Use CI/CD configuration from other files

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You can use include to include external YAML files in your CI/CD jobs.

Include a single configuration file

To include a single configuration file, use either of these syntax options:

  • include by itself with a single file. If this is a local file, it is the same as include:local. If this is a remote file, it is the same as include:remote.

    include: '/templates/.after-script-template.yml'
    

Include an array of configuration files

You can include an array of configuration files:

  • If you do not specify an include type, each array item defaults to include:local or include:remote, as needed:

    include:
      - 'https://gitlab.com/awesome-project/raw/main/.before-script-template.yml'
      - '/templates/.after-script-template.yml'
    
  • You can define a single item array:

    include:
      - remote: 'https://gitlab.com/awesome-project/raw/main/.before-script-template.yml'
    
  • You can define an array and explicitly specify multiple include types:

    include:
      - remote: 'https://gitlab.com/awesome-project/raw/main/.before-script-template.yml'
      - local: '/templates/.after-script-template.yml'
      - template: Auto-DevOps.gitlab-ci.yml
    
  • You can define an array that combines both default and specific include types:

    include:
      - 'https://gitlab.com/awesome-project/raw/main/.before-script-template.yml'
      - '/templates/.after-script-template.yml'
      - template: Auto-DevOps.gitlab-ci.yml
      - project: 'my-group/my-project'
        ref: main
        file: '/templates/.gitlab-ci-template.yml'
    

Use default configuration from an included configuration file

You can define a default section in a configuration file. When you use a default section with the include keyword, the defaults apply to all jobs in the pipeline.

For example, you can use a default section with before_script.

Content of a custom configuration file named /templates/.before-script-template.yml:

default:
  before_script:
    - apt-get update -qq && apt-get install -y -qq sqlite3 libsqlite3-dev nodejs
    - gem install bundler --no-document
    - bundle install --jobs $(nproc)  "${FLAGS[@]}"

Content of .gitlab-ci.yml:

include: '/templates/.before-script-template.yml'

rspec1:
  script:
    - bundle exec rspec

rspec2:
  script:
    - bundle exec rspec

The default before_script commands execute in both rspec jobs, before the script commands.

Override included configuration values

When you use the include keyword, you can override the included configuration values to adapt them to your pipeline requirements.

The following example shows an include file that is customized in the .gitlab-ci.yml file. Specific YAML-defined variables and details of the production job are overridden.

Content of a custom configuration file named autodevops-template.yml:

variables:
  POSTGRES_USER: user
  POSTGRES_PASSWORD: testing_password
  POSTGRES_DB: $CI_ENVIRONMENT_SLUG

production:
  stage: production
  script:
    - install_dependencies
    - deploy
  environment:
    name: production
    url: https://$CI_PROJECT_PATH_SLUG.$KUBE_INGRESS_BASE_DOMAIN
  rules:
    - if: $CI_COMMIT_BRANCH == $CI_DEFAULT_BRANCH

Content of .gitlab-ci.yml:

include: 'https://company.com/autodevops-template.yml'

default:
  image: alpine:latest

variables:
  POSTGRES_USER: root
  POSTGRES_PASSWORD: secure_password

stages:
  - build
  - test
  - production

production:
  environment:
    url: https://domain.com

The POSTGRES_USER and POSTGRES_PASSWORD variables and the environment:url of the production job defined in the .gitlab-ci.yml file override the values defined in the autodevops-template.yml file. The other keywords do not change. This method is called merging.

Merge method for include

The include configuration merges with the main configuration file with this process:

  • Included files are read in the order defined in the configuration file, and the included configuration is merged together in the same order.
  • If an included file also uses include, that nested include configuration is merged first (recursively).
  • If parameters overlap, the last included file takes precedence when merging the configuration from the included files.
  • After all configuration added with include is merged together, the main configuration is merged with the included configuration.

This merge method is a deep merge, where hash maps are merged at any depth in the configuration. To merge hash map “A” (that contains the configuration merged so far) and “B” (the next piece of configuration), the keys and values are processed as follows:

  • When the key only exists in A, use the key and value from A.
  • When the key exists in both A and B, and their values are both hash maps, merge those hash maps.
  • When the key exists in both A and B, and one of the values is not a hash map, use the value from B.
  • Otherwise, use the key and value from B.

For example, with a configuration that consists of two files:

  • The .gitlab-ci.yml file:

    include: 'common.yml'
    
    variables:
      POSTGRES_USER: username
    
    test:
      rules:
        - if: $CI_PIPELINE_SOURCE == "merge_request_event"
          when: manual
      artifacts:
        reports:
          junit: rspec.xml
    
  • The common.yml file:

    variables:
      POSTGRES_USER: common_username
      POSTGRES_PASSWORD: testing_password
    
    test:
      rules:
        - when: never
      script:
        - echo LOGIN=${POSTGRES_USER} > deploy.env
        - rake spec
      artifacts:
        reports:
          dotenv: deploy.env
    

The merged result is:

variables:
  POSTGRES_USER: username
  POSTGRES_PASSWORD: testing_password

test:
  rules:
    - if: $CI_PIPELINE_SOURCE == "merge_request_event"
      when: manual
  script:
    - echo LOGIN=${POSTGRES_USER} > deploy.env
    - rake spec
  artifacts:
    reports:
      junit: rspec.xml
      dotenv: deploy.env

In this example:

  • Variables are only evaluated after all the files are merged together. A job in an included file might end up using a variable value defined in a different file.
  • rules is an array so it cannot be merged. The top-level file takes precedence.
  • artifacts is a hash map so it can be deep merged.

Override included configuration arrays

You can use merging to extend and override configuration in an included template, but you cannot add or modify individual items in an array. For example, to add an additional notify_owner command to the extended production job’s script array:

Content of autodevops-template.yml:

production:
  stage: production
  script:
    - install_dependencies
    - deploy

Content of .gitlab-ci.yml:

include: 'autodevops-template.yml'

stages:
  - production

production:
  script:
    - install_dependencies
    - deploy
    - notify_owner

If install_dependencies and deploy are not repeated in the .gitlab-ci.yml file, the production job would have only notify_owner in the script.

Use nested includes

You can nest include sections in configuration files that are then included in another configuration. For example, for include keywords nested three deep:

Content of .gitlab-ci.yml:

include:
  - local: /.gitlab-ci/another-config.yml

Content of /.gitlab-ci/another-config.yml:

include:
  - local: /.gitlab-ci/config-defaults.yml

Content of /.gitlab-ci/config-defaults.yml:

default:
  after_script:
    - echo "Job complete."

Use nested includes with duplicate includes entries

Nested includes can include the same configuration file. The duplicate configuration file is included multiple times, but the effect is the same as if it was only included once.

For example, with the following nested includes, where defaults.gitlab-ci.yml is included multiple times:

  • Contents of the .gitlab-ci.yml file:

    include:
      - template: defaults.gitlab-ci.yml
      - local: unit-tests.gitlab-ci.yml
      - local: smoke-tests.gitlab-ci.yml
    
  • Contents of the defaults.gitlab-ci.yml file:

    default:
      before_script: default-before-script.sh
      retry: 2
    
  • Contents of the unit-tests.gitlab-ci.yml file:

    include:
      - template: defaults.gitlab-ci.yml
    
    unit-test-job:
      script: unit-test.sh
      retry: 0
    
  • Contents of the smoke-tests.gitlab-ci.yml file:

    include:
      - template: defaults.gitlab-ci.yml
    
    smoke-test-job:
      script: smoke-test.sh
    

The final configuration would be:

unit-test-job:
  before_script: default-before-script.sh
  script: unit-test.sh
  retry: 0

smoke-test-job:
  before_script: default-before-script.sh
  script: smoke-test.sh
  retry: 2

Use variables with include

In include sections in your .gitlab-ci.yml file, you can use:

For example:

include:
  project: '$CI_PROJECT_PATH'
  file: '.compliance-gitlab-ci.yml'

You cannot use variables defined in jobs, or in a global variables section which defines the default variables for all jobs. Includes are evaluated before jobs, so these variables cannot be used with include.

For an example of how you can include predefined variables, and the variables’ impact on CI/CD jobs, see this CI/CD variable demo.

You cannot use CI/CD variables in an include section in a dynamic child pipeline’s configuration. Issue 378717 proposes fixing this issue.

Use rules with include

History
  • Support for needs job dependency introduced in GitLab 15.11.

You can use rules with include to conditionally include other configuration files.

You can only use rules with certain variables, and these keywords:

include with rules:if

History
  • Support for when: never and when:always introduced in GitLab 16.1 with a flag named ci_support_include_rules_when_never. Disabled by default.
  • Support for when: never and when:always generally available in GitLab 16.2. Feature flag ci_support_include_rules_when_never removed.

Use rules:if to conditionally include other configuration files based on the status of CI/CD variables. For example:

include:
  - local: builds.yml
    rules:
      - if: $DONT_INCLUDE_BUILDS == "true"
        when: never
  - local: builds.yml
    rules:
      - if: $ALWAYS_INCLUDE_BUILDS == "true"
        when: always
  - local: builds.yml
    rules:
      - if: $INCLUDE_BUILDS == "true"
  - local: deploys.yml
    rules:
      - if: $CI_COMMIT_BRANCH == "main"

test:
  stage: test
  script: exit 0

include with rules:exists

History
  • Support for when: never and when:always introduced in GitLab 16.1 with a flag named ci_support_include_rules_when_never. Disabled by default.
  • Support for when: never and when:always generally available in GitLab 16.2. Feature flag ci_support_include_rules_when_never removed.

Use rules:exists to conditionally include other configuration files based on the existence of files. For example:

include:
  - local: builds.yml
    rules:
      - exists:
          - exception-file.md
        when: never
  - local: builds.yml
    rules:
      - exists:
          - important-file.md
        when: always
  - local: builds.yml
    rules:
      - exists:
          - file.md

test:
  stage: test
  script: exit 0

In this example, GitLab checks for the existence of file.md in the current project.

There is a known issue if you configure include with rules:exists in an include file from a different project. GitLab checks for the existence of the file in the other project. For example:

# Pipeline configuration in my-group/my-project
include:
  - project: my-group/other-project
    ref: other_branch
    file: other-file.yml

test:
  script: exit 0

# other-file.yml in my-group/other-project on ref other_branch
include:
  - project: my-group/my-project
    ref: main
    file: my-file.yml
    rules:
      - exists:
          - file.md

In this example, GitLab searches for the existence of file.md in my-group/other-project on commit ref other_branch, not the project/ref in which the pipeline runs.

To change the search context you can use rules:exists:paths with rules:exists:project. For example:

include:
  - project: my-group/my-project
    ref: main
    file: my-file.yml
    rules:
      - exists:
          paths:
            - file.md
          project: my-group/my-project
          ref: main

include with rules:changes

History

Use rules:changes to conditionally include other configuration files based on changed files. For example:

include:
  - local: builds1.yml
    rules:
      - changes:
        - Dockerfile
  - local: builds2.yml
    rules:
      - changes:
          paths:
            - Dockerfile
          compare_to: 'refs/heads/branch1'
        when: always
  - local: builds3.yml
    rules:
      - if: $CI_PIPELINE_SOURCE == "merge_request_event"
        changes:
          paths:
            - Dockerfile

test:
  stage: test
  script: exit 0

In this example:

  • builds1.yml is included when Dockerfile has changed.
  • builds2.yml is included when Dockerfile has changed relative to refs/heads/branch1.
  • builds3.yml is included when Dockerfile has changed and the pipeline source is a merge request event.

Use include:local with wildcard file paths

You can use wildcard paths (* and **) with include:local.

Example:

include: 'configs/*.yml'

When the pipeline runs, GitLab:

  • Adds all .yml files in the configs directory into the pipeline configuration.
  • Does not add .yml files in subfolders of the configs directory. To allow this, add the following configuration:

    # This matches all `.yml` files in `configs` and any subfolder in it.
    include: 'configs/**.yml'
    
    # This matches all `.yml` files only in subfolders of `configs`.
    include: 'configs/**/*.yml'
    

Troubleshooting

Maximum of 150 nested includes are allowed! error

The maximum number of nested included files for a pipeline is 150. If you receive the Maximum 150 includes are allowed error message in your pipeline, it’s likely that either:

  • Some of the nested configuration includes an overly large number of additional nested include configuration.
  • There is an accidental loop in the nested includes. For example, include1.yml includes include2.yml which includes include1.yml, creating a recursive loop.

To help reduce the risk of this happening, edit the pipeline configuration file with the pipeline editor, which validates if the limit is reached. You can remove one included file at a time to try to narrow down which configuration file is the source of the loop or excessive included files.

In GitLab 16.0 and later self-managed users can change the maximum includes value.

SSL_connect SYSCALL returned=5 errno=0 state=SSLv3/TLS write client hello and other network failures

When using include:remote, GitLab tries to fetch the remote file through HTTP(S). This process can fail because of a variety of connectivity issues.

The SSL_connect SYSCALL returned=5 errno=0 state=SSLv3/TLS write client hello error happens when GitLab can’t establish an HTTPS connection to the remote host. This issue can be caused if the remote host has rate limits to prevent overloading the server with requests.

For example, the GitLab Pages server for GitLab.com is rate limited. Repeated attempts to fetch CI/CD configuration files hosted on GitLab Pages can cause the rate limit to be reached and cause the error. You should avoid hosting CI/CD configuration files on a GitLab Pages site.

When possible, use include:project to fetch configuration files from other projects within the GitLab instance without making external HTTP(S) requests.