When comparing Chef vs GitLab, the Slant community recommends GitLab for most people. In the question“What are the best DevOps tools?” GitLab is ranked 3rd while Chef is ranked 8th. The most important reason people chose GitLab is:
GitLab is a free and open source project licensed under MIT. Source code for Enterprise Edition can be found [here](https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab-ee) and Community Edition [here](https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab-ce).
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Chef is cross-platform. Offering support for the biggest platforms out there: Linux, Windows and *nix.
Pro Popular choice among large companies
Chef has an impressive list of companies using it's automation service. Among them is Facebook, Etsy, Ancestry.com, PharmMD and Yahoo.
Pro Large community
Chef has a relatively large community. One of the reasons for it is the fact that it's a pretty old and mature tool. Chef, originally released in 2009, is a more mature product. Being popular and with a large and dedicated community means that Chef has lots and lots of resources and guides from third party sources out there for beginners to pick up. Not only that, there are also many plugins and configuration recipes made by the community.
Pro Strong version control capabilities
Chef is centered around Git for it's configuration and deployments. Because of this, Chef also has great version control capabilities through Git.
Chef was released in 2009, which is relatively a long time ago for software. Since then it has been through several versions and many bug fixes and tests. All of this can make Chef more appealing to teams who are looking for stability and maturity, which are things that Chef brings on the table.
Pro Good web UI
GitLab's UI is clean and intuitive. Each view is designed to not fill the screen with useless information.
It displays the activity in a feed-type way in the most prominent part of the view. On top of that, there's a toolbar with buttons which can filter this feed by pushes, merge events or comments.
On the left, there's a menu that displays all the links that take you to the different views. For example, a file directory which displays all the files in that repo, a commit view which displays all the commits in cronological order, a network and a graph view that display important information graphically etc...
All these details make GitLab's UI extremely intuitive and easy to use, no view is overflown with information and every view displays only the most useful and crucial information needed at that time.
Pro Regular updates
GitLab is being constantly worked on and has a new release every month on the 22nd. Updating is also very easy through a single apt-get command.
Pro Has wikis and pages
Wiki and pages support out of the box.
Pro Easy to install with the packages
With the packages available here, GitLab can be installed in two minutes.
Pro Support for protected branches
A protected master branch means that no code can be merged to master without passing a code review by an authorised developer. With GitLab this comes out of the box.
Pro Supports pull requests
Has pull request (AKA, merge request) support.
Pro Permissions and roles are supported
It has private/public repositories, roles for users (master, developer, reporter, guest). All of these can be set from the user interface. Same permissions set for the UI work for the SSH as well.
Pro Integrates fully with LDAP
The Lightweight Directory Access Protocol is an application protocol for accessing and maintaining distributed directory information services over an Internet Protocol (IP) network.
GitLab EE adds additional functionality over CE such as support for multiple LDAP servers and group sync.
Pro Comes with integrated CI/CD solution
GitLab CI makes it easy to set up CI and deployment for projects in GitLab. It supports parallel testing, multiple platforms, Docker containers and streaming build logs.
Pro Issue tracking support
Has issue tracking out of the box. Creating tickets, commenting on issues, closing issues etc... It's all there out of the box.
Pro Supports Approvers/Reviewers of Pull/Merge requests
Since 7.12 you can define a minimum number of approvers for merge requests.
Pro "Snippets" support
Snippets are similar to (well-known) GitHub "gists". They are a way to share code or have conversations about anything without needing a full git repo. The implementation here reminds more of a sort of pastebin.
Pro Can provide a Docker registry
The default docker.io registry is the docker hub but you can also login to other docker registries. And GitLab provides one for all Repos that make use of this feature.
A single instance can handle up to 40,000 users (requires a server with 64 core CPU and 64 GB of RAM) and it can run on multiple application servers to grow beyond that.
Pro Integrates with other systems by webhooks
Integrates out of the box with services like Bugzilla, Pushbullet, Microsoft Team Notification and many more - one can also add own webhooks to integrate with own services.
Pro Most GitLab EE features become part of GitLab CE after time
EE is the commercial Enterprise Edition, CE is the free and OpenScource Community Edition. Features such as Cycle Analytics were first a part of the EE and are now also available in CE.
Pro Manages large files and binaries with integrated Git Annex
Git Annex enables Git to manage large files (esp binaries) without checking them into Git.
Pro Integration with third party applications
GitLab integrates with multiple third-party services to allow external issue trackers and external authentication.
GitLab can integrate with many third-party apps to allow external issue tracking and authentication. It can also be integrated with several services, such as:
- Pivotal Tracker
Pro Allows Timetracking with Cycle-Analytics
Very useful project management feature that allows you to know how long it takes to go from the idea to production.
Pro Very feature rich RESTful-API
GitLab exposes a REST API that allows automation possible, like PR bots.
Con Ties you to Ruby
Chef is written in Ruby and its CLI uses a Ruby-based DSL. In order to fully use and customize it you need to use Ruby as Chef does not give users any other choice when it comes to languages to use to configure it.
Con Steep learning curve
Chef has a steeper learning curve than many of its competitors, making it a more difficult tool for the non-devs of a team (such as sysadmins) to work with. For some teams, the added cost of teaching Chef to the team may outweigh the benefits.
Con Not all features are free
GitLab's Service Desk features and some more are only available in GitLab EE.
Con The upgrade process fails more often than not
Even for minor versions such as 9.2.0 to 9.3.0. Sometimes the upgrade failure is silent and only seen when logging in first time after update and an http 502 error is given.
Con Requires at least 1GB of RAM
The default installation is meant for already many users and recommends 2GB of RAM. 1GB is possible but results in some HTTP 500 errors. On a Raspberry Pi 2 it runs fine most of the time, though it eats 75% of the RAM.
Another option is to reduce
unicorn['worker_processes'] in gitlab.rb.
Con Not lightweight
GitLab is demanding, Gitea is a much more lightweight solution which uses less CPU and memory.
Con No Windows support
There is no support for Windows. The use of a virtual machine will be required.
Con Bad code review possibilities
No precommit reviews.