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GitHub vs GitLab: Difference Between GitHub and GitLab

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7th Sep, 2022
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GitHub vs GitLab: Difference Between GitHub and GitLab

As someone deeply immersed in the world of software development, I’ve navigated the GitLab vs GitHub debate from a practical, hands-on perspective. Both platforms are cornerstones for developers, serving as repositories for code storage, collaboration, and version control. However, choosing between them isn’t straightforward; each caters to different needs and workflows. My journey through software projects, both personal and professional, has given me a unique insight into the nuances that distinguish these tools. In this article, I aim to share my experiences to help you understand the differences and similarities between GitHub and GitLab. Whether you’re a budding developer or a seasoned professional looking to streamline your workflow, this comparison will offer valuable guidance. The discussion will encompass a detailed comparison, delve into the pros and cons of each platform, and highlight how they are similar, guiding you toward making an informed decision tailored to your project’s needs.

GitHub vs GitLab

GitLab and GitHub are both web-based repositories that help with code management and sharing local file changes with a remote repository. As the files on the internet keep changing from time to time, all the data is stored in a repository to be accessed later. Git development to track the changes in a source code requires both GitHub and GitLab. 

A software development life cycle (SDLC) consists of making amends to the existing source code, and sometimes, even creating new source code. Most developers were simultaneously on different parts of code, and so, sometimes, the modifications in the code might conflict with each other. This is likely to introduce unwanted bugs in the software. While these might not affect software development in the beginning, they could lead to severe errors in the future, making it difficult to zero down the error zone.

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This is where repository managers, like GitHub and GitLab, prove useful. They protect the source code from bugs and conflicting issues. It is easy to track changes in the code files by running them through any of the two systems.

Since both GitHub and GitLab are version control systems (VCS), it can be difficult to choose one of the two.

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The most significant difference between the two is that while GitHub is a collaboration platform that helps review and manage codes remotely, GitLab is majorly focused on DevOps and CI/CD. GitHub is more popular amongst the developers as it holds millions of repositories, but recently GitLab has been gaining popularity, as the company continues to add new features to make it more competitive and user-friendly.

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What is GitHub?

GitHub is one of the well-used web-based platforms that acts as a version control system and collaborative development tool for software. It helps in the effective management and tracking of changes made in the source code throughout development. When it comes to hosting and sharing by developers, GitHub is quite handy since several contributors may work on the same code source at any time. It employs Git, a dependable and auditable version type, as the distribution control system.

Features such as pull requests, issue tracking, and wikis make the platform collaborative and transparent, evident in a development environment. With the growing popularity of open-source projects, GitHub has emerged as a social coding platform where developers can share their work, trade ideas, and learn from one another, making it an essential aspect of software development.

What is GitLab? 

GitLab is a web-based platform with all the advantageous features of the DevOps lifecycle, such as source code management, continuous integration, delivery, etc. Just like GitHub, the core of what makes GitLab so special is that it uses Git for version control, which enables developers to monitor changes effectively through their codebase.  

 The uniqueness of Git lab is its one-stop-shop nature, where all different DevOps tools are integrated into a single platform. It has features for issue tracking, code review, and collaboration, which promote a collaborative development process that is transparent.  

 GitLab does continuous integration and deployment as well, making the SDLC less time-consuming. By offering self-hosted instances and a SaaS platform in the cloud, GitLab meets various development objectives, which makes it an excellent application for productive teams as well as organizations striving to optimize their development workflows. 

Comparison Between GitHub and GitLab

Let’s see GitHub vs GitLab. Both systems – GitHub and GitLab – enable source code handling and help developers to track local file changes. Developers can also share these changes with a remote repository. But there are significant differences between both the systems.

Check out: Git vs Github: Difference Between Git and Github

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FeatureGitHubGitLab
FeesGitHub projects are free and open to all with publicly shared codes.GitLab is a repository that only lets its team of web developers collaborate on codes. 
LocationGitHub doesn’t allow locating a repository inside an organization in the free plan. GitLab allows its users to locate a repository inside an organization while using the free plan.
Issue TrackerThe issue tracker allows pulling requests so that the raised issues are automatically closed upon being merged to another repose.Here, the issue tracker allows its users to associate issues with PRs to be closed automatically. 
DocumentationGitHub documents are organized in a series of various guides with each guide covers a particular platform.

 

It includes articles and tutorials. These guides are not fully searchable. Every article usually has a 5-10 minute read. Also, GitHub provides a searchable help page as well as FAQs.

GitLab documents are similar to documentation for a language with a search bar, listing all the documents required for the installer. 

The foremost thing you observe is a search bar on their docs page. They list out docs for GitLab, the GitLab installer, deployment tools, and integration. Also, the page includes a “most popular topics” section.

IntegrationThere is no built-in continuous integration in GitHub. It is provided by third-party vendors. GitLab offers 100% built-in integration. They favor their own integration tools with continuous developments. 
AuthenticationAuthenticating who can and cannot use the repository can be set according to their role. Here, a developer has the authority to decide whether someone should access a repository.
CommunityGitHub boasts of a large community of developers. It has highly active millions of users to discuss problems with.GitLab hosts community events connecting contributors with open-source systems.
PlatformIt has a development platform used to store projects. It provides features such as task management, bug tracking, etc.GitLab provides web-based DevOps internal management of repositories.
Inner-sourcingDevelopers are allowed to promote inner sourcing of internal repositories.GitLab doesn’t allow inner sourcing.
Confidential IssuesThis module creates confidential issues that are visible only to project members.GitLab lacks this the confidential issue feature.
WorkflowA prominent difference between Git and GitLab is that GitHub proposes a simple workflow that includes a main brand and feature branches.

 

Pull requests (PRs) support GitHub workflow. They are identical to GitLab MRs. Nothing avoids using GitLab flow on GitHub and vice versa.

GitLab offers more workflow models than GitHub. These workflows have enhanced feature, production, development, environment, and release branches.

GitLab Flow is the standard. Moreover, merge requests (MRs) support GitLab workflow. MRs are a framework for code review before integration.

 

BackupThe backup is another major difference between Git and GitLab. GitHub Enterprise Server Backup Utilities is a backup system deployed on a separate host. It captures backup snapshots of the GitHub Enterprise Server instance regularly across a safe SSH network connection.

It also uses a snapshot to restore a current GitHub Enterprise Server instance to a preceding state from the backup host.     

The Git lab backup is a command-line utility that operates on the same Linux server as GitLab. It can be configured to operate at regular intervals similar to a cron job.

 

Alternative GitLab backup methods including file system snapshot and GitLab Geo (Ultimate and Premium) are also available.

 

Maintenance Mode It is easy to compare Git vs GitLab based on the maintenance mode. GitHub supports a maintenance mode that transfers the GitHub Enterprise Server instance offline, so users can’t access it. It uses the Management Console.        The Git lab has a maintenance mode that blocks all external actions which modify its internal state. 3 ways to activate maintenance mode are API, web UI, and Rails console.

 

ConfigurationAll configuration processes are performed using the GitHub admin web interface (i.e.“Management Console”) and by clicking “Save changes”.All configuration processes are performed by editing the GitLab configuration file (gitlab.rb) and executing reconfigure.       

 

Architecture and ScalabilitySince GHES is a monolith, it can’t be divided into several components.  It can only be scaled by moving to a larger server (vertical scaling requiring downtime).  Gitlab is a modular application composed of various components like Nginx, GitLab Workhorse Redis, PostgreSQL, Gitaly, etc.

 

In the basic configuration, all components can exist in a single node. But when scaling is required, they can be distributed to separate nodes. Single or multiple nodes can be allocated to the same component (for example two or more Gitaly storage servers).

 

InstallationGitHub offers its virtual machine image.

 

Through GCP, it offers a set of gcloud compute commands that fulfil all required resources and also installs GitHub.

 

The entire installation process completes in 2.5 hours.

       

GitLab installs on most of the standard Linux distributions. GitLab supports multiple installation methods. The most famous installation methods are Helm charts for installation on K8S, “Omnibus” installation on Linux, and Docker installation.

 

The installation process of GitLab through the Docker installation, Gitlab installation, and server provisioning takes nearly 2.5 hours.

.

Disaster RecoveryBoth GitHub GitLab support disaster recovery but uniquely. GHES supports a configuration wherein a fully redundant secondary GitHub Enterprise Server appliance is synchronized with the primary appliance by replicating all major datastores.

 

No extra costs are involved.

 

GitHub names this configuration HA. But because the failover is manual, it’s stated here as a DR.

GitLab Geo (Premium) permits duplication of a GitLab instance to other geographical sites. The duplication is allowed as a read-only fully operational instance which can be promoted during a disaster.

 

GroupsHow groups are formed marks the GitHub vs GitLab difference. The repos can be assembled using organizations on GitHub.

 

But, organizations can’t offer access to projects. Being an organization’s member is not sufficient to push and pull from that organization’s repos.

There is no feature matching GitLab’s subgroups because there are no “sub-organizations”.

       

GitLab allows developers to use groups to manage one or more associated projects simultaneously.

A user can use groups to manage permissions for their projects. If somebody gains access to the group, they also gain access to all the projects of that group.

GitLab supports a maximum of 20 levels of subgroups. They are useful for large applications or organizations.

 

CI/CD – SetupAnother major GitHub vs Gitlab distinction is in terms of CI/CD setup. If you want to enable GitHub Actions on GHES, you should have access to external blob storage. For that, only Azure Blob storage, S3 or AWS S3-compatible MinIO Gateway for NAS are allowed. GCP storage doesn’t work.

 

It is mandatory to open an account on AWS, create an S3 bucket, and deploy it.

 

Runner setup is somewhat easier than in GitLab. The reason is every setup command is offered on an organization/instance/project’s page

When using GitLab, a user has to create an access token, provide a runner server, install runner software on it and finally register it vis-a-vis GitLab through the token. CI/CD – Setup in GitLab uses various executors like Docker, shell, and Kubernetes.

 

GitLab’s web UI supports runner installation on K8S.

 

Integrations with Third PartiesBoth GitHub and GitLab differ based on their integrations with third-party tools. GitHub features a Marketplace of third-party tools which are categorized into actions and apps.

 

Apps on GitHub enable workflow and automation improvement. Apps are installed at the organization level. Presently, 493 apps exist in the GitHub marketplace.

 

Tools providers offer GitHub Marketplace tools support.

 

GitLab supports nearly 30 integrations with third-party tools.

 

Certain integrations (like Jira and Elasticsearch) are deployed on the instance level, whereas certain integrations like Jenkins are deployed on the project level.

All GitLab integrations are subsets of the GitLab installation. GitLab supports and documents them.

 

Code Navigation        When developers program language-aware code, they can directly jump to references and definitions for specific identifiers.  When comparing Git vs GitLab in terms of code navigation, it is allowed to integrate with SourceGraph on GitLab.com.

 

Code SearchThe latest “Code Search” features cover advanced syntax for searching content in code and directly linking to the Code Navigation features.    GitLab Advanced Search allows search within code and issues too.

 

Pros and Cons of GitHub

Here is a list of pros and cons of GitHub.

Pros

  • Amazing system for the open-source codebase
  • Allows easy sharing
  • Has a sophisticated and user-friendly UI
  • Offers pull requests and comments
  • Has a large community
  • Easy setup
  • Allows remote collaboration
  • Provides with easy control features

In-Demand Software Development Skills

Cons

  • Doesn’t offer very good API development
  • Slightly expensive for those in search of private repository
  • It is not very features

Pros and Cons of GitLab

Here is a list of pros and cons of GitLab.

Pros

  • Has a consistent addition of new features
  • Offers pull requests and code reviews
  • Has a CLI user experience
  • Offers package management
  • Supports CI/CD lifecycle
  • Easy maintenance of codes

Cons

  • Problematic upgrade process
  • Lacks some enterprise-level features
  • Has quite a lot of bugs
  • Small community

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GitHub vs GitLab: How Are They Similar? 

GitHub and GitLab are alike in that they both provide web-based platforms employing the use of Git as a version control. They offer source code hosting and management facilities such as pull requests, a review of the system, and issues tracking, among others necessary for collaborative development. Both platforms can help with a distributed version control system, making it possible for several contributors to work on the same project simultaneously.

Moreover, GitHub and GitLab provide a social coding environment involving community engagement and open-source collaboration. Their basic functionality is similar, but developers compare them in terms of their specific preferences regarding project needs and the capabilities provided by DevOps GitLab.

What Should You Choose Between GitHub and GitLab? 

Selecting GitHub vs GitLab depends on a number of factors. GitHub is usually desired because of its developed community, huge repository library, and easy interface. It is a good pick for projects that are very much community-driven. In contrast, GitLab offers a comprehensive DevOps platform that combines features such as CI/CD container registry. It could be more attractive for organizations that require an integrated solution.  

Consider the size of the project, needs for collaboration support, DevOps requirements, and personal or team choices when making a choice. Both platforms provide strong version control, so the choice is usually based on certain options and workflows that correspond with your project and team objectives. 

Conclusion

If your requirement is more flexible and you want to spend less money, then GitLab can be a better option. But if you have your trust in 40 million+ developers, then GitHub should be the one to opt for. GitHub availability is higher and more common amongst the developers, given to its large community and user-configurable system. At the same time, GitLab is also strong and comes with larger entrepreneur plans and features.

GitLab has some notable key advantages over GitHub as it provides developers with an unlimited number of private repositories to be used with a built-in continuous integration system.   

The major difference between GitHub and GitLab is the platform each philosophy presents. GitHub has higher availability and is more focused on infrastructure performance, while GitLab is more focused on offering a features-based system with a centralized, integrated platform for web developers.

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If you are working on a larger project in collaboration with numerous developers, then GitHub can be the better choice. On the other hand, if the project requires continuous integration, then GitLab can be leaned upon. I hope you liked our article about GitHub vs GitLab. 

For more insights, get in touch with the experts at upGrad, and we will help you decide between the two!

If you’re interested to learn more about full-stack software development, check out upGrad & IIIT-B’s PG Diploma in Full-stack Software Development which is designed for working professionals and offers 500+ hours of rigorous training, 9+ projects, and assignments, IIIT-B Alumni status, practical hands-on capstone projects & job assistance with top firms.

Profile

Rohan Vats

Blog Author
Software Engineering Manager @ upGrad. Passionate about building large scale web apps with delightful experiences. In pursuit of transforming engineers into leaders.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1What are the features of GitHub?

GitHub is a platform that provides Version Control System and manages code effectively. It was mainly designed for collaboration purposes. It keeps track of the version history and changes made to the code including inserts, deletes, updates, etc. It helps in project and team management by providing the feature of branching. One can create a new branch, update code over there, and the moment it is functional and unit testing is done, one can merge it back to the repository. It helps in bug tracking as well. It allows people to assign tasks, resolve issues, make pull requests, etc. One can also host their work on GitHub.

2What is meant by Version Control System (VCS) and what is its use?

Version Control allows one to make changes to software/code and to keep track of the changes made. This is extremely useful because, even if a mistake is made, we can revert it back to the previous version. “File tree” is a structure in which the files are arranged. Each person may work on a different file and commit their changes to the file tree without any disruption. It's gaining a lot of prominence in DevOps which focuses on fast development and deployment. Version Control Systems are of 2 types: Centralized and Distributed. Git is a distributed VCS and it is preferred because centralized VCS is prone to a single point of failure.

3What is the CI/CD pipeline?

CI/CD stands for continuous integration and continuous delivery. It involves automation and monitoring of a software project. Continuous integration deals with many people who are working on an application, adding features simultaneously. GitHub and GitLab provide the option for collaborating and merging. Continuous delivery involves the automation of building and testing. The first step involves the development of the application. The build generated is compiled and passed into the testing phase. The code is tested exhaustively and is delivered to the repository. The code is then sent for production. The build is validated and tested using various tools. This process takes place iteratively till the final product is ready.

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