Bitbucket vs. GitLab – which one is better for repo management? 

Originally published September 24, 2019, updated December 22, 2020

Every development team knows the value of a quality repository management solution. It’s a critical component of collaborative software development. Repository management services allow software developers to manage changes to the source code and its related files, creating and maintaining multiple versions in one central location. Such repositories bring many benefits to the software development process. Even small teams appreciate having one central place for storing all the code versions. By using repository management services, development teams can deliver their work faster and preserve their momentum as they scale up. 

There are many different repository management services available on the market today. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at two of them: Atlassian’s Bitbucket and GitLab. We’ll cover aspects such as their basic features, pricing plans, and essential functionalities like repository import.

What is GitLab?

GitLab is a web-based repository management solution that allows teams to collaborate on code, duplicate it, and then merge the finished code into existing projects. This single application offers free open and private repositories.

Today, GitLab is used by tech giants such as IBM, Sony, Oracle, Alibaba, as well as NASA, SpaceX, and CERN. The solution includes wiki and issue tracking features that come in handy to teams looking to expand their use of repository management solutions. It’s a DevOps-ready tool that offers a Git repository manager and CI/CD pipeline features under an open-source license.

GitLab top advantages:

  • easy to manage and configure,
  • with enormous security measures,
  • public or private depots, depending on the development phase,
  • Continuous Integration.

It also provides other benefits of a single application which you can read about in this article.

What is Bitbucket?

Bitbucket is a repository management solution from the Australian company, Atlassian. This web-based version control repository comes in handy to development teams that use Mercurial or Git revision control systems.

Teams can use Bitbucket to plan projects, collaborate on code, test code, and then deploy it. The solution offers many different features to accelerate the development process. For example, teams can approve code reviews efficiently with pull requests or hold discussions right inside the source code thanks to inline comments. Bitbucket pipelines with deployment allow building, testing, and deploying code with integrated CI/CD.

Bitbucket top advantages:

  • public and private repositories available,
  • CI/CD,
  • seamless integration with Jira,
  • easy to use.

Key features GitLab and Bitbucket have in common

Naturally, each of these two solutions offers an entirely different ecosystem of features and capabilities. But if you consider the basic features required for repository management, you can be sure that both GitLab and Bitbucket include a lot of similarities.

Pull requests; Inline editing; Issue tracking; Code review; Two-factor authentication; Markdown support; Feature-rich API; Sophisticated permissions management; Fork/clone repositories; Hosted static webpage; Third-party integrations.

What are the main differences between the tools?

The features that Bitbucket offers: Compatibility testing; Deployment management; Mobile development; Web app development; Semantic search.
The features that Bitbucket doesn't offer: Code refactoring; Debugging.
The features that GitLab offers: Code refactoring; Debugging.
The features that GitLab doesn't offer: Compatibility testing; Deployment management; Mobile development; Web app development; Semantic search.

Other factors worth considering

Relation to open-source

An important feature to consider in choosing a repository management solution its relation to the open-source ecosystem.

Out of the two, only GitLab offers an open-source version. The Community Edition source code is available on their website. The Enterprise Edition code is proprietary. While Bitbucket is not available in the open-source version, if you invest in a self-hosted version, you will be provided with the full source code together with extensive product customization options.

To help development teams discover public projects and get in touch with other developers, a repository management solution needs to contain public repository discovery functions. Fortunately, both GitLab and Bitbucket offer that. However, Bitbucket also enables developers to follow other users easily and helps them connect with developers who have similar interests.

Note: The most important place for open-source collaboration is GitHub, another repository management system that in itself is not open-source but contains the largest number of public open-source projects. It’s easily the best social hub for software developers and anyone else interested in what’s happening in the tech scene. 

Jira integrations

Jira + Bitbucket integration

Teams that integrate Jira with Bitbucket release versions 14% more often than other teams. Thanks to Jira + Bitbucket integration, we can increase our work automation due to the fact that the tickets are automatically transferred as we complete the work in Bitbucket. Also, with the Code in Jira view, we’re able to include an issue key in a commit or branch name from Bitbucket, and the changes will be automatically updated in Jira. Another facilitation resulting from this integration the ability to view our assigned Jira issue in Bitbucket thanks to which we don’t have to maneuver between the tools and and quickly find out which tasks are still ahead of us.

Additionally, Jira and Bitbucket integration allows for:

  • creating Jira issues from within Bitbucket’s Code Review,
  • interacting with Jira projects inside Bitbucket,
  • viewing CI/CD deployment information and pre-planned releases.

Jira + GitLab integration

Jira and GitLab integration was made to meet the same goals as in the case of Jira and Bitbucket integration: acceleration and improvement of work, as well as processes automation. The integration is available both for Cloud and Data Center users.

After setting up the integration, we can benefit from features like:

  • automatically detect and cross-reference activity between the GitLab project and any of your projects in Jira,
  • possibility to mention a Jira issue ID in a commit message or merge request,
  • automatically adding the comments in Jira with details and a link back to the activity in GitLab,
  • commit or merge request resolves or closes a specific Jira issue when it’s merged to the default branch.

Repository import feature

When picking your repository management solution, pay special attention to whether the tool allows using your previous projects easily. While GitLab supports only Git repositories, Bitbucket offers support for both Git and Mercurial. Moving to GitLab might become a little complicated if you’re using Mercurial or other repositories.

Fortunately, GitLab is equipped with a repository import feature that helps users to migrate from other platforms easily. Bitbucket also supports the repository import from Git, as well as SVN, Google Code, CodePlex, HG, and SourceForge.

Semantic search

The process of searching and viewing the results can be efficiently accelerated by using the semantic search function. Of the tools compared, the option is only available for Bitbucket. Semantic search puts definitions first, before usage examples and variables names. Code aware search is especially helpful for the teams who have many repos or large code bases. Bitbucket, instead of indexing the code as text, uses the semantic search function, analyzes the code syntax, and makes sure that the definitions matching our search term are prioritized.

The process of moving to QueryBuilder

Pricing plans

Both GitHub and Bitbucket offer free plans, but these already include some differences. For example, Bitbucket’s plan, called Small Teams, allows five team members to collaborate on an unlimited number of software development projects. The repositories have a limit of 1GB. When you reach that limit, you will be notified by email. However, the team won’t be able to push to the repository until its repository size reaches 2 GB.

GitLab offers a free cloud-hosted plan that allows an unlimited number of users to collaborate on an unlimited number of both public and private projects. To do that, they can take advantage of a 100GB space limit for the repository. If your team is looking for a cloud-based solution for their private projects, GitLab might be the best match.

GitLab Community Edition is a good option for teams that want to fully control their code base and have the resources to maintain their servers (since this is a self-hosted plan). The drawback of this plan is that it doesn’t include some of the more advanced features.

What about paid plans? In general, both tools offer different plans suited to the requirements of different teams. Bitbucket’s cloud-hosted plan starts with $3 per user a month. GitLab offers a basic plan starting from $4 per user a month.

Don’t forget that the tools also have self-hosted plans. GitLab’s self-hosted version provides sophisticated features in comparison to the cloud-hosted once. Each of these providers offers a cloud-based and self-hosted version of their product, so make sure to carefully review these options when choosing the repository management solution for your team.

If you’re considering Bitbucket, GitLab, or other DevOps solution, get in touch with us – we have plenty of experience in implementing repo management tools at organizations of all sizes and can help you make the most of it for your development teams. Take a look at the DevOps tools that we offer.

If you’re interested in gaining more knowledge about the DevOps tools and processes, make sure to check out other articles on our blog:

Boguslaw Osuch

Bogusław is the Head of Atlassian Services at Deviniti. His brightness star in Deviniti Galaxy is to share knowledge about methodology, best practices, and IT standards. He uses his many years of experience every day to support companies in optimizing their internal processes and developing strategies. He believes that people are the essential element in every team, and the most effective teams are those that work according to jointly developed processes and use tools that release their potential. Bogusław is a pragmatist, entrepreneur, and passionate developer of algorithms, interested in psychology and development.

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