Setup a Runner VM for Gitlab

Posted by Ryan Himmelwright on Wed, Sep 4, 2019
Tags linux, homelab, git, kvm, dev, devops, fedora
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I play around with CI/CD pipelines quite a bit, both at home and at work. I have mostly used Jenkins, but I wanted to see how Gitlab’s CI/CD tooling has progressed over the last year. So, I decided to try to use Gitlab to manage the automated build and deployments of a personal project I’ve been working on. The first step of the process was to setup a runner my Gitlab instance could use for the builds.

Setup a Machine/VM

Installing a new Fedora30 VM in Virt-Manager
Installing a new Fedora 30 VM in Virt-Manager for my runner

This will be a BYOG post (bring your own Gitlab). I already “had one laying around”, so I won’t cover setting that up.

Your runner needs may differ, but in this post I am installing runner on a Fedora 30 VM. I will also be using both buildah and podman for this project.

Some things to note/consider during VM setup:

  • Install packages required for pipeline tasks (ex: podman and buildah)
  • If sudo is required, manage the gitlab-runner user/group using visudo
  • If using docker runners, docker-machine needs to be installed

Install runner

First, install the gitlab-runner package. This can be done using the instructions found here. However, I encountered issues installing it on my Fedora VMs, as this install method isn’t supported for 30 yet. (Check out this issue for more info).

Add GitLab’s Repo

curl -L | sudo bash

Install gitlab runner

sudo dnf install gitlab-runner

(Alternative) Copr install

For now, I have been using the copr install posted in the comments of that issue (linked above). I recommend checking if the issue is resolved first, as it might change from the time of writing this post. To install:

First enable the copr repo:

sudo dnf copr enable snecker/gitlab-runner -y

Next, install:

sudo dnf install gitlab-runner -y

Register the Runner

Once installed, register the runner. Instructions on how to register a runner can be found here.

sudo gitlab-runner register

Enter the coordinator URL (ex:

Next, a gitlab-ci token must be shared with the runner.

Gitlab Runner Settings
Gitlab Runner**s** Settings Page

To obtain a gitlab-ci token, got to Admin Area -> Overview -> Runners. On the right, there should be a token to use during setup.

When the runner registrations asks for the token, use the “registration token” listed in the “Set up a shared Runner manually” section.

Next, provide a short description, and add a tag or two (when prompted).

Lastly, enter the executor (the system on the runner that executes commands). For now, I’ve been using "shell" for my needs, as these VMs are fully dedicated to be used as the runners for a single project.

Congrats, the runner should be registered! Now to set it up…

It is time to link up the runner to a CI/CD job. This can be done with tagging, but I currently just have one pipeline using my runners, so haven’t used the tags as much. Edit the runner by clicking its edit icon.

Gitlab Runner Settings
Gitlab Runner Edit Page

In the runner edit menu, ensure that the “Active” checkbox is checked. I’ve also checked the “Run untagged jobs” box for this runner, which will allow it to pick up any job that does not have a tag. If the runner is to be assigned to a specific project, that can be enabled/assigned below in the “Restrict projects for this Runner” section.

Test Run

To test out the runner, start a new build in a project! (Note, if there are several runners already setup, 1. why are you reading this, and 2. it might be a good idea to pause the others to ensure the new one will run with the test).

I won’t detail how to write a gitlab-ci.yml now, but for my test I made an empty demo repo with the following pipeline:

  - whoami
  - pwd
  - sudo dnf update -y

  stage: build
    - echo "Hello world!"

After committing it, a build kicked off with the new runner and finished successfully!

Notice that the job indeed ran on post-runner, the runner I setup specifically for this post

Gitlab Runner Settings
Gitlab Demo Job Run Results

If the job is more complicated, more runs might have to be manually started after tweaking the runner settings again. Pipelines can be started by going to the project’s CI/CD->Pipelines page via the side menu, and hitting the Run Pipeline button.


That’s it. We should now have a connected runner! So far, the runners have been working (mostly) fine. When they do break, it is usually because I’ve let the disk fill up or allowed some other system-related negligence to build up ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I might add some ‘runner maintenance’ steps to my pipeline… but some other time. Enjoy!

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