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Optimize GitLab CI/CD configuration files (FREE)

You can reduce complexity and duplicated configuration in your GitLab CI/CD configuration files by using:

  • YAML-specific features like anchors (&), aliases (*), and map merging (<<). Read more about the various YAML features.
  • The extends keyword, which is more flexible and readable. We recommend you use extends where possible.

Anchors

YAML has a feature called 'anchors' that you can use to duplicate content across your document.

Use anchors to duplicate or inherit properties. Use anchors with hidden jobs to provide templates for your jobs. When there are duplicate keys, GitLab performs a reverse deep merge based on the keys.

You can use YAML anchors to merge YAML arrays.

You can't use YAML anchors across multiple files when using the include keyword. Anchors are only valid in the file they were defined in. To reuse configuration from different YAML files, use !reference tags or the extends keyword.

The following example uses anchors and map merging. It creates two jobs, test1 and test2, that inherit the .job_template configuration, each with their own custom script defined:

.job_template: &job_configuration  # Hidden yaml configuration that defines an anchor named 'job_configuration'
  image: ruby:2.6
  services:
    - postgres
    - redis

test1:
  <<: *job_configuration           # Merge the contents of the 'job_configuration' alias
  script:
    - test1 project

test2:
  <<: *job_configuration           # Merge the contents of the 'job_configuration' alias
  script:
    - test2 project

& sets up the name of the anchor (job_configuration), << means "merge the given hash into the current one," and * includes the named anchor (job_configuration again). The expanded version of this example is:

.job_template:
  image: ruby:2.6
  services:
    - postgres
    - redis

test1:
  image: ruby:2.6
  services:
    - postgres
    - redis
  script:
    - test1 project

test2:
  image: ruby:2.6
  services:
    - postgres
    - redis
  script:
    - test2 project

You can use anchors to define two sets of services. For example, test:postgres and test:mysql share the script defined in .job_template, but use different services, defined in .postgres_services and .mysql_services:

.job_template: &job_configuration
  script:
    - test project
  tags:
    - dev

.postgres_services:
  services: &postgres_configuration
    - postgres
    - ruby

.mysql_services:
  services: &mysql_configuration
    - mysql
    - ruby

test:postgres:
  <<: *job_configuration
  services: *postgres_configuration
  tags:
    - postgres

test:mysql:
  <<: *job_configuration
  services: *mysql_configuration

The expanded version is:

.job_template:
  script:
    - test project
  tags:
    - dev

.postgres_services:
  services:
    - postgres
    - ruby

.mysql_services:
  services:
    - mysql
    - ruby

test:postgres:
  script:
    - test project
  services:
    - postgres
    - ruby
  tags:
    - postgres

test:mysql:
  script:
    - test project
  services:
    - mysql
    - ruby
  tags:
    - dev

You can see that the hidden jobs are conveniently used as templates, and tags: [postgres] overwrites tags: [dev].

YAML anchors for scripts

Introduced in GitLab 12.5.

You can use YAML anchors with script, before_script, and after_script to use predefined commands in multiple jobs:

.some-script-before: &some-script-before
  - echo "Execute this script first"

.some-script: &some-script
  - echo "Execute this script second"
  - echo "Execute this script too"

.some-script-after: &some-script-after
  - echo "Execute this script last"

job1:
  before_script:
    - *some-script-before
  script:
    - *some-script
    - echo "Execute something, for this job only"
  after_script:
    - *some-script-after

job2:
  script:
    - *some-script-before
    - *some-script
    - echo "Execute something else, for this job only"
    - *some-script-after

YAML anchors for variables

Use YAML anchors with variables to repeat assignment of variables across multiple jobs. You can also use YAML anchors when a job requires a specific variables block that would otherwise override the global variables.

The following example shows how override the GIT_STRATEGY variable without affecting the use of the SAMPLE_VARIABLE variable:

# global variables
variables: &global-variables
  SAMPLE_VARIABLE: sample_variable_value
  ANOTHER_SAMPLE_VARIABLE: another_sample_variable_value

# a job that must set the GIT_STRATEGY variable, yet depend on global variables
job_no_git_strategy:
  stage: cleanup
  variables:
    <<: *global-variables
    GIT_STRATEGY: none
  script: echo $SAMPLE_VARIABLE

Use extends to reuse configuration sections

You can use the extends keyword to reuse configuration in multiple jobs. It is similar to YAML anchors, but simpler and you can use extends with includes.

extends supports multi-level inheritance. You should avoid using more than three levels, but you can use as many as eleven. The following example has two levels of inheritance:

.tests:
  rules:
    - if: $CI_PIPELINE_SOURCE == "push"

.rspec:
  extends: .tests
  script: rake rspec

rspec 1:
  variables:
    RSPEC_SUITE: '1'
  extends: .rspec

rspec 2:
  variables:
    RSPEC_SUITE: '2'
  extends: .rspec

spinach:
  extends: .tests
  script: rake spinach

Exclude a key from extends

To exclude a key from the extended content, you must assign it to null, for example:

.base:
  script: test
  variables:
    VAR1: base var 1

test1:
  extends: .base
  variables:
    VAR1: test1 var 1
    VAR2: test2 var 2

test2:
  extends: .base
  variables:
    VAR2: test2 var 2

test3:
  extends: .base
  variables: {}

test4:
  extends: .base
  variables: null

Merged configuration:

test1:
  script: test
  variables:
    VAR1: test1 var 1
    VAR2: test2 var 2

test2:
  script: test
  variables:
    VAR1: base var 1
    VAR2: test2 var 2

test3:
  script: test
  variables:
    VAR1: base var 1

test4:
  script: test
  variables: null

Use extends and include together

To reuse configuration from different configuration files, combine extends and include.

In the following example, a script is defined in the included.yml file. Then, in the .gitlab-ci.yml file, extends refers to the contents of the script:

  • included.yml:

    .template:
      script:
        - echo Hello!
  • .gitlab-ci.yml:

    include: included.yml
    
    useTemplate:
      image: alpine
      extends: .template

Merge details

You can use extends to merge hashes but not arrays. The algorithm used for merge is "closest scope wins," so keys from the last member always override anything defined on other levels. For example:

.only-important:
  variables:
    URL: "http://my-url.internal"
    IMPORTANT_VAR: "the details"
  rules:
    - if: $CI_COMMIT_BRANCH == $CI_DEFAULT_BRANCH
    - if: $CI_COMMIT_BRANCH == "stable"
  tags:
    - production
  script:
    - echo "Hello world!"

.in-docker:
  variables:
    URL: "http://docker-url.internal"
  tags:
    - docker
  image: alpine

rspec:
  variables:
    GITLAB: "is-awesome"
  extends:
    - .only-important
    - .in-docker
  script:
    - rake rspec

The result is this rspec job:

rspec:
  variables:
    URL: "http://docker-url.internal"
    IMPORTANT_VAR: "the details"
    GITLAB: "is-awesome"
  rules:
    - if: $CI_COMMIT_BRANCH == $CI_DEFAULT_BRANCH
    - if: $CI_COMMIT_BRANCH == "stable"
  tags:
    - docker
  image: alpine
  script:
    - rake rspec

In this example:

  • The variables sections merge, but URL: "http://docker-url.internal" overwrites URL: "http://my-url.internal".
  • tags: ['docker'] overwrites tags: ['production'].
  • script does not merge, but script: ['rake rspec'] overwrites script: ['echo "Hello world!"']. You can use YAML anchors to merge arrays.

!reference tags

Use the !reference custom YAML tag to select keyword configuration from other job sections and reuse it in the current section. Unlike YAML anchors, you can use !reference tags to reuse configuration from included configuration files as well.

In the following example, a script and an after_script from two different locations are reused in the test job:

  • setup.yml:

    .setup:
      script:
        - echo creating environment
  • .gitlab-ci.yml:

    include:
      - local: setup.yml
    
    .teardown:
      after_script:
        - echo deleting environment
    
    test:
      script:
        - !reference [.setup, script]
        - echo running my own command
      after_script:
        - !reference [.teardown, after_script]

In the following example, test-vars-1 reuses all the variables in .vars, while test-vars-2 selects a specific variable and reuses it as a new MY_VAR variable.

.vars:
  variables:
    URL: "http://my-url.internal"
    IMPORTANT_VAR: "the details"

test-vars-1:
  variables: !reference [.vars, variables]
  script:
    - printenv

test-vars-2:
  variables:
    MY_VAR: !reference [.vars, variables, IMPORTANT_VAR]
  script:
    - printenv

You can't reuse a section that already includes a !reference tag. Only one level of nesting is supported.