Pipelines for merge requests

Introduced in GitLab 11.6

Usually, when a developer creates a new merge request, a pipeline runs on the new change and checks if it’s qualified to be merged into a target branch. This pipeline should contain only necessary jobs for checking the new changes. For example, unit tests, lint checks, and Review Apps are often used in this cycle.

With pipelines for merge requests, you can design a specific pipeline structure for merge requests. All you need to do is just adding only: [merge_requests] to the jobs that you want it to run for only merge requests. Every time, when developers create or update merge requests, a pipeline runs on their new commits at every push to GitLab.

Note: If you use both this feature and the Merge When Pipeline Succeeds feature, pipelines for merge requests take precendence over the other regular pipelines.

For example, consider a GitLab CI/CD configuration in .gitlab-ci.yml as follows:

build:
  stage: build
  script: ./build
  only:
  - branches
  - tags
  - merge_requests

test:
  stage: test
  script: ./test
  only:
  - merge_requests

deploy:
  stage: deploy
  script: ./deploy

After a developer updated code in a merge request with whatever methods (e.g. git push), GitLab detects that the code is updated and create a new pipeline for the merge request. The pipeline fetches the latest code from the source branch and run tests against it. In this example, the pipeline contains only build and test jobs. Since deploy job does not have the only: [merge_requests] rule, deployment jobs will not happen in the merge request.

Consider this pipeline list viewed from the Pipelines tab in a merge request:

Merge request page

Note that pipelines tagged as merge request indicate that they were triggered when a merge request was created or updated.

The same tag is shown on the pipeline’s details:

Pipeline's details

Important notes about merge requests from forked projects

Note that the current behavior is subject to change. In the usual contribution flow, external contributors follow the following steps:

  1. Fork a parent project.
  2. Create a merge request from the forked project that targets the master branch in the parent project.
  3. A pipeline runs on the merge request.
  4. A mainatiner from the parent project checks the pipeline result, and merge into a target branch if the latest pipeline has passed.

Currently, those pipelines are created in a forked project, not in the parent project. This means you cannot completely trust the pipeline result, because, technically, external contributors can disguise their pipeline results by tweaking their GitLab Runner in the forked project.

There are multiple reasons about why GitLab doesn’t allow those pipelines to be created in the parent project, but one of the biggest reasons is security concern. External users could steal secret variables from the parent project by modifying .gitlab-ci.yml, which could be some sort of credentials. This should not happen.

We’re discussing a secure solution of running pipelines for merge requests that submitted from forked projects, see the issue about the permission extension.