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Apache Maven vs Bazel: What are the differences?


In the world of software development, build systems play a crucial role in automating the process of compiling and packaging code. Two popular build systems widely used are Apache Maven and Bazel. Although both serve the purpose of building software, there are several key differences between them.

1. Language Support: Apache Maven primarily focuses on Java projects, making it an ideal choice for Java developers. It provides a standardized way of managing dependencies and building Java applications. On the other hand, Bazel supports a wide range of programming languages including Java, C++, Objective-C, and Python. It provides a flexible and efficient build system for multi-language projects.

2. Build Speed: Maven's build process is known to be slower compared to Bazel. Maven follows a sequential build approach, where each module is built one after another. This can result in longer build times for larger projects. Bazel, on the other hand, uses a parallel and incremental build strategy. It intelligently analyzes the dependency graph and only builds the necessary targets, resulting in faster build times.

3. Scalability: While Maven works well for small to medium-sized projects, it may face challenges when dealing with large-scale projects or monorepos. Maven's centralized model doesn't scale well when there are numerous interdependent modules, leading to increased build times and complexity. Bazel, with its distributed caching and parallel build capabilities, handles large-scale projects more efficiently and enables better scalability.

4. Reproducible Builds: Bazel focuses heavily on reproducibility and hermetic builds. It guarantees that the build will be the same across different machines, ensuring consistent results. This is crucial for projects requiring high reliability and consistency. Maven, although it provides dependency management through its central repository, does not enforce hermetic builds by default, potentially leading to inconsistencies across different builds.

5. Incremental Builds: Bazel has built-in support for incremental builds, meaning it only rebuilds the necessary parts of the codebase when changes occur. This minimizes the overall build time, especially during iterative development and continuous integration workflows. Maven, while it can skip previously built modules, lacks the fine-grained incremental build capabilities of Bazel.

6. Ease of Configuration: Maven relies on XML configuration files for its build configuration, which can be verbose and complex for beginners. The XML-based syntax and the mandatory usage of plugins may create a steep learning curve for developers new to Maven. Bazel, on the other hand, uses a human-readable language called Starlark for build configurations, which offers more flexibility and simplicity.

In summary, Apache Maven and Bazel differ in terms of language support, build speed, scalability, reproducibility, incremental builds, and ease of configuration. These differences make each build system suitable for specific use cases, depending on the requirements of the project.

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Pros of Bazel
Pros of Apache Maven
  • 28
  • 20
    Deterministic incremental builds
  • 17
  • 16
  • 14
    Enforces declared inputs/outputs
  • 10
    High-level build language
  • 9
  • 5
    Multi-platform support
  • 5
  • 4
    Dependency management
  • 2
    Windows Support
  • 2
  • 1
    Android Studio integration
  • 138
    Dependency management
  • 70
    Necessary evil
  • 60
    I’d rather code my app, not my build
  • 48
    Publishing packaged artifacts
  • 43
    Convention over configuration
  • 18
  • 11
    Consistency across builds
  • 6
    Prevents overengineering using scripting
  • 4
    Runs Tests
  • 4
    Lot of cool plugins
  • 3
  • 2
    Hard to customize
  • 2
    Runs on Linux
  • 1
    Runs on OS X
  • 1
    Slow incremental build
  • 1
    Inconsistent buillds
  • 1
  • 1
    Good IDE tooling

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Cons of Bazel
Cons of Apache Maven
  • 3
    No Windows Support
  • 2
    Bad IntelliJ support
  • 1
    Poor windows support for some languages
  • 1
    Constant breaking changes
  • 1
    Learning Curve
  • 1
    Lack of Documentation
  • 6
  • 1
    Inconsistent buillds
  • 0
    Not many plugin-alternatives

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What is Bazel?

Bazel is a build tool that builds code quickly and reliably. It is used to build the majority of Google's software, and thus it has been designed to handle build problems present in Google's development environment.

What is Apache Maven?

Maven allows a project to build using its project object model (POM) and a set of plugins that are shared by all projects using Maven, providing a uniform build system. Once you familiarize yourself with how one Maven project builds you automatically know how all Maven projects build saving you immense amounts of time when trying to navigate many projects.

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What companies use Bazel?
What companies use Apache Maven?
See which teams inside your own company are using Bazel or Apache Maven.
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Blog Posts

Mar 24 2021 at 12:57PM


What are some alternatives to Bazel and Apache Maven?
Pants is a build system for Java, Scala and Python. It works particularly well for a source code repository that contains many distinct projects.
A bundler for javascript and friends. Packs many modules into a few bundled assets. Code Splitting allows to load parts for the application on demand. Through "loaders" modules can be CommonJs, AMD, ES6 modules, CSS, Images, JSON, Coffeescript, LESS, ... and your custom stuff.
Ansible is an IT automation tool. It can configure systems, deploy software, and orchestrate more advanced IT tasks such as continuous deployments or zero downtime rolling updates. Ansible’s goals are foremost those of simplicity and maximum ease of use.
Buck encourages the creation of small, reusable modules consisting of code and resources, and supports a variety of languages on many platforms.
It is used to control the software compilation process using simple platform and compiler independent configuration files, and generate native makefiles and workspaces that can be used in the compiler environment of the user's choice.
See all alternatives