Long polling

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By default, a GitLab Runner polls a GitLab instance for new CI/CD jobs periodically. The actual polling interval depends on the check_interval and number of runners configured in the runner configuration file.

On a server that handles many runners, this polling can lead to a number of performance issues:

  • Longer queuing times.
  • Higher CPU usage on the GitLab instance.

To mitigate these issues, you should enable long polling.


  • You must be an administrator.

Enable long polling

You can configure a GitLab instance to hold job requests from runners in a long poll until a new job is ready.

To do this, enable long polling by configuring the GitLab Workhorse long polling duration (apiCiLongPollingDuration):

Linux package (Omnibus)
  1. Edit /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb:

    gitlab_workhorse['api_ci_long_polling_duration'] = "50s"
  2. Save the file and reconfigure GitLab:

    sudo gitlab-ctl reconfigure
Helm chart (Kubernetes)

Enable long polling with the gitlab.webservice.workhorse.extraArgs setting.

  1. Export the Helm values:

    helm get values gitlab > gitlab_values.yaml
  2. Edit gitlab_values.yaml:

          extraArgs: "-apiCiLongPollingDuration 50s"
  3. Save the file and apply the new values:

    helm upgrade -f gitlab_values.yaml gitlab gitlab/gitlab
  1. Edit docker-compose.yml:

    version: "3.6"
        image: 'gitlab/gitlab-ee:latest'
        restart: always
        hostname: 'gitlab.example.com'
            gitlab_workhorse['api_ci_long_polling_duration'] = "50s"
  2. Save the file and restart GitLab:

    docker compose up -d


When long polling is enabled, GitLab Workhorse subscribes to Redis PubSub channels and awaits notifications. A job request is released from a long poll when its runner key is changed, or when apiCiLongPollingDuration has been reached. There are a number of Prometheus metrics that you can monitor:

Metric Type Description Labels
gitlab_workhorse_keywatcher_keywatchers Gauge The number of keys that is being watched by GitLab Workhorse  
gitlab_workhorse_keywatcher_redis_subscriptions Gauge The number of Redis PubSub subscriptions  
gitlab_workhorse_keywatcher_total_messages Counter Total number of messages GitLab Workhorse has received on the PubSub channels  
gitlab_workhorse_keywatcher_actions_total Counter Counts of various key watcher actions action
gitlab_workhorse_keywatcher_received_bytes_total Counter Total bytes received on PubSub channels  

You can see an example of how one user discovered an issue with long polling with these metrics.

Long polling workflow

The diagram shows how a single runner gets a job with long polling enabled:

sequenceDiagram autonumber participant C as Runner participant W as Workhorse participant Redis as Redis participant R as Rails participant S as Sidekiq C->>+W: POST /api/v4/jobs/request W->>+Redis: New job for runner A? Redis->>+W: Unknown W->>+R: POST /api/v4/jobs/request R->>+Redis: Runner A: last_update = X R->>W: 204 No job, X-GitLab-Last-Update = X W->>C: 204 No job, X-GitLab-Last-Update = X C->>W: POST /api/v4/jobs/request, X-GitLab-Last-Update: X W->>Redis: Notify when last_update change Note over W: Request held in long poll Note over S: CI job created Note over S, Redis: Update all registered runners S->>Redis: Runner A: last_update = Z Redis->>W: Runner: last_update changed Note over W: Request released from long poll W->>Rails: POST /api/v4/jobs/request Rails->>W: 201 Job was scheduled W->>C: 201 Job was scheduled

In step 1, when a runner requests a new job, it issues a POST request (/api/v4/jobs/request) to the GitLab server, where it is first handled by Workhorse.

Workhorse reads the runner token and value from the X-GitLab-Last-Update HTTP header, constructs a key, and subscribes to a Redis PubSub channel with that key. If no value exists for the key, then Workhorse immediately forwards the request on to Rails (steps 3 and 4).

Rails checks the job queue. If there are no jobs available for the runner, Rails returns a 204 No job with a last_update token to the runner (steps 5 to 7).

The runner uses that last_update token and issues another request for a job, populating the X-GitLab-Last-Update HTTP header with this token. This time, Workhorse checks if the runner’s last_update token has changed. If it has not, Workhorse holds onto the request for up to the duration specified by apiCiLongPollingDuration.

If a user triggers a new pipeline or job to run, a background task in Sidekiq will update the last_update value for all runners available to the job. Runners can be registered for the project, group, and/or instance.

This “tick” in steps 10 and 11 releases the job request from the Workhorse long poll queue, and the request gets sent to Rails (step 12). Rails looks for an available job, and assigns the runner to that job (steps 13 and 14).

With long polling, the runner gets notified immediately after a new job is available. This not only helps improve reduce job queueing time, but it also reduces server overhead because the job requests reach Rails only when there is new work.


When working with long polling, you might encounter the following issues.

Slow job pickup

Long polling is not enabled by default because in some runner configurations, the runner doesn’t pick up jobs in a timely manner. See issue 27709.

This can happen if the concurrent setting in the runner config.toml is set to a value lower than the number of runners defined. To resolve this issue, ensure the value of concurrent is at equal or greater than the number of runners.

For example, if you have three [[runners]] entries in config.toml, make sure that concurrent is set to at least 3.

When long polling is enabled, the runner:

  1. Launches concurrent number of Goroutines.
  2. Waits for the Goroutines to return after long polling.
  3. Runs another batch of requests.

For example, consider the case where a single config.toml has configured:

  • 3 runners for project A.
  • 1 runner for project B.
  • concurrent set to 3.

In this example, a runner launches Goroutines for the first 3 projects. In the worst case, the runner waits the full long poll interval for project A before proceeding with requesting a job for project B.