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Terraform module for AWS GitLab runners on ec2 (spot) instances
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Terraform module for GitLab auto scaling runners on AWS spot instances

NEW: Terraform 0.12 is supported.

Terraform versions

Terraform 0.12

Module is available as Terraform 0.12 module, pin to version 4.x. Please submit pull-requests to the develop branch.

Migration from 0.11 to 0.12 is tested for the runner-default example. To migrate the runner, execute the following steps.

  • Update to Terraform 0.12
  • Migrate your Terraform code via Terraform terraform 0.12upgrade.
  • Update the module from 3.10.0 to 4.0.0, next run terraform init
  • Run terraform apply. This should trigger only a re-creation of the the auto launch configuration and a minor change in the auto-scaling group.

Terraform 0.11

Module is available as Terraform 0.11 module, pin module to version 3.x. Please submit pull-requests to the terraform011 branch.

The module

This Terraform modules creates a GitLab CI runner. A blog post describes the original version of the the runner. See the post at 040code. The original setup of the module is based on the blog post: Auto scale GitLab CI runners and save 90% on EC2 costs.

The runners created by the module using by default spot instances for running the builds using the docker+machine executor.

  • Shared cache in S3 with life cycle management to clear objects after x days.
  • Logs streamed to CloudWatch.
  • Runner agents registered automatically.

The runner support 3 main scenario's:

GitLab CI docker-machine runner - one runner agent

In this scenario the runner agent is running on a single EC2 node and runners are created by docker machine using spot instances. Runners will scale automatically based on configuration. The module creates by default a S3 cache that is shared cross runners (spot instances).


GitLab CI docker-machine runner - multiple runner agents

In this scenario the multiple runner agents can be created with different configuration by instantiating the module multiple times. Runners will scale automatically based on configuration. The S3 cache can be shared cross runners by managing the cache outside the module.


GitLab Ci docker runner

In this scenario not docker machine is used but docker to schedule the builds. Builds will run on the same EC2 instance as the agent. No auto scaling is supported.




Ensure you have Terraform installed the modules is based on Terraform 0.11, see .terraform-version for the used version. A handy tool to mange your Terraform version is tfenv.

On macOS it is simple to install tfenv using brew.

brew install tfenv

Next install a Terraform version.

tfenv install <version>


Ensure you have setup you AWS credentials. The module requires access to IAM, EC2, CloudWatch, S3 and SSM.

Service linked roles

The GitLab runner EC2 instance requires the following service linked roles:

  • AWSServiceRoleForAutoScaling
  • AWSServiceRoleForEC2Spot

By default the EC2 instance is allowed to create the required roles, but this can be disabled by setting the option allow_iam_service_linked_role_creation to false. If disabled you must ensure the roles exist. You can create them manually or via Terraform.

resource "aws_iam_service_linked_role" "spot" {
  aws_service_name = ""

resource "aws_iam_service_linked_role" "autoscaling" {
  aws_service_name = ""

GitLab runner token configuration

By default the runner is registered on initial deployment. In previous versions of this module this was a manual process. The manual process is still supported but will be removed in future releases. The runner token will be stored in the parameter store. See example for more details.

To register the runner automatically set the variable gitlab_runner_registration_config["token"]. This token value can be found in your GitLab project, group, or global settings. For a generic runner you can find the token in the admin section. By default the runner will be locked to the target project, not run untagged. Below is an example of the configuration map.

gitlab_runner_registration_config = {
  registration_token = "<registration token>"
  tag_list           = "<your tags, comma separated>"
  description        = "<some description>"
  locked_to_project  = "true"
  run_untagged       = "false"
  maximum_timeout    = "3600"
  access_level       = "<not_protected OR ref_protected, ref_protected runner will only run on pipelines triggered on protected branches. Defaults to not_protected>"

For migration to the new setup simply add the runner token to the parameter store. Once the runner is started it will lookup the required values via the parameter store. If the value is null a new runner will be created.

# set the following variables, look up the variables in your Terraform config.
# see your Terraform variables to fill in the vars below.

aws ssm put-parameter --overwrite --type SecureString  --name "${parameter-name}" --value ${token} --region "${aws-region}"

Once you have created the parameter, you must remove the variable runners_token from your config. The next time your gitlab runner instance is created it will look up the token from the SSM parameter store.

Finally, the runner still supports the manual runner creation. No changes are required. Please keep in mind that this setup will be removed in future releases.

Access runner instance

A few option are provide the runner instance

  1. Provide a public ssh key to access the runner by setting ``.
  2. Provide a EC2 key pair to access the runner by setting ``.
  3. Access via the Session Manager (SSM) by setting enable_runner_ssm_access to true. The policy to allow access via SSM is not very restrictive.
  4. By setting non of the above no keys or extra policies will be attached to the instance. You can still configure you own policies by attaching them to runner_agent_role_arn.

GitLab runner cache

By default the module creates a a cache for the runner in S3. Old objects are automatically remove via a configurable life cycle policy on the bucket.

Creation of the bucket can be disabled and managed outside this module. A good use case is for sharing the cache cross multiple runners. For this purpose the cache is implemented as sub module. For more details see the cache module. An example implementation of this use case can be find in the runner-public example.



Update the variables in terraform.tfvars according to your needs and add the following variables. See the previous step for instructions on how to obtain the token.

runner_name  = "NAME_OF_YOUR_RUNNER"
gitlab_url   = "GITLAB_URL"
runner_token = "RUNNER_TOKEN"

The base image used to host the GitLab Runner agent is the latest available Amazon Linux HVM EBS AMI. In previous versions of this module a hard coded list of AMIs per region was provided. This list has been replaced by a search filter to find the latest AMI. Setting the filter to amzn-ami-hvm-2018.03.0.20180622-x86_64-ebs will allow you to version lock the target AMI.

Usage module

Below a basic examples of usages of the module. The dependencies such as a VPC, and SSH keys have a look at the default example.

module "runner" {
  source  = "npalm/gitlab-runner/aws"

  aws_region  = "eu-west-1"
  environment = "spot-runners"

  ssh_public_key = local_file.public_ssh_key.content

  vpc_id                   = module.vpc.vpc_id
  subnet_ids_gitlab_runner = module.vpc.private_subnets
  subnet_id_runners        = element(module.vpc.private_subnets, 0)

  runners_name       = "docker-default"
  runners_gitlab_url = ""

  gitlab_runner_registration_config = {
    registration_token = "my-token
    tag_list           = "docker"
    description        = "runner default"
    locked_to_project  = "true"
    run_untagged       = "false"
    maximum_timeout    = "3600"



A few examples are provided. Use the following steps to deploy. Ensure your AWS and Terraform environment is set up correctly. All commands below should be run from the terraform-aws-gitlab-runner/examples/<example-dir> directory.

SSH keys

SSH keys are generated by Terraform and stored in the generated directory of each example directory.


THe version of Terraform is locked down via tfenv, see the .terraform-version file for the expected versions. Providers are locked down as will in the file.


The examples are configured with defaults that should wrk in general. THe samples are in general configured for the region Ireland eu-west-1. The only parameter that needs to be provided is the GitLab registration token. The token can be find in GitLab in the runner section (global, group or repo scope). Create a file terrafrom.tfvars and the registration token.

registration_token = "MY_TOKEN"


Run terraform init to initialize Terraform. Next you can run terraform plan to inspect the resources that will be created.

To create the runner run:

terraform apply

To destroy runner:

terraform destroy
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