October 14th, 2021

Coder: The self-hosted GitHub Codespaces alternative

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Erik Bledsoe
Technical Writer
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Ashley McClelland
Head of Marketing


Codespaces and Coder both provide developers with reproducible, powerful, cloud-based developer environments or workspaces, but they differ dramatically in their approach to providing those environments and what tooling is available to the developer.

Here's how to choose the best fit for your development team.


Today most developers have their IDEs on their local machines. There is a growing interest in moving development workspaces and IDEs to the cloud, which solves some key problems for organizations while also offering advantages for the developer:

  • start coding on day one — developers often spend hours or days setting up a development environment on a local machine before they can make their first commit. With cloud-based workspaces, fully configured workspaces are available for developers to start contributing immediately.

  • secure source code — individual devices remain the least secure endpoint in the software development pipeline. With local development, source code and data are cloned to individual workstations, creating security risks. With cloud-based workspaces, source code and data remain within the organization’s infrastructure.

  • less drift — dependency and configuration drift in the development environment results in broken environments and builds, i.e., the classic “it works on my machine” problem. Reproducible, cloud-based developer workspaces ensure that everyone is working with the same basic configuration.

  • greater compute power — cloud development eliminates the need to focus on local hardware. Need more processing power? Add more cores to your instance—or a GPU.

  • remote access — because development environments are in the cloud, developers can access them securely from wherever they are.

Codespaces: Easy to use, but limited in control

GitHub Codespaces is tightly integrated with the GitHub interface. That integration makes it incredibly simple to use, but also limits your options. Launching a Codespace is as easy as visiting a repository in your browser and clicking a button or pressing the period on your keyboard.

However, Codespaces can’t be used with any other repository other than GitHub. Since GitHub is owned by Microsoft, VS Code is currently the only supported IDE. Codespaces is also not available as a self-hosted offering,

If you and your team only use VS Code, and you only use GitHub, then GitHub Codespaces is probably your best solution.

Coder: Your infrastructure, your tools, your controls

If, however, your development team requires (or even just prefers) IDEs in addition to VS Code, or you have a multi-cloud strategy, or you require an air-gapped development platform, then you should consider Coder.

Coder’s goal is to remove the obstacles that prevent developers from doing what they do best, writing code; our goal is not to lock you into a larger ecosystem. At Coder, we assume that you and your team know what editors work best for you, what cloud providers you want to use, what workflows are best for your team.

That’s why Coder takes an agnostic approach to the tools and platforms you use. Coder’s approach also gives you greater control over data and source code since it never needs to leave your infrastructure (depending upon your configurations), which is why it is used by some of the most security-conscious organizations and companies in the world.

Coder GitHub Codespaces
Support for VS Code
Support for JetBrains IDEs (IntelliJ, PyCharm, etc), RStudio, & Jupyter
Support for bringing any application or IDE
Use GitHub as your VCS
Use other VCS (GitLab, Bitbucket)
SaaS Trial only
Install on your own infrastructure, including on-premises
Air-gapped deployments possible
GPU support
Expose ports for web services public, private, authorized, organization public or private, only


Codespaces billing is based on an hourly rate for actively running Codespaces with rates increased based upon the number of cores available to the Codespace. The hourly rate ranges from $0.18/hour for two cores up to $2.88/hour for a thirty-two-core Codespace. In addition, there is a $0.07/GB/month charge for storage. A developer using a 4 core Codespace for eight hours a day would cost $60.48 (not including storage) for a month assuming twenty-one working days.

Coder charges $35/month/user. Of course, because it is running on your own infrastructure you have to include that in your total cost of ownership (TCO) calculation, but you retain complete control of that. This means organizations can take advantage of any current cloud provider discounts and keep the bill for all cloud usage in a single place. Additionally, Coder helps control cloud costs by allowing admins to automatically shut down inactive workspaces and limiting the number of resources that can be used by an individual workspace.

Customer Spotlight: Kazoo

When Kazoo needed a solution to reduce developer onboarding times that would work with their existing GCP-based infrastructure, Coder was the answer.

Try Coder

If you would like to learn more about how Coder provides an alternative to GitHub Codespaces, request a demo or sign up for a free trial.

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