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CircleCI brings CI/CD to Arm running on Graviton2 chips

AWS has added support for Arm-based processors to its popular CI/CD platform. It now runs on AWS' Arm-based Graviton2 processors to give developers more choices.

CircleCI has released a preview of its CI/CD platform that runs on the Arm microprocessor architecture.

More and more enterprise development teams are turning to Arm for power, performance and cost efficiency, said Tom Trahan, vice president of business development at CircleCI.

The company is one of the few to offer cloud-based CI/CD services for the Arm architecture, and that's because of CircleCI's partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS), he added. The AWS partnership enables customers of both CircleCI and AWS to build and test applications compiled for Arm without managing their own systems.

CircleCI has made its cloud-hosted CI/CD platform available for developers to build, test and deploy applications on AWS Graviton2-based systems. The Graviton2 chips are the brainchild of Annapurna Labs, an Israel-based company that AWS acquired in 2015. The Graviton2 processors are custom built using 64-bit Neoverse cores.

"I think Arm is certainly important, given the large set of Arm-based devices that you can run Windows on," said Thomas Murphy, an analyst at Gartner. "Arm-based devices will be a lot of the edge devices. What I think is key here is this is a cloud service, so you can build and test on Arm without having your own devices. It builds upon AWS-provided services on Graviton2. So this is also a big bet by Amazon."

Arm processors and architectures are becoming widely available as development teams adopt them as compute nodes in many application infrastructures.
Angel RiveraDeveloper advocate, CircleCI

Larger addressable market

CircleCI is betting that Arm support will increase the company's total addressable market.

"We are trying to provide development teams with the right software, the right tooling and the right infrastructure for particular workloads," Trahan said.

With CircleCI on Arm, developers can customize apps as the company enables development teams to make those choices at the developer level.

"Arm processors and architectures are becoming widely available as development teams adopt them as compute nodes in many application infrastructures," said Angel Rivera, a developer advocate at CircleCI, in a blog post. "Organizations that need to run microservices, application servers, databases and other workloads in a cost-effective way will continue to turn to the Arm architecture."

Giving developers options

Broader market moves could draw more attention to Arm, said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst at RedMonk in Portland, Maine.

"Apple's shift to Arm for its chipset may result in more developer interest in Arm longer term," O'Grady said. "AWS' Graviton2 offering is actually doing that right now. Enterprises are increasingly [taking advantage of] platforms that are Arm-friendly along with Intel, so CircleCI is responding to customer demand here."

Stephen O'Grady, analyst, RedMonkStephen O'Grady

There are good reasons to embrace Arm, said Chris Condo, an analyst at Forrester Research.

"I feel like Arm is becoming a new cost-savings standard, so it's not a surprise to me," Condo said. "I think the bigger story is whether or not Arm replaces x86 altogether in the cloud."

CircleCI is prepared either way. In fact, the company expects that most enterprises will take a polyglot approach to deploying systems of various architectures, company officials said.

Chris Condo, analyst, ForresterChris Condo

"Up until now, CircleCI has supported Linux jobs running on traditional Intel architecture, and we run GPU-based machines that are essentially high-performance compute machines," Trahan said. "We provide [server] fleets for Windows builds, we do fleets for macOS builds and so developers that are working in any of these technologies have these options available as part of the CircleCI platform. Arm developers now have available to them a fully managed CI/CD infrastructure where they do not have to manage any of that infrastructure themselves."

Build fleets are the types of compute available in the cloud that users can assign jobs to, such as Arm, macOS, Linux and Windows. This means instances are up and running, so users don't have to wait for the instances to spin up.

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