The Tradeoffs Between Using a Cloud-based vs. On-premise CI/CD Pipeline

If you're a software engineer, you likely know what CI/CD stands for--Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment. But do you know which pipeline is better suited for your team or company's needs--cloud-based or on-premise?

In this article, we'll explore the tradeoffs between using a cloud-based and on-premise CI/CD pipeline. First, we'll define what each pipeline entails. Then, we'll look at the benefits and drawbacks of each pipeline type. By the end of this article, you'll have a better understanding of which pipeline is right for you.

What is a CI/CD Pipeline?

Before we dive into the comparison, let's review the fundamentals of what a CI/CD pipeline is. A CI/CD pipeline is an automated process that monitors, builds, tests, and deploys software changes to production environments. The goal of the CI/CD pipeline is to get changes into production quickly and safely.

To achieve this goal, a CI/CD pipeline has a specific set of phases or stages. Typically, these stages include:

  1. Source Code Management: This phase involves managing and storing the repository's code files.

  2. Build and Testing: This phase automates the build and test process to scan for, find, and address issues before the code reaches production.

  3. Deployment: This phase involves releasing the code to production, whether that be to a cloud-based environment or an on-premise environment.

Cloud-Based CI/CD Pipeline

A cloud-based CI/CD pipeline involves using cloud infrastructure, such as AWS, Google Cloud or Azure, to compile, test, deploy and monitor software changes. Here are some benefits and drawbacks of using a cloud-based CI/CD pipeline:


  1. Scalability: A cloud-based CI/CD pipeline can scale to meet your team's needs, whether that's serving hundreds or thousands of users. You can easily spin up virtual machines, containers, or serverless functions to handle the workload, which takes only a few clicks.

  2. Costs: Compared to on-premise pipeline, cloud-based pipeline is less expensive as there is no need for hardware, maintenance, or physical infrastructure. You could save a lot of money by paying only for what you use.

  3. Flexibility: With a cloud-based pipeline, you can easily experiment with different setups, configurations or processes without having to worry about hardware or compatibility issues. You can add new tools, language support or services with ease, which allows your team to be more productive and innovative.


  1. Security: Cloud-based system are prone to cyber threats and data breaches. You need to ensure that the security measures of your cloud provider are sufficient for your company's requirements. In some cases, you may need to supplement with additional security precautions, like implementing two-factor authentication or using a VPN service.

  2. Dependency: Since your cloud infrastructure is controlled by the provider, you'll rely on the cloud to provide constant access to your pipeline. If there are any outages, you may have to wait until it recovers to use your pipeline again. This may be frustrating for your team, especially if there are deadlines to meet.

  3. Performance: Despite their power, cloud systems can be slower compared to on-premise systems sometimes. This may be due to network latency or distance from data centers. While it's not a significant issue in most cases, it's something to consider, especially if your team uses resource-intensive applications or requires low-latency solutions.

On-Premise CI/CD Pipeline

An on-premise CI/CD pipeline involves running your software pipeline on your company's hardware or infrastructure. Here are some benefits and drawbacks of using an on-premise CI/CD pipeline:


  1. Control: You have complete control over the pipeline, from hardware resources to security measures. Since you don't rely on a third-party provider, you can monitor the pipeline as you see fit and customize it to your specific requirements.

  2. Confidentiality: By keeping everything on-premise, you can ensure that sensitive company data isn't exposed to third-party providers.

  3. Performance: Since you control the hardware, you can customize it to specific hardware requirements or configurations to maximize performance. You can also work around possible latency issues to improve performance.


  1. Maintenance: With an on premise pipeline, you'll need to perform regular maintenance on your hardware as needed. This includes safeguarding against hardware failure or capacity issues. This requires investment in both money and staffing.

  2. Costs: On-premise pipelines require to spend upfront capital costs to purchase and set up the required hardware. After you start using it, you have to hire and cater resources to do manage and maintain the system.

  3. Scalability: Scaling an on-premise pipeline is a daunting task. Installing, configuring, and managing additional hardware can take longer time compared to cloud-based system.


Like most things in software development, choosing between a cloud-based and on-premise CI/CD pipeline comes down to your individual needs. While there are benefits and drawbacks to both options, it's up to you and your team to decide which pipeline is right for you.

Consider factors like scalability, costs, control, and performance when making a decision. Ultimately, many organizations - especially in the large enterprises - still opt for on premise pipelines due to the confidence that comes with having a pipeline entirely under their control.

On the other hand, more and more businesses and engineering teams understand the unique advantages and flexibility of cloud infrastructure. You may choose to use a combination of both options, to reduce the disadvantages of each system and leverage their respective strengths.

In the end, determining which pipeline to use will depend on your organisation's specific needs and overall strategy. But, with the information presented in this article, you can make a better-informed decision about what’s likely to work best.

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