Merge Request dependencies

Merge request dependencies allows a required order of merging between merge requests to be expressed. If a merge request “depends on” another, then it cannot be merged until its dependency is itself merged.

Note: Merge requests dependencies are a PREMIUM feature, but this restriction is only enforced for the dependent merge request. A merge request in a CORE or STARTER project can be a dependency of a PREMIUM merge request, but not vice-versa.

Use cases

  • Ensure changes to a library are merged before changes to a project that imports the library.
  • Prevent a documentation-only merge request from being merged before the merge request implementing the feature to be documented.
  • Require an merge request updating a permissions matrix to be merged before merging an merge request from someone who hasn’t yet been granted permissions.

It is common for a single logical change to span several merge requests, spread out across multiple projects, and the order in which they are merged can be significant.

For example, given a project mycorp/awesome-project that imports a library at myfriend/awesome-lib, adding a feature in awesome-project may also require changes to awesome-lib, and so necessitate two merge requests. Merging the awesome-project merge request before the awesome-lib one would break the masterbranch.

The awesome-project merge request could be marked as WIP, and the reason for the WIP stated included in the comments. However, this requires the state of the awesome-lib merge request to be manually tracked, and doesn’t scale well if the awesome-project merge request depends on changes to several other projects.

By making the awesome-project merge request depend on the awesome-lib merge request instead, this relationship is automatically tracked by GitLab, and the WIP state can be used to communicate the readiness of the code in each individual merge request instead.

Configuration

To continue the above example, you can configure a dependency when creating the new merge request in awesome-project (or by editing it, if it already exists). The dependency needs to be configured on the dependent merge request. There is a Merge request dependencies section in the form:

Merge request dependencies form control

Anyone who can edit a merge request can change the list of dependencies.

New dependencies can be added by reference, or by URL. To remove a dependency, press the X by its reference.

As dependencies can be specified across projects, it’s possible that someone else has added a dependency for a merge request in a project you don’t have access to. These are shown as a simple count:

Merge request dependencies form control with inaccessible merge requests

If necessary, you can remove all the dependencies like this by pressing the X, just as you would for a single, visible dependency.

Once you’re finished, press the Save changes button to submit the request, or Cancel to return without making any changes.

The list of configured dependencies, and the status of each one, is shown in the merge request widget:

Dependencies in merge request widget

Until all dependencies have, themselves, been merged, the Merge button will be disabled for the dependent merge request. In particular, note that closed merge requests still prevent their dependents from being merged - it is impossible to automatically determine whether the dependency expressed by a closed merge request has been satisfied in some other way or not.

If a merge request has been closed and the dependency is no longer relevant, it must be removed as a dependency, following the instructions above, before merge.

Limitations

The last item merits a little more explanation. Dependencies between merge requests can be described as a graph of relationships. The simplest possible graph has one merge request that depends upon another:

graph LR; myfriend/awesome-lib!10-->mycorp/awesome-project!100;

A more complex (and still supported) graph might have one merge request that directly depends upon several others:

graph LR; myfriend/awesome-lib!10-->mycorp/awesome-project!100; herfriend/another-lib!1-->mycorp/awesome-project!100;

Several different merge requests can also directly depend upon the same merge request:

graph LR; herfriend/another-lib!1-->myfriend/awesome-lib!10; herfriend/another-lib!1-->mycorp/awesome-project!100;

What is not supported is a “deep”, or “nested” graph of dependencies, e.g.:

graph LR; herfriend/another-lib!1-->myfriend/awesome-lib!10; myfriend/awesome-lib!10-->mycorp/awesome-project!100;

In this example, myfriend/awesome-lib!10 depends on herfriend/another-lib!1, and is itself a dependent of mycorp/awesome-project!100. This means that myfriend/awesome-lib!10 becomes an indirect dependency of mycorp/awesome-project!100, which is not yet supported.