Azure DevOps vs. GitHub Enterprise

Azure DevOps and GitHub Enterprise are two of the most robust and popular solutions in the world of developer services. 

Formerly Team Foundation Server and Visual Studio Team System, Azure DevOps was initially released by Microsoft back in 2005. Microsoft acquired GitHub in 2018, bringing both of these solutions under the same parent company. 

While Azure DevOps and GitHub Enterprise have many parallels, the two aren’t really interchangeable. Each one is best suited for unique use cases and development needs. 

If you’re torn between the two, you’ve come to the right place. This in-depth guide gives you a side-by-side comparison of Azure DevOps and GitHub Enterprise so you can determine which one is right for you.

Our Recommendation = Get GitHub Enterprise

GitHub Enterprise is trusted by over 73 million developers across the globe. It’s by far the most popular way for developers and businesses to build, ship, and manage software.

What makes GitHub Enterprise stand out compared to Azure DevOps is its flexibility. GitHub is the preferred solution for any open-source project. But developers still have the ability to switch back and forth between public and private development. 

Due to GitHub’s popularity and flexibility, it tends to be a favorite amongst the development community. So there’s a good chance that your development team already has experience using GitHub, whereas Azure DevOps might have more of a learning curve. 

For collaborative development sharing capabilities, GitHub Enterprise is second to none. Developers can use this solution to fork projects, experiment, share ideas, and ultimately work publicly on projects together. 

GitHub’s development community provides developers with quick access to a seemingly unlimited amount of resources. 

Other top highlights and benefits of GitHub Enterprise include:

  • Ability to automate steps of the delivery pipeline
  • Continuous integrations
  • Easy to scale policies organization-wide
  • 24/7 support
  • Compatible with your favorite IDEs and cloud platforms

For the vast majority of development needs, GitHub Enterprise is the easy choice.

When to Get Azure DevOps Instead

Azure DevOps has some overlap in terms of the features and capabilities provided by GitHub. 

Even before Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub, Azure DevOps was making strides towards open-source development. But with that said, DevOps is definitely much better suited for closed source projects. 

Azure DevOps is a suitable alternative to GitHub Enterprise for closed development environments, enterprise use cases, and cloud enablement projects.

While you can definitely host public projects using Azure DevOps, that’s just simply not what this solution is known for. Instead, enterprise-level organizations can benefit the most by using DevOps as their preferred development product suite.

Another standout of Azure DevOps is its customization options. You can add on one or more of the following standalone Azure services depending on your needs:

  • Azure Boards — Use agile tools for project planning, tracking, and collaboration.
  • Azure Pipelines — Build, test, and deploy using CI/CD.
  • Azure Repos — Unlimited private Git repos in the cloud for pull requests and advanced file management.
  • Azure Artifacts — Ability to create, host, and share packages with CI/CD pipelines.
  • Azure Test Plans — Ability to test and ship with exploration and manual testing tools.

Azure DevOps is also an excellent solution if you’re already using or planning to use Microsoft Visual Studio as your IDE—integrated development environment.  

Pricing – Is Azure DevOps or GitHub Enterprise the Better Deal?

In terms of value, both Azure DevOps and GitHub Enterprise are fairly similar. But GitHub Enterprise has the edge for billing simplicity. The GitHub Enterprise package starts at $21 per user per month. You’ll get two months free if you sign up for annual billing. 

This package comes with all GitHub features without the need for any extras or add-ons. 

Azure DevOps gives you a bit more control over your costs based on your needs. User licenses for the Basic Plan start at $6 per user per month, with the first five users free. The Basic + Test Plans jumps to $52 per user per month, but it comes with significantly more features.

It’s worth noting that Azure DevOps is included with Visual Studio subscriptions—making it a great deal for any organization that’s already using Visual Studio as an IDE. 

Visual Studio gets billed at $45 per user per month for the Professional plan and $250 per user per month for the Enterprise package. 

You can also purchase individual services like Azure Pipelines and Azure Artifacts separately. Pipelines starts at $40 per extra Microsoft-hosted parallel job and $15 per extra self-hosted job. Artifacts starts at $2 per GiB per month. 

GitHub Enterprise is definitely better for simplicity and straightforward billing. But Azure DevOps gives you a bit more control over your services and pricing based on needs.

Azure DevOps and GitHub Enterprise both offer 30-day free trials.

Ease of Use

Winner = GitHub Enterprise

With any development solution, some technical expertise and knowledge are obviously required. So both tools would pose similar challenges for complete beginners. But this will ultimately depend on the type of development and project that’s being run.

GitHub Enterprise has the edge here simply because it’s used by so many different companies, organizations, and developers. There’s a good chance that any developer on your team already has some experience using GitHub, so they’ll feel at home when you deploy it.

The Git experience and background will make it easy for those developers to quickly get up to speed using GitHub enterprise. 

Even for beginners or less experienced developers, the GitHub Learning Lab has a wide range of courses, tutorials, and tools for self-help and tool sharpening.

On the flip side, Microsoft Docs is known for providing extensive learning materials for Microsoft products. Unfortunately, its tutorials geared toward Azure DevOps are a bit thin compared to other solutions.

It’s definitely worth noting that Azure DevOps has a well-designed user interface. It’s modern, intuitive, and just really clean—especially for Microsoft-centric developers and users with Visual Studio experience.

That said, Azure DevOps has so many different tools and widgets. It can be somewhat overwhelming and a challenge to learn. In terms of repository management, GitHub Enterprise has an edge here as well. 

Security

Winner = GitHub Enterprise

GitHub Enterprise is highly secure. Even for open source components, the solution keeps everything secure and compliant throughout the development supply chain. GitHub also makes it easy for you to quickly find and fix security vulnerabilities within your workflows. 

You can even create new security policies and enforce them across your team in terms of access and coding. 

GitHub Enterprise provides actional security reviews built into the developer workflow. It scans the code as it gets created and displays actionable security feedback with every new push. 

Developers will also see security issues in their pull requests while they’re reviewing code. This helps prevent new vulnerabilities from making it into the main repository. GitHub will help you identify potential vulnerabilities that you need to prioritize based on your exposure. 

GitHub also has an active security community that’s constantly contributing to the solution to ensure everything is secure for new vulnerabilities. Developers can quickly report any security issues, share knowledge, and contribute to open source-code scanning. 

Azure DevOps isn’t necessarily unsecure. But compared side-by-side with GitHub Enterprise, it just doesn’t meet the same standards. 

Integrations and Extensibility

Winner = Draw

GitHub wouldn’t be the world’s most popular development solution if it didn’t play nice with other third-party tools. Developers can quickly integrate GitHub Enterprise with their favorite tools from the GitHub Marketplace

You can browse through thousands of extensions in categories like IDEs, testing, project management, localization, deployment, monitoring, utilities, and more. This makes it easy for any organization or developer to expand GitHub Enterprise beyond its core features and functionalities, making it highly customizable for any workflow. 

Azure DevOps also has a marketplace with a wide variety of integrations. In fact, Azure DevOps even integrates with GitHub. 

DevOps has more than 1,000+ popular extensions, including Slack, Timetracker, Sentry, Code Search, and so much more. If you can’t find an extension that accommodates your needs, you can always create one on your own. In addition to the marketplace extensions, DevOps can connect with desktop client tools, office integration tools, command-line tools, web-based tools, and more. 

Whether you decide on Azure DevOps or GitHub Enterprise, there’s no shortage of integrations to choose from. Neither solution has the edge in this category. 

API 

Winner = Draw

Beyond the third-party integrations from the marketplaces, both Azure DevOps and GitHub Enterprise offer additional ways to extend the platforms using APIs.

The GitHub REST API is well-known for its ability to interact with additional platform resources and manipulate them based on use-case-specific needs. GitHub’s API access goes through HTTPS, with all data getting sent and received using JSON format.

The REST API from Azure DevOps is based on JSON, OAuth, and service hooks. This allows for enabling remote access, Git actions, dashboard actions, widget actions, build functions, and so much more. Azure DevOps offers client libraries for APIs in C#, .NET, Node.js, Python, Swagger 2.0, and more. 

GitHub also uses GraphQL as a way to improve the efficiency and flexibility of requests for returning only the data needed by the developers, without the extra overhead associated with a traditional REST API. 

Interfacing with your own API is crucial for automating workflows, and both of these platforms get the job done. 

Project Management

Winner = Azure DevOps

While GitHub Enterprise is great for team collaboration and sharing, Azure DevOps has better project management tools. 

You can use Azure Boards for agile project planning, Kanban boards, backlog management, and everything else you need to keep your team on the same page. 

You can use it for scrum boards, spring planning, standups, and other common use-cases in the development world for project management. 

Azure DevOps even offers insights into the health of your project using dashboard widgets and analytics to see if everything is going according to plan. Project managers can use this information to make adjustments in real-time throughout the project. 

Azure Boards even has an integration available on the GitHub marketplace. But obviously, it makes more sense to use this tool directly within Azure DevOps. 

Release Rate and Feature Updates

Winner = GitHub Enterprise

New releases are crucial for development solutions. This ensures that the products are constantly updated for bug fixes, security vulnerabilities, and other improvements. 

If you look at the feature timeline for Azure DevOps, you’ll see that the product does go through regular updates. There were 15 releases in 2021, 17 releases in 2020, and 18 in 2019. There have also been four releases through Q1 of 2022. 

But when you look at the GitHub Enterprise releases, there’s really no comparison when you’re comparing these tools side-by-side. GitHub Enterprise had 27 releases in Q4 2021 alone. Historically, there have been multiple updates per month to GitHub Enterprise since its initial release back in 2011. 

While this isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker when you’re considering using one tool over the other, it’s definitely worth taking into consideration. 

It’s also worth noting that the Azure DevOps releases usually make it onto the product’s on-premises version, Azure DevOps Server, before getting released to Azure DevOps Cloud. 

Support

Winner = GitHub Enterprise

GitHub’s community is really unmatched in the development world. Trusted by 73+ million developers across the globe, this solution is designed to be community-based and highly social. 

There are countless online documents and resources available for GitHub Enterprise. If you run into a problem or need some help figuring out how to do something, it’s really easy to get an answer from the development community. 

Every GitHub Enterprise plan comes with built-in support. But for organizations that need a bit more attention, Premium Support plans are available. This includes 24/7 support hours and a 30-minute initial response time to urgent matters. 

Premium plans go beyond web-only support with callbacks and screen sharing for critical issues. 

Azure DevOps users can access a virtual assistant for technical support. Similar to GitHub Enterprise, support upgrades for DevOps are available at an extra cost. 

But what gives GitHub Enterprise the edge in this category is its access to the development community. Microsoft’s community for Azure DevOps just isn’t on the same level. 

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Bryan Wise
Bryan Wise,
CIO of GitLab

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