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Web terminals (deprecated)

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WARNING: This feature was deprecated in GitLab 14.5.

FLAG: On self-managed GitLab, by default this feature is not available. To make it available, an administrator can enable the feature flag named certificate_based_clusters.

With the introduction of the Kubernetes integration, GitLab can store and use credentials for a Kubernetes cluster. GitLab uses these credentials to provide access to web terminals for environments.

NOTE: Only users with at least the Maintainer role for the project access web terminals.

How it works

A detailed overview of the architecture of web terminals and how they work can be found in this document. In brief:

  • GitLab relies on the user to provide their own Kubernetes credentials, and to appropriately label the pods they create when deploying.
  • When a user navigates to the terminal page for an environment, they are served a JavaScript application that opens a WebSocket connection back to GitLab.
  • The WebSocket is handled in Workhorse, rather than the Rails application server.
  • Workhorse queries Rails for connection details and user permissions. Rails queries Kubernetes for them in the background using Sidekiq.
  • Workhorse acts as a proxy server between the user's browser and the Kubernetes API, passing WebSocket frames between the two.
  • Workhorse regularly polls Rails, terminating the WebSocket connection if the user no longer has permission to access the terminal, or if the connection details have changed.


GitLab and GitLab Runner take some precautions to keep interactive web terminal data encrypted between them, and everything protected with authorization guards. This is described in more detail below.

  • Interactive web terminals are completely disabled unless [session_server] is configured.
  • Every time the runner starts, it generates an x509 certificate that is used for a wss (Web Socket Secure) connection.
  • For every created job, a random URL is generated which is discarded at the end of the job. This URL is used to establish a web socket connection. The URL for the session is in the format (IP|HOST):PORT/session/$SOME_HASH, where the IP/HOST and PORT are the configured listen_address.
  • Every session URL that is created has an authorization header that needs to be sent, to establish a wss connection.
  • The session URL is not exposed to the users in any way. GitLab holds all the state internally and proxies accordingly.

Enabling and disabling terminal support

NOTE: AWS Classic Load Balancers do not support web sockets. If you want web terminals to work, use AWS Network Load Balancers. Read AWS Elastic Load Balancing Product Comparison for more information.

As web terminals use WebSockets, every HTTP/HTTPS reverse proxy in front of Workhorse must be configured to pass the Connection and Upgrade headers to the next one in the chain. GitLab is configured by default to do so.

However, if you run a load balancer in front of GitLab, you may need to make some changes to your configuration. These guides document the necessary steps for a selection of popular reverse proxies:

Workhorse doesn't let WebSocket requests through to non-WebSocket endpoints, so it's safe to enable support for these headers globally. If you prefer a narrower set of rules, you can restrict it to URLs ending with / This approach may still result in a few false positives.

If you self-compiled your installation, you may need to make some changes to your configuration. Read Upgrading Community Edition and Enterprise Edition from source for more details.

To disable web terminal support in GitLab, stop passing the Connection and Upgrade hop-by-hop headers in the first HTTP reverse proxy in the chain. For most users, this is the NGINX server bundled with Linux package installations. In this case, you need to:

  • Find the nginx['proxy_set_headers'] section of your gitlab.rb file
  • Ensure the whole block is uncommented, and then comment out or remove the Connection and Upgrade lines.

For your own load balancer, just reverse the configuration changes recommended by the above guides.

When these headers are not passed through, Workhorse returns a 400 Bad Request response to users attempting to use a web terminal. In turn, they receive a Connection failed message.

Limiting WebSocket connection time

By default, terminal sessions do not expire. To limit the terminal session lifetime in your GitLab instance:

  1. On the left sidebar, at the bottom, select Admin Area.
  2. Select Settings > Web terminal.
  3. Set a max session time.