Using Git submodules with GitLab CI
- GitLab 8.12 introduced a new CI job permissions model and you
are encouraged to upgrade your GitLab instance if you haven't done already.
If you are not using GitLab 8.12 or higher, you would need to work your way
around submodules in order to access the sources of e.g.,
gitlab.com/group/projectwith the use of SSH keys.
- With GitLab 8.12 onward, your permissions are used to evaluate what a CI job can access. More information about how this system works can be found in the Jobs permissions model.
- The HTTP(S) Git protocol must be enabled in your GitLab instance.
If dealing with Git submodules, your project will probably have a file
Let's consider the following example:
- Your project is located at
- To checkout your sources you usually use an SSH address like
- Your project depends on
https://gitlab.com/group/project, which you want to include as a submodule.
If you are using GitLab 8.12+ and your submodule is on the same GitLab server,
you must update your
.gitmodules file to use relative URLs.
Since Git allows the usage of relative URLs for your
this easily allows you to use HTTP(S) for cloning all your CI jobs and SSH
for all your local checkouts. The
.gitmodules would look like:
[submodule "project"] path = project url = ../../group/project.git
The above configuration will instruct Git to automatically deduce the URL that should be used when cloning sources. Whether you use HTTP(S) or SSH, Git will use that same channel and it will allow to make all your CI jobs use HTTP(S) (because GitLab CI only uses HTTP(S) for cloning your sources), and all your local clones will continue using SSH.
For all other submodules not located on the same GitLab server, use the full HTTP(S) protocol URL:
[submodule "project-x"] path = project-x url = https://gitserver.com/group/project-x.git
.gitmodules is correctly configured, you can move on to
Using Git submodules in your CI jobs
There are a few steps you need to take in order to make submodules work correctly with your CI jobs:
First, make sure you have used relative URLs for the submodules located in the same GitLab server.
Next, if you are using
gitlab-runnerv1.10+, you can set the
GIT_SUBMODULE_STRATEGYvariable to either
recursiveto tell the runner to fetch your submodules before the job:
variables: GIT_SUBMODULE_STRATEGY: recursive
.gitlab-ci.ymlreference for more details about
If you are using an older version of
gitlab-runner, then use
git submodule sync/updatein
before_script: - git submodule sync --recursive - git submodule update --init --recursive
--recursiveshould be used in either both or none (
sync/update) depending on whether you have recursive submodules.
The rationale to set the
before_script is because of
the way Git submodules work. On a fresh Runner workspace, Git will set the
submodule URL including the token in
.git/modules/<submodule>/config) based on
.gitmodules and the current
remote URL. On subsequent jobs on the same Runner,
.git/config is cached
and already contains a full URL for the submodule, corresponding to the previous
job, and to a token from a previous job.
sync allows to force updating
the full URL.