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Exploring code-server and Coder: Unleashing the Power of Web-Based Development Environments

author avatar
Marco Martinez
 on September 5th, 2023
Updated on April 30th, 2024
5 min read

Choosing a cloud-based development environment shouldn’t be hard. That's why we've put together a streamlined overview of our two popular options: code-server and Coder. Both are web-based, secure and offer impressive features. Let's begin by exploring code-server, the project that paved the way for web-based coding environments.

code-server (The one that started it all)

code-server is an open-source project that transforms Visual Studio Code (VS Code) into a server, enabling it to run on any machine. As a result, developers can access VS Code from any device with an internet connection, opening up new possibilities for remote development.

code-server stands out for its compatibility with most VS Code extensions, thanks in part to its use of Open VSX, an open-source alternative to the Visual Studio Marketplace. This feature allows developers to tailor their coding environment to their specific needs, even when working remotely. code-server customers can optionally host their own VS Code extension marketplace if they’re deploying Coder in a place without public network access e.g. corporate VPN. Details can be found here.

One of code-server's significant advantages is maintaining a consistent development environment across diverse devices, reducing issues with code behaving differently on various machines. A user can connect from any device, as the IDE (Integrated development environment) runs on a remote server. Yet, each code-server represents only one environment.

If a user needs to manage multiple environments or accommodate multiple users, they have two options, A) Launch multiple instances of code-server, potentially leading to inconsistency or configuration drift or B) Deploy Coder, a streamlined solution for maintaining uniformity and control. We will go more into Coder in a few moments.

Highlights of code-server

  • Code on any device with a consistent development environment
  • Use cloud servers to speed up tests, compilations, downloads, and more
  • Preserve battery life when you're on the go; all intensive tasks run on your server
  • VS Code features are supported but not all extensions

Note: For requirements to run code-server, please read our docs here. Code-server is a component of Coder. Think of code-server as a container and Coder as Kubernetes. More details about Coder will be provided below.

Coder (The one built for teams & enterprises)

Coder is an open-source platform that enables the creation and management of developer workspaces on preferred clouds and servers. By leveraging common development interfaces (SSH) and infrastructure tools (Terraform), Coder simplifies the process of provisioning and accessing remote workspaces for organizations of varying sizes and stages of cloud-native maturity.

Terraform is used to represent Coder workspaces, though no prior Terraform knowledge is necessary to use the platform. Coder provides a database of pre-made templates to facilitate workspace creation. A key benefit of using Terraform means that a workspace could be a VM or a container and run on any cloud or on-prem.

With Coder, workspaces are not limited to computing resources; users can add storage buckets, secrets, sidecars, and more using Terraform. Coder is free to use, but some features require a paid license. A trial can be requested at https://coder.com/trial.

Highlights of Coder

  • On-Demand Development Environments: Coder provides remote development environments that are suitable for data and AI operations, allowing data engineers and scientists to access their favorite IDEs and robust server compute with ease.
  • Enhanced IDE Support: While code-server offers a robust option for development, it's not the only choice with Coder. Developers have the flexibility to use familiar desktop IDEs from their local environments, like VS Code and JetBrains Gateway. Web IDEs such as Jupyter and RStudio are also available. Interestingly, some workspaces, particularly those focusing on data science, may choose to forego VS Code entirely, showcasing the adaptability of these platforms
  • Dedicated and Secure Workspace: Coder's isolated workspaces can come with dedicated Python kernels and server-tiered resources, providing governance and control within a secure cloud infrastructure. Kubernetes and AWS security groups can be leveraged for workspace isolation.
  • Cost-Effective and Efficient Computing: Coder ensures efficient cloud adoption by supporting all cloud machine types, automatically managing resource consumption, and eliminating financial barriers to cloud adoption.
  • Improved Developer Experience: Users are not limited to web browsers. With Coder, users can utilize desktop IDEs, complete with their preferred configurations and shortcuts. Plus, the option to employ parameters and dotfiles for customization allows you to tailor your workspaces exactly to your needs, creating a truly personalized development environment

A brief demonstration of Coder just for You!

Comparison table overview of code-server and Coder

To make it easier to understand, here's a side-by-side comparison that highlights the differences between code-server and Coder.

Which one is right for you?

Both code-server and Coder are free and secure options to consider. If you are an individual starting out in remote development and need access to your desktop or remote server from a cafe, park, or anywhere with internet, use code-server. On the other hand, if you're looking for enhanced IDE support, on-demand development environments, a dedicated and secure workspace, cost-effective and efficient computing, and an improved developer experience, then Coder may be the right choice for you. Either way it’s a win win for your remote development future!

Start a 30-day trial of Coder Enterprise

If you would like to try our premium version of Coder, which includes all of the collaboration, security, governance, and management features, please visit https://coder.com/trial to sign up.

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