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Image displaying the GitLab and Red Hat OpenShift logos

What is GitLab and the GitLab Operator?

Founded in 2011 and now with over 30 million users, GitLab is an open-source DevSecOps platform presented as a single application built to change how Development, Security, and Ops teams collaborate and build software. GitLab's core objective revolves around providing a space for every individual to contribute, firmly believing that such inclusivity fuels the pace of innovation. They emphasize remote work, open-source principles, DevSecOps methodologies, and iterative processes.

The GitLab Operator is crucial in overseeing the complete lifecycle management of GitLab instances within Kubernetes or OpenShift container platforms. Its primary objective is to simplify installing and configuring GitLab instances, ensuring a seamless transition between different versions. This development initiative aims to enhance the user experience by streamlining the installation and upgrade processes for GitLab instances. 

What is an Operator?

An Operator refers to a Kubernetes native application that expands upon the controller concepts of Kubernetes resources. It incorporates specific knowledge related to an application and can be customized to oversee the complete lifecycle management of applications, including tasks such as installation and autoscaling of pods. The Operator comprises three key components: a custom resource, custom controller, and application-specific knowledge. Essentially, an Operator functions as a controller that monitors the custom resource and alters the state of the Kubernetes cluster based on the application-specific knowledge integrated into the custom resource definition. Operators are highly capable Kubernetes tools that can automate an application's comprehensive management, simplifying the operational tasks involved.

Install the GitLab Operator on OpenShift

Step 1: Prerequisites

Deploy a Custom SCC:

    allowHostDirVolumePlugin: false
  allowHostIPC: false            
  allowHostNetwork: false                     
  allowHostPID: false                         
  allowHostPorts: false  
  allowPrivilegeEscalation: true
  allowPrivilegedContainer: false
  allowedCapabilities: null
  - NET_BIND_SERVICE                              
    type: MustRunAs            
  groups: []                   
  kind: SecurityContextConstraints
    name: gitlab-nginx-ingress-scc
  priority: null   
  readOnlyRootFilesystem: false
  - ALL            
    type: MustRunAs
    uid: 101
      type: MustRunAs


Deploy the IngressClass:

  kind: IngressClass
    name: gitlab-nginx
      controller: ""


Deploy cert-manager via OLM into your OpenShift cluster.

Step 2: Install GitLab Operator

Install the GitLab Operator:  Screenshot of the GitLab page for installing the operator

Screenshot of the GitLab Installed Operators page listing currently installed operators

Create a GitLab instance and check that the instance is running:

    $ oc -n gitlab-system get gitlab
    gitlab Running 6.10.3


Check that the GitLab pods are all running and healthy:

    $ oc -n gitlab-system get po

  gitlab-controller-manager-77dd5cfb98-99787 2/2 Running 0 19m
  gitlab-gitaly-0 1/1 Running 0 17m
  gitlab-gitlab-exporter-594bdf655b-l6f62 1/1 Running 0 16m
  gitlab-gitlab-shell-9fdbdcf87-2t655 1/1 Running 0 10m
  gitlab-gitlab-shell-9fdbdcf87-p5x8g 1/1 Running 0 16m
  gitlab-kas-798947c9df-7pg7h 1/1 Running 0 10m
  gitlab-kas-798947c9df-p6pxg 1/1 Running 0 16m
  gitlab-migrations-1-40b-1-sc87g 0/1 Completed 0 16m
  gitlab-minio-68796dfbf7-vc7sf 1/1 Running 0 17m
  gitlab-minio-create-buckets-1-8j2wg 0/1 Completed 0 17m
  gitlab-nginx-ingress-controller-57c7fdcf99-pqnfn 1/1 Running 0 18m
  gitlab-nginx-ingress-controller-57c7fdcf99-zgrh5 1/1 Running 0 18m
  gitlab-postgresql-0 2/2 Running 0 17m
  gitlab-redis-master-0 2/2 Running 0 17m
  gitlab-registry-556c46c55c-k4stp 1/1 Running 0 10m
  gitlab-registry-556c46c55c-xp9rh 1/1 Running 0 16m
  gitlab-shared-secrets-1-5p3-hm8p8 0/1 Completed 0 18m
  gitlab-shared-secrets-1-9ah-selfsign-cv7dg 0/1 Completed 0 17m
  gitlab-sidekiq-all-in-1-v2-774fb74b69-cvvtg 1/1 Running 0 11m
  gitlab-toolbox-57d6b56fdc-nsnzt 1/1 Running 0 16m
  gitlab-webservice-default-588bbd84f5-h7mgp 2/2 Running 0 11m
    gitlab-webservice-default-588bbd84f5-mtsfj 2/2 Running 0 10m


Step 3: Configure your GitLab instance

Check that the ingress was created:

    $ oc -n gitlab-system get ing    

  gitlab-kas gitlab-nginx 80, 443 55s
  gitlab-minio gitlab-nginx 80, 443 86s
  gitlab-registry gitlab-nginx 80, 443 55s
    gitlab-webservice-default gitlab-nginx 80, 443 54s


Update DNS to match the hostnames used in the ingress.

Browse to the domain in the ingress:

Screenshot of the GitLab Enterprise Edition login page


Obtain the initial root credentials to the GitLab instance:

    oc -n gitlab-system get secrets gitlab-gitlab-initial-root-password -o yaml | yq e '.data.password' - | base64 -d


Screenshot of the GitLab operator Projects page

These instructions have been verified to work on the current GitLab-supported OpenShift cluster versions, specifically v4.9 through v4.11 at the time of writing.

Wrap up

Now that you're officially a pro at installing the GitLab Operator and configuring a GitLab instance on OpenShift, you can experiment with what this Operator offers! 

GitLab is a powerful, open-source platform with an extensive community contributing code daily, transforming collaboration and software development in Development, Security, and Ops teams. The GitLab Operator is a great tool to quickly spin up and manage the lifecycle of a GitLab instance, simplifying the installation, use, and upgrading of your instances. For more information, explore their website and documentation.

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