Renku needs a GitLab deployment in order to fully function. Every Renku project has a corresponding GitLab project.

You may choose to either deploy the GitLab that comes bundled with Renku or link to an existing GitLab instance. If you are deploying GitLab as a part of Renku, you need to configure data storage and be prepared to manage the CI runners etc. We encourage production deployments to not use the GitLab chart bundled with Renku, but instead either acquire GitLab as a service or deploy it using the official GitLab cloud-native Helm chart.

External GitLab

This section explains how to link Renku with an existing GitLab deployment.

External GitLab Setup

Renku needs to authenticate users with the Gitlab instance it is using. Depending on whether you have admin access to the external GitLab instance, the following options are available to you:

  • If you do not have admin access to GitLab, choose one of the following options:
    • Use GitLab as an identity provider for Renku

    • Have separate Renku and GitLab identities

  • If you do have admin access to GitLab, choose one of the following options:
    • Use GitLab as an identity provider for Renku

    • Use Renku’s Keycloak as an identity provider for GitLab

    • Have separate Renku and GitLab identities

To use an external GitLab as a backend for a Renku deployment you must register the Renku application in GitLab. If you are not an admin user, this is done under your personal user preferences. It is possible that the GitLab instance you are using prevents users from registering external applications - in this case you must contact your GitLab server administrator for assistance.

Renku GitLab application details

Name: renku

Callback URLs:



api (Access the authenticated user's API)
read_user (Read the authenticated user's personal information)
read_repository (Allows read-access to the repository)
read_registry (Grants permission to read container registry images)
openid (Authenticate using OpenID Connect)

Copy the secret and client ID for use in the step below.

Configuring an External GitLab as Identity Provider for Renku

If the Renku deployment is relying on an external GitLab instance, this GitLab instance could be configured as an identity provider for Renku’s Keycloak. This way the Renku login screen will show the option to “Login via GitLab” and existing GitLab users can use Renku without creating a separate Renku account.

  1. Login to the admin console of Renku’s Keycloak, usually found at https://<renku-domain>/auth, using the username and password stored in the Kubernetes secret called keycloak-password-secret. Ensure you base64 decode these values before using them to login. If you use an external Keycloak with Renku, login to the external Keycloak instead.

  2. Add an Identity Provider of type OpenID Connect v1.0.

  3. Set Alias to <renku-domain>, Authorization URL to https://<gitlab-domain>/oauth/authorize, Token URL to https://<gitlab-domain>/oauth/token and Client ID and Client Secret to the respective values copied from the Renku GitLab application details.

  4. Click Save. The new Identity Provider should appear and any user from the stand-alone GitLab instance should be able to login.

GitLab deployed as part of Renku

We do not recommend deploying the Renku-bundled GitLab as part of a production Renku deployment, and instead suggest deploying GitLab using the official GitLab cloud-native Kubernetes chart. Deploying GitLab as part of Renku may be deprecated in the future.

If your Renku deployment includes GitLab you need to follow some additional steps to configure an admin user on GitLab.

To grant a GitLab user the GitLab admin role without having access to the GitLab Web UI, the following steps can be taken in the GitLab container console.

  1. Run gitlab-rails console -e production (this might take a while).

  2. Find the user you would like to grant the admin role, for example by running user = User.find_by(email: '') or user = User.find_by(username: 'renku').

  3. Grant the user the administrator role by running user.admin = true.

  4. Save the user’s profile by running!.

  5. Leave the console by running exit.

Migrate from Renku-bundled Omnibus GitLab to cloud-native Gitlab Helm chart

Important information

This guide does not cover all steps which may need be taken for the migration, but is a reflection of the steps we have taken for our own deployments. Other deployments may require more, fewer, or different steps. You have been warned!

The steps below are intended to add some Renku-specific context to GitLab’s own migration guide, which should be read and understood before attempting the migration.

The version of the GitLab cloud-native Helm chart you will want to use depends on which version of GitLab you wish to migrate to. GitLab’s version mapping documentation is helpful for determining this.

These steps outline the method for migrating GitLab version 14.10.5, which at the time of writing, is the version of GitLab used in our production deployments. Steps for migrating other versions of GitLab may differ, due to the change in the values required by the GitLab cloud-native Helm chart between versions.

If you migrate from the Renku-bundled Omnibus GitLab to the cloud-native GitLab Helm chart, your GitLab instance can no longer be deployed at the /gitlab relative path of the Renku URL. To ease the migration process and prevent broken URLs, if an external GitLab used, Renku will forward traffic with the /gitlab relative path prefix to your external GitLab URL.

This information can also be loosely followed for setting up a new, non-migrated cloud-native GitLab deployment, for use with Renku. Configuration options such as using Renku’s Keycloak as the OAuth2 provider should obviously only be set when Renku itself has been deployed.

Backup existing GitLab

GitLab should to be backed up to an S3 bucket using the built-in GitLab backup tool.

  1. Create a deployment-specific S3 bucket for backing up GitLab. This should be the same S3 bucket that will be used for backing up the cloud-native Helm chart GitLab deployment.

  2. Append gitlab.rb in the renku-gitlab-config ConfigMap with backup_upload_connection and backup_upload_remote_directory, with the connection details for the backup S3 bucket filled in. For example:

    gitlab_rails['backup_upload_connection'] = {
        "provider" => "AWS",
        "region" => "ZH",
        "aws_access_key_id" => "",
        "aws_secret_access_key" => "",
        "endpoint" => "",
        'aws_signature_version' => 2,
        'path_style' => true,
    gitlab_rails['backup_upload_remote_directory'] = ''; # backup s3 bucket name
  3. In the GitLab pod shell, run gitlab-ctl reconfigure. After reconfiguration has completed, scale the GitLab deployment to 0 and back to verify new configuration

  4. Run gitlab-backup create to start backup process. This can take quite a while, depending on the size of the GitLab deployment.

  5. Verify GitLab backup has been uploaded to S3 bucket

  6. GitLab rails secrets are not included in the normal GitLab backup. Follow steps 1-4 of this guide to backup the GitLab rails secrets, and copy the secrets file to your local machine or somewhere else safe. In later steps, we refer to this file as gitlab-secrets.yaml. You can use kubectl cp to copy files to your local filesystem from the GitLab pod: kubectl cp renku/renku-gitlab:/etc/gitlab/gitlab-secrets.json ~/gitlab-secrets.json

Set values in configuration files

  1. Configure GitLab cloud-native Helm chart values file using the existing renku-gitlab-config ConfigMap for reference. The configuration options of the Helm chart can be found here. This is not a task that should be taken lightly, as many of the default CN GitLab Helm chart values are not suitable for a production deployment.

  2. Create a file containing the example OAuth2 provider config below. Get the client secret from the GitLab client in the Keycloak admin portal (https://<renku-domain>/auth, Keycloak admin credentials can be retrieved from the Keycloak Kubernetes secret) and paste it in the relevant field in the example config.

    name: oauth2_generic
    label: 'Renku login'
    app_id: 'gitlab'
    app_secret: '' # add gitlab client secret from keycloak here
        site: '' # keycloak url (renku url with /auth/ path)
        authorize_url: '/auth/realms/Renku/protocol/openid-connect/auth'
        user_info_url: '/auth/realms/Renku/protocol/openid-connect/userinfo'
        token_url: '/auth/realms/Renku/protocol/openid-connect/token'
        attributes: { email:'email', first_name:'given_name', last_name:'family_name', name:'name', nickname:'preferred_username' }
        id_path: 'sub'
  3. Create a file with the connection details for the backup s3 bucket using the example provided by s3tools. The config file can optionally be generated and verified by using the s3cmd tool. GitLab’s backups to S3 documentation

  4. Create a file with the connection details for the various non-backup Gitlab S3 buckets using the registry.s3.yaml example provided by GitLab. If connection details vary between buckets, multiple files can be created for each connection. GitLab’s bucket connection documentation


  1. Uninstall Renku & modify your Renku Helm values to use an external GitLab, specifying the new GitLab URL. You can also start with a newly generated Renku values using the Renku generate-values script.

  2. (Optional, recommended) Create a new namespace for GitLab

  3. Create secrets in the namespace you wish to deploy GitLab to with the content of the files containing the S3 bucket connection details and OAuth2 provider. Ensure the name of the secret and the key of the values match the associated values provided in your cloud-native Helm chart values.

  4. Install GitLab with Helm, providing the namespace, chart version and values file as arguments.

  5. After GitLab has successfully installed, restore the backup of your existing GitLab instance by following Gitlab’s restoring a GitLab installation documentation, starting with restoring the rails secrets. There might be errors or warnings during the restore, but according to this GitLab issue, that is often to be expected, and does not mean that the restore has actually failed.

  6. Ensure you can log in to GitLab, even just as root user, and do some checks to ensure the restore was successful.

Upgrading Renku with the newly modified Helm values

  1. Backup your current unedited values file

  2. Replace every GitLab URL from https://$RENKU_URL/gitlab to https://gitlab.$RENKU_URL. This is set in global.gitlab.url.

  3. Set gitlab.enabled to false.

  4. Re-install the Renku Helm chart with the newly modified values.