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Artifact repository

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Technical Head


July 18, 2023 . 4 min read

A Guide on What is Artifactory & Other Artifact Repository Managers

Artifactory is a popular repository manager for software artifacts. However, before we can understand it, let us first understand what artifact repositories are. If you are into DevOps, you must already know that successful management of repositories  is essential in software development and DevOps. 

However, having repositories dedicated to artifacts is equally crucial in simplifying the build and continuous integration (CI) processes. These artifact repositories offer a centrally located and structured method for managing, storing, and dispersing software parts and dependencies.

Before we explore any further, we must first understand what artifacts are, to comprehend their importance in the software development lifecycle. We will explore the role of artifact repository managers, which serve as specific repositories for storing and organizing these artifacts. 

Among the popular artifact repository managers, we will focus on Artifactory, developed by JFrog. Additionally, we will briefly discuss other notable artifact repository managers on the market, allowing you to consider different options per your unique needs and preferences.

We will first try to differentiate binaries and artifacts, after which we can learn what artifact repositories are and compare the various artifact repository managers available.

Difference Between Binaries and Artifacts

What are Binaries

In software development, a binary refers to the compiled form of a program or code. It represents the source code in a machine-readable format and is generated by a compiler or interpreter. 

Binaries are executed by the computer or target platform and are specific to a particular hardware architecture or operating system. They are commonly distributed as executables or libraries. 

For example, in Java development, the output of the compilation process is Java bytecode, which represents the Java source code.

What are Artifacts

On the other hand, artifacts have a broader scope in software development. They include binaries and other files or outputs generated throughout the software development lifecycle. 

Artifacts encompass binaries, documentation, configuration files, libraries, frameworks, and other files produced or required during development, testing, and deployment processes. These tangible results are stored, managed, and shared within an artifact repository to ensure consistency and reproducibility. 

Examples of artifacts include ZIP files, JAR files (Java Archive), WAR files (Web Application Archive), and tarballs (tar.gz). Binaries are a subset of artifacts, specifically referring to the compiled form of a program or code. Artifacts cover a wider range of files and outputs essential for software development, deployment, and documentation.

What is an Artifact Repository, and Why is it Used?

Artifact repositories

An artifact repository, also called an artifact manager, is used to store build artifacts generated by continuous integration and make them accessible for deployments to testing, staging, and production environments. 

Artifact repository managers provide a centralized location for storing and organizing these artifacts. They play a crucial part in streamlining and simplifying the software development process by providing a centralized, orderly, and secure method to store, manage, and distribute software artifacts.

What is Artifactory?

Artifactory, developed by JFrog, is a widely used software artifact repository manager. It is a central hub for storing, managing, and distributing software packages, artifacts, and dependencies. Artifactory supports various package formats such as Java JAR files, Docker containers, NuGet packages, npm modules, and more.

In simple terms, Artifactory is a binary repository manager. It can be likened to how GitHub or Bitbucket are used to maintain all ‘code.’ Similarly, Artifactory is used to maintain the built ‘binary and artifacts.’

Artifactory provides several key functionalities for software development and delivery pipelines:

  • Artifact Storage: Artifactory acts as a repository for storing and organizing software artifacts. It offers version control, metadata management, and access control mechanisms.
  • Dependency Management: It enables developers to efficiently manage their project dependencies by resolving and retrieving dependencies from remote repositories, caching them locally, and ensuring consistent and reproducible builds.
  • Build Management: Artifactory integrates with build tools like Apache Maven, Gradle, and Jenkins, providing features such as build promotion, build retention policies, and build information tracking.
  • Release Management: It supports the release process by providing staging and promotion capabilities, allowing for controlled and auditable software releases.
  • Security and Access Control: Artifactory offers authentication, authorization, and access control mechanisms to secure the artifacts and control user access based on roles and permissions.
  • Distribution and Replication: It enables efficient distribution of artifacts across different geographical locations and facilitates replication for load balancing and disaster recovery scenarios.

Artifactory is widely used in software development organizations to streamline the software development lifecycle, enhance collaboration among teams, and ensure the reliable and efficient management of software artifacts.

Other Artifact Repository Managers: 

Apart from Jfrog Artifactory, there are other popular artifact repository managers available. Here are a few examples:

  1. Sonatype Nexus Repository Manager: Nexus Repository Manager, developed by Sonatype, is a widely used artifact repository manager. It supports various package formats such as Maven, Docker, npm, NuGet, PyPI, and more. Nexus offers dependency management, proxying remote repositories, security, access control, and repository health check capabilities.1 
  1. Apache Archiva(Archiva – The Build Artifact Repository Manager ): Apache Archiva is an open-source artifact repository manager. It supports the Maven repository format and can act as a proxy for remote repositories, allowing users to cache and manage their dependencies. Archiva provides repository management, access control, and repository scanning capabilities.2
  1. GitLab Package Registry(Package Registry | GitLab ): GitLab Package Registry is an artifact repository manager built into the GitLab platform. It supports various package formats like Docker, Maven, npm, NuGet, and others. GitLab Package Registry offers versioning, access control, and integration with GitLab CI/CD pipelines for seamless artifact management and distribution. 3

These are just a few examples of artifact repository managers available in the market. Each of them has its unique features, strengths, and integration capabilities. The choice of an artifact repository manager depends on specific requirements, package formats used, and an organization’s overall software development and delivery pipeline.

Working with Artifcatory and other artifact repository managers on Ozone

There are two different scenarios of managing artifacts on Ozone. The first is storing images when they are built and pushed to registries through Tekton pipelines, and the second is using them to store Helm charts. Let’s have a look at each scenario:

  1. Builds are supported for any dockerized application with automated image tagging. Once the image is built (from a git repository by running pipelines or releases), When images that are built from a git repository by running pipelines/releases, users can choose to push the image to any of the cloud or on-prem registries (ACR, GCR, ECR, Jfrog, Harbor, Artifactory). In addition, images are allowed to be pushed to a registry that is owned by the microservice as a best practice to avoid clutter and “image sprawl”
  1. Ozone also supports private Helm channels like Jfrog and Harbor to not just store images, but also store Helm charts. 

Ozone helps users manage their charts across clouds and within the organization with the following features:

  1. Integrate any number of private Helm channels (Jfrog, Harbor)
  2. Upload and manage your Helm charts directly from Ozone to the channels mentioned above
  3. Form a helm microservice by mapping a chart and the environments it can be deployed to
  4. Give access to the rest of the organization to deploy the pre-configured chart as a best practice

Ozone is focused on eliminating every complexity of a DevOps team. It simplifies and automates containerized and decentralised application deployments across hybrid cloud and diverse blockchain networks. Ozone integrates seamlessly with major tools across CI, CD, analytics and automation to support your software delivery end to end for even the most complex scenarios.

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