Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Container IDE with cloud connection

Something for Everyone

Article from ADMIN 54/2019
Gitpod relies on technologies such as Docker and Eclipse Theia to serve up individual development environments for GitHub projects.

Classic IDEs usually come with an editor, a compiler, and a debugger. Gitpod Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), on the other hand, provides an integrated development environment with an editor plus a run-time environment as needed, which you call in the browser without having to worry about the technical underpinnings.

The Rub

Everyone will be familiar with this scenario: A project you recently discovered and find pretty exciting provides detailed documentation; however, for the build process, you need the A, B, and C libraries and some additional tools – all of this, of course, in versions that your distribution choice does not provide. Developers either have to grin and bear the installation overhead, or they can resort to a virtual machine or Docker image.

Although this solution might work well for individual developers, this is not the case in teams. Companies usually roll out development environments centrally to ensure uniformity. Local installations on developer PCs sooner or later diverge, and setting up central test servers to recapture the differences between development environments comes with its own set of problems. For example, sys admins prefer to manage production systems rather than test systems. Shared use also requires caution on the part of the developer. Otherwise, one developer could destroy another's carefully constructed test record in the shared database.

Docker instances are a potential solution. Docker starts and configures its images reproducibly according to configuration files. If these are also in the project's version control system, theoretically all developers should get their own image, but with identical software stacks. However, managing Docker is not a developer's core business. If the development environment removes the need for this work, it leaves more time for more important things. This is where Gitpod [1] comes in.

One Pod, One Word

The technology behind Gitpod picks up on relatively new developments from the open source scene. Besides Docker, it uses the Eclipse Theia [2] editor. The special bonus the Gitpod makers add is that the whole enchilada is bundled into an easy-to-use package.


You can log in online [1] with your GitHub ID; after all, Gitpod does not want to reinvent the wheel. GitHub [3] is required as the version control system, and GitLab support [4] is a work in progress.

The company behind Gitpod offers three price models: Open Source, Personal, and Unlimited. The first variant costs nothing; however, it can only be used in combination with public repositories. Moreover, Gitpod limits the up time of the Docker containers to 100 hours per month.

The Personal variant allows private repositories, as well, but only for non-commercial purposes. The time limit remains in place; costs are $9/month per person. Even the Unlimited plan without restrictions is not really expensive at $39/month per person. Students can even get this for $9.

All told, these conditions are fair, because the first two stages let you work with Gitpod for three hours a day. It remains to be seen whether or not this price model will work for the vendor.

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