Gradle vs Maven: Comparing DevOps Tools

Gradle and Maven are two of the best build automation tools available to developers. Learn how these tools differ to find the right DevOps tool for your projects.

Two of the most popular DevOps tools for automating and managing builds are Gradle and Maven. Both tools offer a wide range of build tools including dependency management, debugging, etc. to help users navigate the entire build process.

While Maven is an older, well-established tool, Gradle is rapidly gaining popularity among developers, especially for Android apps. Here’s what you need to know about each tool and how they compare to each other.
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What is Gradle?

Gradle is a build automation tool that supports multilingual development. It is a useful DevOps tool for those who want to build, test, and deploy software on various platforms. Gradle offers a flexible build model that can help developers throughout the development lifecycle, from compiling and packaging code to publishing the final product online. Gradle works with Java, C/C++ and Groovy. It’s also Google’s favorite tool for Android app development.

What is Maven?

Maven is an open-source build automation tool from Apache. Maven provides a uniform build system designed to make the build process easier and more efficient.
Developers can use Maven to manage dependencies, documentation, reporting, distributions, and software configuration management. Maven is designed for Java projects, but can also be used with other languages ​​such as Ruby and Scala.

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Feature Comparison: Gradle vs. Maven

Grade Maven
Dependency management
Create metrics
Personalization 🚫
Debugging tools
Incremental releases 🚫

Direct Comparison: Gradle vs. Maven

Dependency management

Dependency management in Gradle
Image: Gradle User Manual

Both Gradle and Maven have built-in tools for managing dependencies from configurable repositories. Users of either system can use them to cache dependencies locally and download them.

With Maven, users are encouraged to use a central repository of JAR files and other dependencies. Maven comes with an internal mechanism that allows your project’s clients to download all the JAR files needed to build your project from a central JAR repository. This feature is useful for users who want to reuse JAR files in multiple projects. It also encourages communication between projects to ensure backward compatibility issues are addressed. Maven also allows editors to provide metadata through optional dependencies.

Gradle provides customizable dependency selection and substitution rules that can handle unwanted dependencies in your projects. This mechanism allows developers to use Gradle to build multiple source projects together to create composite builds. Gradle also allows custom dependency scopes for more efficient builds. Gradle also supports feature variants and optional dependencies.

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Both tools offer many similar features and can often produce similar results. However, they differ a bit in terms of flexibility and customization. Gradle’s build script and dynamic build model provide more flexibility and opportunities for custom builds.

Maven provides a more rigid model which can make customization difficult. Maven’s stricter project structure and reliance on predefined goals can make builds easier to understand, but limits your ability to define custom goals or conventions. This makes the tool relatively user-friendly and ideal for simpler projects, but somewhat limiting for developers who want to further customize their projects.

Debugging tools

Gradle provides a debugging tool called Build Scan. Build Scan is an interactive web-based user interface for debugging and optimizing builds. It allows users to collect build history, perform trend analysis, compare builds for debugging, and optimize build times.

Maven can be run in debug mode to identify the cause of errors you encounter while working in Maven. Maven also offers the Surefire plugin which can be used to debug projects and Eclipse to debug tests run with Maven.

Choosing Gradle vs. Maven

Both Gradle and Maven are great open source build automation tools with powerful features. Between the two, Gradle tends to have the highest learning curve, but both are relatively user-friendly.

There are, however, a few areas where Gradle vastly outperforms Maven, including:

  • Custom builds
  • Advanced dependency management
  • Incremental releases
  • Metadata Resolution

Not all projects will need these features, but they give developers more options. Gradle is also generally faster for building.

Ultimately, either option may work for most projects, although Maven is generally better suited to smaller projects, while Gradle may be a better choice for more complex projects where advanced functionality will be more used. If you want to build incremental or highly customized builds, Gradle is the better option between the two.

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Steven L. Nielsen