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Get started with GitLab CI/CD

DETAILS: Tier: Free, Premium, Ultimate Offering: SaaS, self-managed

CI/CD is a continuous method of software development, where you continuously build, test, deploy, and monitor iterative code changes.

This iterative process helps reduce the chance that you develop new code based on buggy or failed previous versions. GitLab CI/CD can catch bugs early in the development cycle, and help ensure that all the code deployed to production complies with your established code standards.

Common terms

If you're new to GitLab CI/CD, start by reviewing some of the commonly used terms.

The .gitlab-ci.yml file

To use GitLab CI/CD, you start with a .gitlab-ci.yml file at the root of your project which contains the configuration for your CI/CD pipeline. This file follows the YAML format and has its own syntax.

You can name this file anything you want, but .gitlab-ci.yml is the most common name.

In the .gitlab-ci.yml file, you can define:

  • The tasks you want to complete, for example test and deploy your application.
  • Other configuration files and templates you want to include.
  • Dependencies and caches.
  • The commands you want to run in sequence and those you want to run in parallel.
  • The location to deploy your application to.
  • Whether you want to run the scripts automatically or trigger any of them manually.

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Runners are the agents that run your jobs. These agents can run on physical machines or virtual instances. In your .gitlab-ci.yml file, you can specify a container image you want to use when running the job. The runner loads the image, clones your project and runs the job either locally or in the container.

If you use, SaaS runners on Linux, Windows, and macOS are already available for use. And you can register your own runners on if you'd like.

If you don't use, you can:

  • Register runners or use runners already registered for your self-managed instance.
  • Create a runner on your local machine.

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Pipelines are made up of jobs and stages:

  • Jobs define what you want to do. For example, test code changes, or deploy to a staging environment.
  • Jobs are grouped into stages. Each stage contains at least one job. Typical stages might be build, test, and deploy.

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CI/CD variables

CI/CD variables help you customize jobs by making values defined elsewhere accessible to jobs. They can be hard-coded in your .gitlab-ci.yml file, project settings, or dynamically generated.

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CI/CD components

A CI/CD component is a reusable single pipeline configuration unit. Use them to compose an entire pipeline configuration or a small part of a larger pipeline.

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