Freemium plans are a great way for companies to introduce developers to their products and offer a hands-on demonstration of the value they provide. But it can be extremely frustrating for developers when a free tier limits access to key features or doesn’t provide enough capacity to evaluate how the product performs in real-world development scenarios. Not only is this frustrating, but it also diminishes the overall developer experience, resulting in negative and sometimes inaccurate perceptions of the product.
Many companies struggle to strike the right balance between which features to include in their free tier and at what level of usage they should require a paid account. CircleCI is no exception. Until recently, our free plan just wasn’t enough to provide the best developer experience and demonstrate the value and power that CircleCI can bring to your continuous delivery and release processes. That’s why we decided to overhaul our offerings to provide the most comprehensive free plan available on the market.
In this post, I’ll discuss the newly released CircleCI Free plan, highlighting some of the most impactful changes and how they will improve the developer experience.
Free plan details
Developers continually adopt innovative strategies and concepts like continuous delivery and release management processes with the goal of building and releasing software faster and more efficiently. CircleCI enables your team to maximize development velocity by automating their software build and release practices. With our new free tier offerings, you get access to all the features and capabilities you need to make the most of your build minutes. Here’s what you get with the new free plan:
- Unlimited users
- 30,000 credits per month—enough for up to 6,000 build minutes, depending on your compute type
- Access to multiple execution environments, including Docker, Linux, Arm, and Windows, and larger resource classes
- 30 concurrent job runs on any of the available compute options
- 5 self-hosted runners to run jobs on your own machines
- 1 GB of network data transfer to self-hosted runners and 2 GB of data storage for saving caches and workspaces, uploading test results, and building artifacts
- Docker layer caching to speed up your Docker builds
- Flaky test detection on our Insights dashboard for up to 5 tests
- The ability to create private orbs for sharing configuration code with other members of your team
Now that I’ve briefly described the awesome products and features included in the new Free plan, let’s take a closer look at some of the features that matter most to developers and their teams.
Larger resource classes
Release cycles are growing increasingly shorter so that teams can ship changes and new features to users as quickly as possible. For developers to meet their release cycle requirements, it’s critical that they execute highly efficient CI/CD pipelines on the changes to be released. There are many ways to optimize your CI/CD pipelines, and one of the easiest and most effective is to control the pipeline’s underlying compute node capacity via a feature known as the resource class.
The resource class feature enables teams to configure and manage the capacity of compute node resources such as CPU and RAM, ensuring that the pipeline has the appropriate horsepower to successfully and expediently complete pipeline jobs. More often than not, pipeline job resource classes are configured with insufficient resource capacities, resulting in dramatically slower runs. These slower runs incrementally extend the duration of pipeline completions, which can lead to delays in the release process. The new Free plan provides access to a wider range of resources classes, enabling teams to dial in the right resources to optimize their pipeline job performance.
Beyond providing appropriate compute capacities for pipeline jobs, another feature teams can use to speed up their pipelines is concurrency, which is the ability to run multiple jobs at the same time across multiple execution environments. Under the new Free plan, you can now run up to 30 jobs concurrently, which can yield significant time savings by allowing you to avoid queuing caused by resource constraints in a given execution environment.
A great use case for concurrency within pipelines is parallel test execution. The more tests your project has, the longer it will take for them to complete on a single machine. To reduce this time, you can run tests in parallel by specifying a
parallelism level in your job configuration. Your tests will then run simultaneously across multiple separate executors, allowing you to shorten the amount of time it takes to validate and ship changes to your users. For more information on parallelism and concurrency, review the documentation.
Docker layer caching
Docker is the containerization technology available within the CircleCI platform. Docker images allow teams to spin up container environments to run jobs, and many teams build their own Docker images to have custom environments to test and deploy their applications. Docker images are built from Dockerfiles, and each command in the Dockerfile produces a layer in the image. Building Docker images can be one of the most time-consuming tasks in a CI/CD workflow.
With Docker layer caching, now available on the CircleCI Free plan, you can reduce the time spent on repeated Docker builds by saving individual layers of your Docker image on every job run. The next time you run your workflow, CircleCI will retrieve any unchanged layers from the cache rather than rebuilding the entire image from scratch. This enables teams to efficiently package their apps and build related Docker images without slowing down pipeline executions. For more information about Docker layer caching, check out the documentation.
Orbs are reusable packages of YAML that make it easier for developers to automate processes and incorporate third-party tools in their pipelines as well as share configuration across projects. While there are many useful orbs available in our public orbs registry, teams working in higly regulated industries such as healthcare, finance, or the public sector often require higher levels of security and compliance.
With private orbs, your team gets all of the collaboration and efficiency advantages of orbs along with the increased privacy and security that comes from restricting access to authenticated users within your organization. Your team can create and publish new private orbs using the CLI tool, and authenticated users can view and manage your organization’s private orbs by visiting the Orbs page in the Organization Settings tab of the CircleCI web app.
Test Insights with flaky test detection
Automatically testing changes to your code is the foundation of continuous integration and is an essential step toward minimizing risk in your software releases. But the reality is that most tests aren’t perfect. They don’t always execute as expected and can sometimes be flaky, meaning they fail nondeterministically. With the CircleCI Insights dashboard, you can monitor test performance across multiple workflows and development branches to automatically identify tests that are slow, flaky, or fail most often.
Insights gives developers valuable visibility into test execution and performance data. Improved awareness of the health and performance of your test suite can save your team time and money by eliminating hours spent chasing unidentified bugs and increasing your confidence in the quality of your code. Plus, with Insights, you can monitor other key metrics, including credit usage, success rates, and pipeline duration, so that you can get a complete overview of your workflow performance at a glance. To learn more, visit the Insights documentation.
In this post, I discussed the newly released CircleCI free plan and highlighted some of the changes that will provide the biggest improvements to the developer experience. With access to the complete feature set on CircleCI’s powerful continuous integration and delivery platform, your team can implement fast, flexible, and efficient CI/CD pipelines that will drastically shorten the time from commit to deploy.
Automating development processes with continuous delivery is no longer optional for software producers who want to be responsive to their users’ needs and stay ahead of the competition. To learn more about CircleCI’s pricing and how it compares to other plans available on the market, visit our pricing page. If your team isn’t already benefitting from the time savings and confidence boost that a robust CI/CD solution can provide, sign up for a free CircleCI account and get started today.