actions-runner-controller

This controller operates self-hosted runners for GitHub Actions on your Kubernetes cluster.

Motivation

GitHub Actions is a very useful tool for automating development. GitHub Actions jobs are run in the cloud by default, but you may want to run your jobs in your environment. Self-hosted runner can be used for such use cases, but requires the provisioning and configuration of a virtual machine instance. Instead if you already have a Kubernetes cluster, it makes more sense to run the self-hosted runner on top of it.

actions-runner-controller makes that possible. Just create a Runner resource on your Kubernetes, and it will run and operate the self-hosted runner for the specified repository. Combined with Kubernetes RBAC, you can also build simple Self-hosted runners as a Service.

Installation

actions-runner-controller uses cert-manager for certificate management of Admission Webhook. Make sure you have already installed cert-manager before you install. The installation instructions for cert-manager can be found below.

Install the custom resource and actions-runner-controller itself. This will create actions-runner-system namespace in your Kubernetes and deploy the required resources.

kubectl apply -f https://github.com/summerwind/actions-runner-controller/releases/latest/download/actions-runner-controller.yaml

Github Enterprise support

If you use either Github Enterprise Cloud or Server (and have recent enought version supporting Actions), you can use actions-runner-controller with those, too. Authentication works same way as with public Github (repo and organization level).

kubectl set env deploy controller-manager -c manager GITHUB_ENTERPRISE_URL=<GHEC/S URL> --namespace actions-runner-system

Enterprise level runners are not working yet as there’s no API definition for those.

Setting up authentication with GitHub API

There are two ways for actions-runner-controller to authenticate with the GitHub API:

  1. Using GitHub App.
  2. Using Personal Access Token.

Regardless of which authentication method you use, the same permissions are required, those permissions are:

NOTE: It is extremely important to only follow one of the sections below and not both.

Using GitHub App

You can create a GitHub App for either your account or any organization. If you want to create a GitHub App for your account, open the following link to the creation page, enter any unique name in the “GitHub App name” field, and hit the “Create GitHub App” button at the bottom of the page.

If you want to create a GitHub App for your organization, replace the :org part of the following URL with your organization name before opening it. Then enter any unique name in the “GitHub App name” field, and hit the “Create GitHub App” button at the bottom of the page to create a GitHub App.

You will see an App ID on the page of the GitHub App you created as follows, the value of this App ID will be used later.

App ID

Download the private key file by pushing the “Generate a private key” button at the bottom of the GitHub App page. This file will also be used later.

Generate a private key

Go to the “Install App” tab on the left side of the page and install the GitHub App that you created for your account or organization.

Install App

When the installation is complete, you will be taken to a URL in one of the following formats, the last number of the URL will be used as the Installation ID later (For example, if the URL ends in settings/installations/12345, then the Installation ID is 12345).

Finally, register the App ID (APP_ID), Installation ID (INSTALLATION_ID), and downloaded private key file (PRIVATE_KEY_FILE_PATH) to Kubernetes as Secret.

$ kubectl create secret generic controller-manager \
    -n actions-runner-system \
    --from-literal=github_app_id=${APP_ID} \
    --from-literal=github_app_installation_id=${INSTALLATION_ID} \
    --from-file=github_app_private_key=${PRIVATE_KEY_FILE_PATH}

Using Personal Access Token

From an account that has admin privileges for the repository, create a personal access token with repo scope. This token is used to register a self-hosted runner by actions-runner-controller.

Self-hosted runners in GitHub can either be connected to a single repository, or to a GitHub organization (so they are available to all repositories in the organization). This token is used to register a self-hosted runner by actions-runner-controller.

For adding a runner to a repository, the token should have repo scope. If the runner should be added to an organization, the token should have admin:org scope. Note that to use a Personal Access Token, you must issue the token with an account that has admin privileges (on the repository and/or the organization).

Open the Create Token page from the following link, grant the repo and/or admin:org scope, and press the “Generate Token” button at the bottom of the page to create the token.

Register the created token (GITHUB_TOKEN) as a Kubernetes secret.

kubectl create secret generic controller-manager \
    -n actions-runner-system \
    --from-literal=github_token=${GITHUB_TOKEN}

Usage

There are two ways to use this controller:

Repository runners

To launch a single self-hosted runner, you need to create a manifest file includes Runner resource as follows. This example launches a self-hosted runner with name example-runner for the summerwind/actions-runner-controller repository.

# runner.yaml
apiVersion: actions.summerwind.dev/v1alpha1
kind: Runner
metadata:
  name: example-runner
spec:
  repository: summerwind/actions-runner-controller
  env: []

Apply the created manifest file to your Kubernetes.

$ kubectl apply -f runner.yaml
runner.actions.summerwind.dev/example-runner created

You can see that the Runner resource has been created.

$ kubectl get runners
NAME             REPOSITORY                             STATUS
example-runner   summerwind/actions-runner-controller   Running

You can also see that the runner pod has been running.

$ kubectl get pods
NAME           READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
example-runner 2/2     Running   0          1m

The runner you created has been registered to your repository.

Actions tab in your repository settings

Now you can use your self-hosted runner. See the official documentation on how to run a job with it.

Organization Runners

To add the runner to an organization, you only need to replace the repository field with organization, so the runner will register itself to the organization.

# runner.yaml
apiVersion: actions.summerwind.dev/v1alpha1
kind: Runner
metadata:
  name: example-org-runner
spec:
  organization: your-organization-name

Now you can see the runner on the organization level (if you have organization owner permissions).

RunnerDeployments

There are RunnerReplicaSet and RunnerDeployment that corresponds to ReplicaSet and Deployment but for Runner.

You usually need only RunnerDeployment rather than RunnerReplicaSet as the former is for managing the latter.

# runnerdeployment.yaml
apiVersion: actions.summerwind.dev/v1alpha1
kind: RunnerDeployment
metadata:
  name: example-runnerdeploy
spec:
  replicas: 2
  template:
    spec:
      repository: mumoshu/actions-runner-controller-ci
      env: []

Apply the manifest file to your cluster:

$ kubectl apply -f runner.yaml
runnerdeployment.actions.summerwind.dev/example-runnerdeploy created

You can see that 2 runners have been created as specified by replicas: 2:

$ kubectl get runners
NAME                             REPOSITORY                             STATUS
example-runnerdeploy2475h595fr   mumoshu/actions-runner-controller-ci   Running
example-runnerdeploy2475ht2qbr   mumoshu/actions-runner-controller-ci   Running

Autoscaling

RunnerDeployment can scale the number of runners between minReplicas and maxReplicas fields, depending on pending workflow runs.

In the below example, actions-runner checks for pending workflow runs for each sync period, and scale to e.g. 3 if there’re 3 pending jobs at sync time.

apiVersion: actions.summerwind.dev/v1alpha1
kind: RunnerDeployment
metadata:
  name: example-runner-deployment
spec:
  template:
    spec:
      repository: summerwind/actions-runner-controller
---
apiVersion: actions.summerwind.dev/v1alpha1
kind: HorizontalRunnerAutoscaler
metadata:
  name: example-runner-deployment-autoscaler
spec:
  scaleTargetRef:
    name: example-runner-deployment
  minReplicas: 1
  maxReplicas: 3
  metrics:
  - type: TotalNumberOfQueuedAndInProgressWorkflowRuns
    repositoryNames:
    - summerwind/actions-runner-controller

The scale out performance is controlled via the manager containers startup --sync-period argument. The default value is 10 minutes to prevent unconfigured deployments rate limiting themselves from the GitHub API. The period can be customised in the config/default/manager_auth_proxy_patch.yaml patch for those that are building the solution via the kustomize setup.

Additionally, the autoscaling feature has an anti-flapping option that prevents periodic loop of scaling up and down. By default, it doesn’t scale down until the grace period of 10 minutes passes after a scale up. The grace period can be configured by setting scaleDownDelaySecondsAfterScaleUp:

apiVersion: actions.summerwind.dev/v1alpha1
kind: RunnerDeployment
metadata:
  name: example-runner-deployment
spec:
  template:
    spec:
      repository: summerwind/actions-runner-controller
---
apiVersion: actions.summerwind.dev/v1alpha1
kind: HorizontalRunnerAutoscaler
metadata:
  name: example-runner-deployment-autoscaler
spec:
  scaleTargetRef:
    name: example-runner-deployment
  minReplicas: 1
  maxReplicas: 3
  scaleDownDelaySecondsAfterScaleOut: 60
  metrics:
  - type: TotalNumberOfQueuedAndInProgressWorkflowRuns
    repositoryNames:
    - summerwind/actions-runner-controller

If you do not want to manage an explicit list of repositories to scale, an alternate autoscaling scheme that can be applied is the PercentageRunnersBusy scheme. The number of desired pods are evaulated by checking how many runners are currently busy and applying a scaleup or scale down factor if certain thresholds are met. By setting the metric type to PercentageRunnersBusy, the HorizontalRunnerAutoscaler will query github for the number of busy runners which live in the RunnerDeployment namespace. Scaleup and scaledown thresholds are the percentage of busy runners at which the number of desired runners are re-evaluated. Scaleup and scaledown factors are the multiplicative factor applied to the current number of runners used to calculate the number of desired runners. This scheme is also especially useful if you want multiple controllers in various clusters, each responsible for scaling their own runner pods per namespace.

---
apiVersion: actions.summerwind.dev/v1alpha1
kind: HorizontalRunnerAutoscaler
metadata:
  name: example-runner-deployment-autoscaler
spec:
  scaleTargetRef:
    name: example-runner-deployment
  minReplicas: 1
  maxReplicas: 3
  scaleDownDelaySecondsAfterScaleOut: 60
  metrics:
  - type: PercentageRunnersBusy
    scaleUpThreshold: '0.75'
    scaleDownThreshold: '0.3'
    scaleUpFactor: '1.4'
    scaleDownFactor: '0.7'

Runner with DinD

When using default runner, runner pod starts up 2 containers: runner and DinD (Docker-in-Docker). This might create issues if there’s LimitRange set to namespace.

# dindrunnerdeployment.yaml
apiVersion: actions.summerwind.dev/v1alpha1
kind: RunnerDeployment
metadata:
  name: example-dindrunnerdeploy
spec:
  replicas: 2
  template:
    spec:
      image: summerwind/actions-runner-dind
      dockerdWithinRunnerContainer: true
      repository: mumoshu/actions-runner-controller-ci
      env: []

This also helps with resources, as you don’t need to give resources separately to docker and runner.

Additional tweaks

You can pass details through the spec selector. Here’s an eg. of what you may like to do:

apiVersion: actions.summerwind.dev/v1alpha1
kind: RunnerDeployment
metadata:
  name: actions-runner
  namespace: default
spec:
  replicas: 2
  template:
    spec:
      nodeSelector:
        node-role.kubernetes.io/test: ""

      tolerations:
      - effect: NoSchedule
        key: node-role.kubernetes.io/test
        operator: Exists

      repository: mumoshu/actions-runner-controller-ci
      image: custom-image/actions-runner:latest
      imagePullPolicy: Always
      resources:
        limits:
          cpu: "4.0"
          memory: "8Gi"
        requests:
          cpu: "2.0"
          memory: "4Gi"
      # If set to false, there are no privileged container and you cannot use docker.
      dockerEnabled: false
      # If set to true, runner pod container only 1 container that's expected to be able to run docker, too.
      # image summerwind/actions-runner-dind or custom one should be used with true -value
      dockerdWithinRunnerContainer: false
      # Valid if dockerdWithinRunnerContainer is not true
      dockerdContainerResources:
        limits:
          cpu: "4.0"
          memory: "8Gi"
        requests:
          cpu: "2.0"
          memory: "4Gi"
      sidecarContainers:
        - name: mysql
          image: mysql:5.7
          env:
            - name: MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD
              value: abcd1234
          securityContext:
            runAsUser: 0
      # if workDir is not specified, the default working directory is /runner/_work
      # this setting allows you to customize the working directory location
      # for example, the below setting is the same as on the ubuntu-18.04 image
      workDir: /home/runner/work

Runner labels

To run a workflow job on a self-hosted runner, you can use the following syntax in your workflow:

jobs:
  release:
    runs-on: self-hosted

When you have multiple kinds of self-hosted runners, you can distinguish between them using labels. In order to do so, you can specify one or more labels in your Runner or RunnerDeployment spec.

# runnerdeployment.yaml
apiVersion: actions.summerwind.dev/v1alpha1
kind: RunnerDeployment
metadata:
  name: custom-runner
spec:
  replicas: 1
  template:
    spec:
      repository: summerwind/actions-runner-controller
      labels:
        - custom-runner

Once this spec is applied, you can observe the labels for your runner from the repository or organization in the GitHub settings page for the repository or organization. You can now select a specific runner from your workflow by using the label in runs-on:

jobs:
  release:
    runs-on: custom-runner

Note that if you specify self-hosted in your workflow, then this will run your job on any self-hosted runner, regardless of the labels that they have.

Runner Groups

Runner groups can be used to limit which repositories are able to use the GitHub Runner at an Organisation level. Runner groups have to be created in GitHub first before they can be referenced.

To add the runner to the group NewGroup, specify the group in your Runner or RunnerDeployment spec.

# runnerdeployment.yaml
apiVersion: actions.summerwind.dev/v1alpha1
kind: RunnerDeployment
metadata:
  name: custom-runner
spec:
  replicas: 1
  template:
    spec:
      group: NewGroup

Using EKS IAM role for service accounts

actions-runner-controller v0.15.0 or later has support for EKS IAM role for service accounts.

As similar as for regular pods and deployments, you firstly need an existing service account with the IAM role associated. Create one using e.g. eksctl. You can refer to the EKS documentation for more details.

Once you set up the service account, all you need is to add serviceAccountName and fsGroup to any pods that uses the IAM-role enabled service account.

For RunnerDeployment, you can set those two fields under the runner spec at RunnerDeployment.Spec.Template:

apiVersion: actions.summerwind.dev/v1alpha1
kind: RunnerDeployment
metadata:
  name: example-runnerdeploy
spec:
  template:
    spec:
      repository: USER/REO
      serviceAccountName: my-service-account
      securityContext:
        fsGroup: 1447

Software installed in the runner image

The GitHub hosted runners include a large amount of pre-installed software packages. For Ubuntu 18.04, this list can be found at https://github.com/actions/virtual-environments/blob/master/images/linux/Ubuntu1804-README.md

The container image is based on Ubuntu 18.04, but it does not contain all of the software installed on the GitHub runners. It contains the following subset of packages from the GitHub runners:

The virtual environments from GitHub contain a lot more software packages (different versions of Java, Node.js, Golang, .NET, etc) which are not provided in the runner image. Most of these have dedicated setup actions which allow the tools to be installed on-demand in a workflow, for example: actions/setup-java or actions/setup-node

If there is a need to include packages in the runner image for which there is no setup action, then this can be achieved by building a custom container image for the runner. The easiest way is to start with the summerwind/actions-runner image and installing the extra dependencies directly in the docker image:

FROM summerwind/actions-runner:latest

RUN sudo apt update -y \
  && sudo apt install YOUR_PACKAGE
  && sudo rm -rf /var/lib/apt/lists/*

You can then configure the runner to use a custom docker image by configuring the image field of a Runner or RunnerDeployment:

apiVersion: actions.summerwind.dev/v1alpha1
kind: Runner
metadata:
  name: custom-runner
spec:
  repository: summerwind/actions-runner-controller
  image: YOUR_CUSTOM_DOCKER_IMAGE

Common Errors

invalid header field value

2020-11-12T22:17:30.693Z	ERROR	controller-runtime.controller	Reconciler error	{"controller": "runner", "request": "actions-runner-system/runner-deployment-dk7q8-dk5c9", "error": "failed to create registration token: Post \"https://api.github.com/orgs/$YOUR_ORG_HERE/actions/runners/registration-token\": net/http: invalid header field value \"Bearer $YOUR_TOKEN_HERE\\n\" for key Authorization"}

Solutions
Your base64’ed PAT token has a new line at the end, it needs to be created without a \n added

Developing

If you’d like to modify the controller to fork or contribute, I’d suggest using the following snippet for running the acceptance test:

# This sets `VERSION` envvar to some appropriate value
. hack/make-env.sh

NAME=$DOCKER_USER/actions-runner-controller \
  GITHUB_TOKEN=*** \
  APP_ID=*** \
  PRIVATE_KEY_FILE_PATH=path/to/pem/file \
  INSTALLATION_ID=*** \
  make docker-build docker-push acceptance

Please follow the instructions explained in Using Personal Access Token to obtain GITHUB_TOKEN, and those in Using GitHub App to obtain APP_ID, INSTALLATION_ID, and PRIAVTE_KEY_FILE_PATH.

The test creates a one-off kind cluster, deploys cert-manager and actions-runner-controller, creates a RunnerDeployment custom resource for a public Git repository to confirm that the controller is able to bring up a runner pod with the actions runner registration token installed.

If you prefer to test in a non-kind cluster, you can instead run:

shell script KUBECONFIG=path/to/kubeconfig \ NAME=$DOCKER_USER/actions-runner-controller \ GITHUB_TOKEN=*** \ APP_ID=*** \ PRIVATE_KEY_FILE_PATH=path/to/pem/file \ INSTALLATION_ID=*** \ ACCEPTANCE_TEST_SECRET_TYPE=token \ make docker-build docker-push \ acceptance/setup acceptance/tests

Alternatives

The following is a list of alternative solutions that may better fit you depending on your use-case:

Although the situation can change over time, as of writing this sentence, the benefits of using actions-runner-controller over the alternatives are: