How to Set Up and Maintain a GitLab Runner: The Complete Guide


Every GitLab server needs a set of GitLab Runners. They are in charge of carrying out the tasks listed in the CI/CD pipelines. However, setting up and maintaining a GitLab Runner can be a daunting task, particularly for organizations that do not have the required expertise or resources. In this article, we will discuss the basics of setting up and maintaining a GitLab Runner, including the various hosting options, the minimum configuration requirements, and how to guarantee optimal performance. We will also go over the drawbacks of self-hosting GitLab Runners as well as the benefits of using a managed service like Cloud-Runner to streamline the procedure and guarantee top-notch service.

1. GitLab runners' hosting options

There are several options available for hosting a GitLab Runner. Each choice has benefits and drawbacks of its own. Let's examine each one in more detail:

  1. Server Hardware: One option is to host the GitLab Runner on a physical server. With this choice, the server hardware can be completely customized to meet the needs of particular workloads. Additionally, compared to other hosting options, server hardware may be more dependable and stable. Check out our article on the topic if you're interested in learning more about the advantages of hosting GitLab Runners on physical servers.
  2. Virtual Machines (VMs): Another option is to use virtual machines to host GitLab Runners. The ability to spin up and down virtual machines adds freedom while still offering some of the advantages of physical servers.
  3. Providers of clouds: GitLab Runners can be hosted on many cloud platforms, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). This option offers a high degree of flexibility and scalability, allowing you to add or remove resources quickly as needed, but it may also be more expensive depending on usage.

It's critical to assess your needs and select the hosting option that is best for you because each hosting option has a distinct set of factors to take into account. It's time to proceed to the following step, which is creating a GitLab Runner, after deciding on your hosting strategy.

2. Setting up a GitLab Runner

Once you have decided on the type of machine that you want to use as a GitLab Runner, you can proceed with setting it up. The following steps outline the basic process for setting up a GitLab Runner on a Linux machine:

Install the GitLab Runner package

For Debian-based systems: sudo apt-get install gitlab-runner

For Red Hat-based systems: sudo yum install gitlab-runner

For other systems, check the GitLab Runner documentation for installation instructions.

Register the Runner with your GitLab instance

Run sudo gitlab-runner register to start the registration process

Enter the GitLab instance URL and the registration token when prompted

Select the Runner executor (e.g. Docker, Kubernetes, Shell) that you want to use for executing jobs

Configure any additional options for the Runner, such as tags, name, and description

Once registration is complete, start the Runner with sudo gitlab-runner start

Configure the Runner

Depending on the executor that you have selected, you may need to configure additional settings such as the Docker image to use or the Kubernetes namespace to deploy to.

The GitLab Runner documentation provides detailed instructions for configuring each executor.

Verify the Runner is working

After registering and configuring the Runner, check that it is properly connected to your GitLab instance by running sudo gitlab-runner list to view the registered Runners.

Test the Runner by submitting a job to the Runner and checking that it runs successfully.

Optional: Configure additional features

GitLab Runners support a variety of features such as caching, artifacts, and secrets management. You can configure these features in the Runner's configuration file or through the GitLab interface.

Keep in mind that these are the basic steps for setting up a GitLab Runner, and additional configuration may be required depending on your specific use case. It's also important to regularly maintain and update your Runner to ensure optimal performance and security.

3. Tips for a Skillful GitLab Runner

Once your GitLab runner is configured, you might need to improve its performance. Instead of installing these components during each job execution, you can accomplish this by using Docker images that have been pre-built with the dependencies and libraries needed by your application. This can cut down on the runner's workload and save a lot of time.

Limiting the number of concurrent jobs your runner runs is another way to enhance its performance. The highest number of concurrent jobs that can execute on a runner can be configured in GitLab, which can help avoid resource contention and speed up overall job execution times.

The hardware resources of the runner can also be optimized. For example, you can increase the number of CPU cores or memory given to the runner. This can shorten the time needed to complete tasks and boost productivity.

Another way to improve performance is to use caching. Your application's dependencies and libraries can be cached in GitLab so that you won't have to download or install them each time a job is run. This can cut down on the runner's workload and save a lot of time.

Finally, you can improve your runner's network performance. You can choose a data center that is closer to your GitLab instance if your runner is hosted by a cloud provider in order to reduce latency. To speed up the process of downloading dependencies and libraries, you can configure your runner to use a faster DNS resolver or an HTTP proxy that caches data.

By the way, if you're interested in finding out more about how to improve your GitLab Runner's performance, read our comprehensive piece on the subject.

4. Difficulties of Keeping Your Own Runner

While starting your own runner may seem like a good idea, maintaining it over time presents some significant challenges.

One of the main challenges is the need to monitor and supervise the runner. To make sure the runner is operating easily and effectively, a number of monitoring and supervision tools must be set up. This can be accomplished with a variety of tools, including Prometheus, Grafana, and Nagios, among others. However, setting up and configuring these tools can be time-consuming and requires a certain level of technical expertise.

Maintaining current software updates and security patches for the runner is another task. To keep the runner safe and dependable, this requires ongoing upkeep and attention. Security flaws and other problems that could affect the runner's dependability can arise from failing to keep it current.

The cost of maintaining your own runner is the last expense. Although it might appear economical at first, the costs of hardware, software updates, and maintenance can add up quickly over time. This is especially true for smaller businesses that might lack the funds to maintain their own runner.


It can be difficult to set up and maintain a GitLab Runner, especially for organizations without the necessary resources and knowledge. To guarantee seamless and effective CI/CD pipelines, a dependable and high-performing Runner is necessary.

Consider using a managed service like Cloud-Runner if you are having trouble maintaining your own Runner or simply don't have the time or resources to do so. With Cloud-Runner, you can easily set up and deploy effective Runners whenever you need them, with no concern for upkeep or performance issues. Additionally, to ensure optimal effectiveness and speed, you can profit from sophisticated features like caching, load balancing, and auto-scaling.

In conclusion, even though setting up and managing your own GitLab Runner can be difficult, there are many tools at your disposal to help you do it successfully. To guarantee the success of your CI/CD pipelines, follow best practices and optimize your Runner for performance whether you decide to use a physical server, a virtual machine, or a managed service like Cloud-Runner.

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