Customizing Auto DevOps (FREE)

While Auto DevOps provides great defaults to get you started, you can customize almost everything to fit your needs. Auto DevOps offers everything from custom buildpacks, to Dockerfiles, and Helm charts. You can even copy the complete CI/CD configuration into your project to enable staging and canary deployments, manage Auto DevOps with GitLab APIs, and more.

Custom buildpacks

If the automatic buildpack detection fails for your project, or if you need more control over your build, you can customize the buildpacks used for the build.

Custom buildpacks with Cloud Native Buildpacks

Introduced in GitLab 12.10.

Specify either:

Custom buildpacks with Herokuish

Specify either:

  • The CI/CD variable BUILDPACK_URL.
  • A .buildpacks file at the root of your project, containing one buildpack URL per line.

The buildpack URL can point to either a Git repository URL or a tarball URL. For Git repositories, you can point to a specific Git reference (such as commit SHA, tag name, or branch name) by appending #<ref> to the Git repository URL. For example:

  • The tag v142:
  • The branch mybranch:
  • The commit SHA f97d8a8ab49:

Multiple buildpacks

Using multiple buildpacks is not fully supported by Auto DevOps, because Auto Test can't use the .buildpacks file. The buildpack heroku-buildpack-multi, used in the backend to parse the .buildpacks file, does not provide the necessary commands bin/test-compile and bin/test.

If your goal is to use only a single custom buildpack, you should provide the project CI/CD variable BUILDPACK_URL instead.

Custom Dockerfile

Support for DOCKERFILE_PATH was introduced in GitLab 13.2

If your project has a Dockerfile in the root of the project repository, Auto DevOps builds a Docker image based on the Dockerfile, rather than using buildpacks. This can be much faster and result in smaller images, especially if your Dockerfile is based on Alpine.

If you set the DOCKERFILE_PATH CI/CD variable, Auto Build looks for a Dockerfile there instead.

Passing arguments to docker build

Arguments can be passed to the docker build command using the AUTO_DEVOPS_BUILD_IMAGE_EXTRA_ARGS project CI/CD variable. For example, to build a Docker image based on based on the ruby:alpine instead of the default ruby:latest:


  2. Add the following to a custom Dockerfile:

    # ... put your stuff here

Use Base64 encoding if you need to pass complex values, such as newlines and spaces. Left unencoded, complex values like these can cause escaping issues due to how Auto DevOps uses the arguments.

WARNING: Avoid passing secrets as Docker build arguments if possible, as they may be persisted in your image. See this discussion of best practices with secrets for details.

Custom container image

By default, Auto Deploy deploys a container image built and pushed to the GitLab registry by Auto Build. You can override this behavior by defining specific variables:

Entry Default Can be overridden by
Image Tag $CI_COMMIT_SHA for branch pipelines. $CI_COMMIT_TAG for tag pipelines. $CI_APPLICATION_TAG

These variables also affect Auto Build and Auto Container Scanning. If you don't want to build and push an image to $CI_APPLICATION_REPOSITORY:$CI_APPLICATION_TAG, consider including only Jobs/Deploy.gitlab-ci.yml, or disabling the build jobs.

If you use Auto Container Scanning and set a value for $CI_APPLICATION_REPOSITORY, then you should also update $CS_DEFAULT_BRANCH_IMAGE. See Setting the default branch image for more details.

Here is an example setup in your .gitlab-ci.yml:

  CI_APPLICATION_REPOSITORY: <your-image-repository>

Extend Auto DevOps with the API

You can extend and manage your Auto DevOps configuration with GitLab APIs:

Forward CI/CD variables to the build environment

Introduced in GitLab 12.3, but available in GitLab 12.0 and later.

CI/CD variables can be forwarded into the build environment using the AUTO_DEVOPS_BUILD_IMAGE_FORWARDED_CI_VARIABLES CI/CD variable. The forwarded variables should be specified by name in a comma-separated list. For example, to forward the variables CI_COMMIT_SHA and CI_ENVIRONMENT_NAME, set AUTO_DEVOPS_BUILD_IMAGE_FORWARDED_CI_VARIABLES to CI_COMMIT_SHA,CI_ENVIRONMENT_NAME.

  • When using Buildpacks, the forwarded variables are available automatically as environment variables.

  • When using a Dockerfile, the following additional steps are required:

    1. Activate the experimental Dockerfile syntax by adding the following code to the top of the file:

      # syntax = docker/dockerfile:experimental
    2. To make secrets available in any RUN $COMMAND in the Dockerfile, mount the secret file and source it prior to running $COMMAND:

      RUN --mount=type=secret,id=auto-devops-build-secrets . /run/secrets/auto-devops-build-secrets && $COMMAND

When AUTO_DEVOPS_BUILD_IMAGE_FORWARDED_CI_VARIABLES is set, Auto DevOps enables the experimental Docker BuildKit feature to use the --secret flag.

Custom Helm Chart

Auto DevOps uses Helm to deploy your application to Kubernetes. You can override the Helm chart used by bundling up a chart into your project repository or by specifying a project CI/CD variable:

  • Bundled chart - If your project has a ./chart directory with a Chart.yaml file in it, Auto DevOps detects the chart and uses it instead of the default chart, enabling you to control exactly how your application is deployed.
  • Project variable - Create a project CI/CD variable AUTO_DEVOPS_CHART with the URL of a custom chart to use, or create two project variables: AUTO_DEVOPS_CHART_REPOSITORY with the URL of a custom chart repository, and AUTO_DEVOPS_CHART with the path to the chart.

Customize values for Helm Chart

Introduced in GitLab 12.6, .gitlab/auto-deploy-values.yaml is used by default for Helm upgrades.

You can override the default values in the values.yaml file in the default Helm chart by either:

  • Adding a file named .gitlab/auto-deploy-values.yaml to your repository, which is automatically used, if found.
  • Adding a file with a different name or path to the repository, and setting the HELM_UPGRADE_VALUES_FILE CI/CD variable with the path and name.

Some values cannot be overridden with the options above. Settings like replicaCount should instead be overridden with the REPLICAS build and deployment CI/CD variable. Follow this issue for more information.

NOTE: For GitLab 12.5 and earlier, use the HELM_UPGRADE_EXTRA_ARGS variable to override the default chart values by setting HELM_UPGRADE_EXTRA_ARGS to --values <my-values.yaml>.

Customize the helm upgrade command

You can customize the helm upgrade command used in the auto-deploy-image by passing options to the command with the HELM_UPGRADE_EXTRA_ARGS CI/CD variable. For example, set the value of HELM_UPGRADE_EXTRA_ARGS to --no-hooks to disable pre-upgrade and post-upgrade hooks when the command is executed.

See the official documentation for the full list of options.

Custom Helm chart per environment

You can specify the use of a custom Helm chart per environment by scoping the CI/CD variable to the desired environment. See Limit environment scope of CI/CD variables.

Customizing .gitlab-ci.yml

Auto DevOps is completely customizable because the Auto DevOps template is just an implementation of a .gitlab-ci.yml file, and uses only features available to any implementation of .gitlab-ci.yml.

To modify the CI/CD pipeline used by Auto DevOps, include the template, and customize it as needed by adding a .gitlab-ci.yml file to the root of your repository containing the following:

  - template: Auto-DevOps.gitlab-ci.yml

Add your changes, and your additions are merged with the Auto DevOps template using the behavior described for include.

If you need to specifically remove a part of the file, you can also copy and paste the contents of the Auto DevOps template into your project and edit it as needed.

Use multiple Kubernetes clusters

See Multiple Kubernetes clusters for Auto DevOps.

Customizing the Kubernetes namespace

In GitLab 14.5 and earlier, you could use environment:kubernetes:namespace to specify a namespace for the environment. However, this feature was deprecated, along with certificate-based integration.

You should now use the KUBE_NAMESPACE environment variable and limit the environments it is available for.

Using components of Auto DevOps

If you only require a subset of the features offered by Auto DevOps, you can include individual Auto DevOps jobs into your own .gitlab-ci.yml. Each component job relies on a stage that should be defined in the .gitlab-ci.yml that includes the template.

For example, to make use of Auto Build, you can add the following to your .gitlab-ci.yml:

  - build

  - template: Jobs/Build.gitlab-ci.yml

See the Auto DevOps template for information on available jobs.

WARNING: Auto DevOps templates using the only or except syntax have switched to the rules syntax, starting in GitLab 13.0. If your .gitlab-ci.yml extends these Auto DevOps templates and override the only or except keywords, you must migrate your templates to use the rules syntax after the base template is migrated to use the rules syntax. For users who cannot migrate just yet, you can alternatively pin your templates to the GitLab 12.10 based templates.

Use images hosted in a local Docker registry

You can configure many Auto DevOps jobs to run in an offline environment:

  1. Copy the required Auto DevOps Docker images from Docker Hub and to their local GitLab container registry.

  2. After the images are hosted and available in a local registry, edit .gitlab-ci.yml to point to the locally-hosted images. For example:

      - template: Auto-DevOps.gitlab-ci.yml
      REGISTRY_URL: "registry.gitlab.example"
      image: "$REGISTRY_URL/docker/auto-build-image:v0.6.0"
        - name: "$REGISTRY_URL/greg/docker/docker:20.10.16-dind"
          command: ['--tls=false', '--host=tcp://']

PostgreSQL database support

To support applications requiring a database, PostgreSQL is provisioned by default. The credentials to access the database are preconfigured, but can be customized by setting the associated CI/CD variables. You can use these credentials to define a DATABASE_URL:


Upgrading PostgreSQL

WARNING: The CI/CD variable AUTO_DEVOPS_POSTGRES_CHANNEL that controls default provisioned PostgreSQL was changed to 2 in GitLab 13.0. To keep using the old PostgreSQL, set the AUTO_DEVOPS_POSTGRES_CHANNEL variable to 1.

The version of the chart used to provision PostgreSQL:

  • Is 8.2.1 in GitLab 13.0 and later, but can be set back to 0.7.1 if needed.
  • Can be set to from 0.7.1 to 8.2.1 in GitLab 12.9 and 12.10.
  • Is 0.7.1 in GitLab 12.8 and earlier.

GitLab encourages users to migrate their database to the newer PostgreSQL.

Customize values for PostgreSQL Helm Chart

Introduced in auto-deploy-image v2, in GitLab 13.8.

To set custom values, do one of the following:

  • Add a file named .gitlab/auto-deploy-postgres-values.yaml to your repository. If found, this file is used automatically. This file is used by default for PostgreSQL Helm upgrades.
  • Add a file with a different name or path to the repository, and set the POSTGRES_HELM_UPGRADE_VALUES_FILE environment variable with the path and name.
  • Set the POSTGRES_HELM_UPGRADE_EXTRA_ARGS environment variable.

Using external PostgreSQL database providers

While Auto DevOps provides out-of-the-box support for a PostgreSQL container for production environments, for some use cases, it may not be sufficiently secure or resilient, and you may want to use an external managed provider (such as AWS Relational Database Service) for PostgreSQL.

You must define environment-scoped CI/CD variables for POSTGRES_ENABLED and DATABASE_URL in your project's CI/CD settings:

  1. Disable the built-in PostgreSQL installation for the required environments using environment-scoped CI/CD variables. For this use case, it's likely that only production must be added to this list. The built-in PostgreSQL setup for Review Apps and staging is sufficient.

    Auto Metrics

  2. Define the DATABASE_URL variable as an environment-scoped variable that is available to your application. This should be a URL in the following format:


You must ensure that your Kubernetes cluster has network access to wherever PostgreSQL is hosted.

Auto DevOps banner

The following Auto DevOps banner displays for users with Maintainer or greater permissions on new projects when Auto DevOps is not enabled:

Auto DevOps banner

The banner can be disabled for:

  • A user, when they dismiss it themselves.
  • A project, by explicitly disabling Auto DevOps.
  • An entire GitLab instance:
    • By an administrator running the following in a Rails console:

    • Through the REST API with an administrator access token:

      curl --data "value=true" --header "PRIVATE-TOKEN: <personal_access_token>" ""