Gitlab has killed the free tier, what are the alternatives?
For years, Gitlab has been the true pioneer of DevOps. A fast moving and truly innovating service that has introduced DevOps methodologies to thousands of engineers. By tightly integrating it’s CI/CD service with git repositories and a generous free tier that allowed many to try their offering for the first time without any cost.
It was a dream come true, a shift from the legacy Java heavy, complex and esoteric offerings like Jenkins. Finally a cloud service, completely plug and play. As time went on, Gitlab has continued to build and grow, adding dozens of features to the Gitlab universe, with dozens more on the pipeline.
Finally, the time has come for Gitlab. It was too good to be true, arguably the best service in the market, until… they killed the free tier.
With the newly announced changes, the free tier became highly restricted to basically personal or micro projects with a handful of contributors. Furthermore, Gitlab has previously killed the previous “starter” tier costing only 5$/user, so now, users planning to stay with Gitlab will have to fork off nearly 20$/user/month locked on a yearly contract.
Stay in Gitlab: pay the yearly contract for each user in your team. Easiest option, but costly. The paid plan will also open up a lot of extra services which may get you hooked up to their neat integration with the repository and developer workflow.
Migrate away: easy if you’re solely using the git repositories/issues/merge requests. If you’re using any other feature, like Gitlab CI, that will require migrating to a new CI/CD system, which could be bundled with the new service or as an external service.
- Github: since being bought by Microsoft, basically Github has an unlimited war chest to bring to the market and has already opened up features like unlimited private repositories and members, chipping away most of the benefits of using Gitlab or Bitbucket until recently. It also offers a bundled CI/CD solution named Github Actions, but that may require some work to re-architect everything.
- Bitbucket: same old, same old. A mostly dormant player in the git market, its most distinguishing feature has been unlimited private repos for many years and tight integration with Jira/Confluence. It has recently started adding more to the service by adding a pipelines service.
- Travis CI: an external CI/CD service whose configuration may look familiar to those writing Gitlab CI pipelines. It could be an easier migration than completely redesigning the pipeline to fit another service. However it’s mostly a stop-gag solution, since it was acquired by PE, it has been stripped of most of its engineering team and is basically in maintenance mode.
- Circle CI: One of the biggest players in the CI market, it features the best performance, highly advanced and configurable pipelines configuration, SSH access for debugging CI builds and secure environment on every run.
Move to self hosted Gitlab: if you’re comfortable on the command line and feel that managing your own Gitlab instance won’t take much of your time, simply self host within your provider’s Infra. The free tier in Gitlab.com is essentially the Open Source Gitlab Community Edition, so download a copy and run the installation steps to completion!
Move to a managed Gitlab service: Similar to the option above, except you’ll let someone do all the work. By letting experienced people manage your own Gitlab servers you get an array of benefits such as:
- 24x7 support
- Engineers experienced in Gitlab installations
- Regular backups/software updates
- Securing the server
- Dedicated resources (how many times did Gitlab.com go down? Won’t be a problem any longer since you’ll have it on your own server)
- Latency (you can choose the closest region to you and your team)
- Pay per server (no pay per user price gouging)
- Monthly contracts (scale up or down, or cancel at any time)