides in its plans. I'm sure we could have used Travis just as easily but we found CircleCI's pricing to be more reasonable. In the two years since we signed up, the service has improved. CircleCI is always innovating and iterating on their platform. We have been very satisfied.
The new APIs were developed using a spec-first API approach for speed and sanity. The details of this approach are described in this blog post, and we relied on using Swagger and associated tools like Swagger UI.
A new service was created for managing the data. It provides a REST API for external use, and an internal API based on GraphQL. The service is built using Kotlin for increased developer productivity and happiness, and the Spring-Boot framework. PostgreSQL was chosen for the persistence layer, as we have non-trivial requirements that cannot be easily implemented on top of a key-value store.
The front-end has been built using React and querying the back-end service using an internal GraphQL API. We have plans of providing a public GraphQL API in the future.
New Jira Integrations: Bitbucket CircleCI AWS CodePipeline Octopus Deploy jFrog Azure Pipelines
I use Google Cloud Build because it's my first foray into the CICD world(loving it so far), and I wanted to work with something GCP native to avoid giving permissions to other SaaS tools like CircleCI and Travis CI.
I really like it because it's free for the first 120 minutes, and it's one of the few CICD tools that enterprises are open to using since it's contained within GCP.
One of the unique things is that it has the Kaniko cache, which speeds up builds by creating intermediate layers within the docker image vs. pushing the full thing from the start. Helpful when you're installing just a few additional dependencies.
Feel free to checkout an example: Cloudbuild Example
I use CircleCI as part of a cross platform mobile app to build and test the app as well as deploying .apk files to an s3 bucket.
Alongside CircleCI this repo also has a TravisCI setup for iOS. The CircleCI build has always been quicker and since moving from CircleCI v1 to CircleCI v2 it blows the TravisCI build out of the water. I'm really impressed with the performance gains from moving to v2. I'm pretty sure I could achieve similar results in Travis as well, but it was really easy to setup the Android CI build in Circle making use of Docker.
After trying several CI systems, we stuck with CircleCI because of the inference engine in CircleCI 1.0 made setup a breeze. We were up and running quickly. Builds are reliable, nicely integrated into GitHub, and anytime we've had a question, the support team was there to help. The 2.0 system provides Docker support and far more customization and is still fairly easy to set up with helpful documentation.
CircleCI has become our CI of choice. The UI is really good and it has all the integrations we need. The 2.0 upgrade was not yet possible for one of our projects due to outdated gems, however, I have been able to get it working for a different one.
It help us with the automated build and test and also provide us with the build artifacts which we can use for the deployment also give use archive for each of our build, this things save us alot of time and cost
We use CircleCI to deploy to server. It is much easier than other websites like Travis especially for the free tier. It is especially useful for open source projects that need private access behind the scenes.
We originally used CircleCI as our self-contained build system for our internal node modules. It was very easy to set up and configure. Unfortunately we ended up stepping away from it to Jenkins and then CodePipeline due to better integration with our various applications.
We prefer CircleCI because we care about testing our apps. We found it is better to invest the time writing rSPEC tests to ensure we don't insert any regression bugs with new branches. It's also nice to have a fully-automated deployment process from GitHub to Heroku.
Used for CI/CD for all proofs of concept and personal projects, because of ease of use, GitHub integrations, and free tier.
Also used for example repos hosted in GitHub, paired with Dependabot, so that example repo dependencies are kept up to date.
CircleCI is used as continues integration system for shiro and all of its modules.
It automatically deploys the latest GitHub commit to https://shiro.host/.
CircleCI will be used for deployment and continuous integration using a scripted configuration that deploys to Amazon EC2.
The Bitbucket integration with branch whitelists allows you to conserve your 100 builds this month.