Getting started with GitLab CI/CD

Getting started with GitLab CI/CD

Because Runners gotta run

In this tutorial, we will set an automated pipeline to build a Next.js Docker image and then push it to GitLab container registry. We will start by creating our ci file and then register a runner to execute our pipelines.

As always, here is the official documentation link.


The only thing required is a GitLab project containing our source code and Dockerfile.

GitLab Runners


A GitLab Runner is an open source application that executes the jobs of a pipeline. We can install this program in four different ways:

  • Local server

  • Docker container

  • VM

  • Cloud Provider

For this example we will use a Docker container, as it simplifies the whole process.

Runners can also be categorized as:

  1. Shared: All project in a GitLab instance can use this Runner

  2. Group: All projects in a specific group can use this Runner

  3. Project: Only a specific project can use this Runner

For this example we will create a Runner that will be assigned to a specific Project.


Now that we know what Runners are, let's dive a bit deeper on how they work. An executor is the environment on which our pipeline will run. These also come in different flavors, so some examples include:

  • Virtual Box

  • Shell

  • Docker

  • Kubernetes

  • ...

So for example, a Shell executor will run the pipeline directly on the host shell, a Docker executor will create a container to execute the pipeline and so on.

Yes, we will be using a Docker executor. Good guess!

Creating our CI/CD

Time to start implementing our pipeline. In order to do that we need to take a few setup steps. These include:

  1. Create a ci .yml file

  2. Create a Runner container

  3. Register the Runner to the GitLab project

1. Starting with the ci file

In order to run a pipeline on a GitLab project we need to create a .gitlab-ci.yml file on the root of our project's source code.

Let's see an example:


    image: docker:latest
    stage: build
        - docker:dind
        - echo $CI_REGISTRY_PASSWORD | docker login -u $CI_REGISTRY_USER $CI_REGISTRY --password-stdin
        - docker build -t $CI_REGISTRY_IMAGE:latest .
        - docker push $CI_REGISTRY_IMAGE:latest

Here's what's going on:

  • The docker-build job uses the latest image of Docker as base image

  • We name this stage build

  • dind (“Docker-in-Docker”) means running Docker within a Docker container. Thus, a new Docker engine is spawned within a container, providing an isolated environment for managing containers.

  • After that, we begin our script commands:

    1. We login to our repository's registry using the docker login command. Notice how we can directly pull the PASSWORD , USER and REGISTRY variables from the platform.

    2. We build our application image

    3. We push the image to the repository registry

You can find more information in the official documentation:

2. Creating our Runner container

As we previously said, we need to create a docker container that has the Runner software listening for requests. Using a docker-compose.yml file we can describe the service like so:

version: '3.8'

    image: gitlab/gitlab-runner:alpine
    container_name: gitlab-runner
      - /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock

The only thing to notice here is how we mount the host docker.sock inside the container, in order to be utilized by the Runner service.

Then we simply docker compose up -d !

3. Register the Runner

And the final part is to register our Runner on the GitLab repository. Here's what we need to do:

Firs navigate to your GitLab project Settings > CI/CD and expand the Runners tab. Here we need to create a new project Runner configuration. Click on the New project runner button.

The configuration needed for this is:

  1. Select Linux as operating system

  2. Provide a Runner description

  3. Check the Run untagged jobs, as we won't be using tags

After clicking the submit button, our Runner configuration is ready. The important thing to keep here is the --url parameter provided by GitLab, as well as the --token

Great, now we just need to register this configuration to our Runner container!

To do that we need to enter the container shell so that we can execute the register command. To do that type:

docker exec -it <container-name> bash

Now, inside the Runner container, we execute the following command:

gitlab-runner register -n \
  --url "URL" \
  --registration-token REGISTRATION_TOKEN \
  --executor docker \
  --description "My Docker Runner" \
  --docker-image "docker:24.0.5" \
  --docker-privileged \
  --docker-volumes "/certs/client"

Running the pipeline

That was it! 🎉

The Runner is registered and all that's left to do is run our pipeline. We can do that from the project CI/CD > Pipelines tab.

After the image gets built, it will be automatically to our GitLab container registry with the tag :latest.

Till next time! ✌️