Handles slow HTTP requests for GitLab

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Gitlab-workhorse is a smart reverse proxy for GitLab. It handles "large" HTTP requests such as file downloads, file uploads, Git push/pull and Git archive downloads.

Quick facts (how does Workhorse work)

  • Workhorse can handle some requests without involving Rails at all: for example, Javascript files and CSS files are served straight from disk.
  • Workhorse can modify responses sent by Rails: for example if you use send_file in Rails then gitlab-workhorse will open the file on disk and send its contents as the response body to the client.
  • Workhorse can take over requests after asking permission from Rails. Example: handling git clone.
  • Workhorse can modify requests before passing them to Rails. Example: when handling a Git LFS upload Workhorse first asks permission from Rails, then it stores the request body in a tempfile, then it sends a modified request containing the tempfile path to Rails.
  • Workhorse can manage long-lived WebSocket connections for Rails. Example: handling the terminal websocket for environments.
  • Workhorse does not connect to Postgres, only to Rails and (optionally) Redis.
  • We assume that all requests that reach Workhorse pass through an upstream proxy such as NGINX or Apache first.
  • Workhorse does not accept HTTPS connections.
  • Workhorse does not clean up idle client connections.
  • We assume that all requests to Rails pass through Workhorse.

For more information see 'A brief history of gitlab-workhorse'.


  gitlab-workhorse [OPTIONS]

  -apiCiLongPollingDuration duration
        Long polling duration for job requesting for runners (default 0s - disabled)
  -apiLimit uint
        Number of API requests allowed at single time
  -apiQueueDuration duration
        Maximum queueing duration of requests (default 30s)
  -apiQueueLimit uint
        Number of API requests allowed to be queued
  -authBackend string
        Authentication/authorization backend (default "http://localhost:8080")
  -authSocket string
        Optional: Unix domain socket to dial authBackend at
        Allow to serve assets from Rails app
  -documentRoot string
        Path to static files content (default "public")
  -listenAddr string
        Listen address for HTTP server (default "localhost:8181")
  -listenNetwork string
        Listen 'network' (tcp, tcp4, tcp6, unix) (default "tcp")
  -listenUmask int
        Umask for Unix socket
  -pprofListenAddr string
        pprof listening address, e.g. 'localhost:6060'
  -proxyHeadersTimeout duration
        How long to wait for response headers when proxying the request (default 5m0s)
  -secretPath string
        File with secret key to authenticate with authBackend (default "./.gitlab_workhorse_secret")
  -config string
        File that hold configuration. Currently only for redis. File is in TOML-format (default "")
        Print version and exit

The 'auth backend' refers to the GitLab Rails application. The name is a holdover from when gitlab-workhorse only handled Git push/pull over HTTP.

Gitlab-workhorse can listen on either a TCP or a Unix domain socket. It can also open a second listening TCP listening socket with the Go net/http/pprof profiler server.

Gitlab-workhorse can listen on redis events (currently only builds/register for runners). This requires you to pass a valid TOML config file via -config flag.
For regular setups it only requires the following (replacing the string with the actual socket)


Gitlab-workhorse integrates with Redis to do long polling for CI build requests. This is configured via two things:

  • Redis settings in the TOML config file
  • The -apiCiLongPollingDuration command line flag to control polling behavior for CI build requests

It is OK to enable Redis in the config file but to leave CI polling disabled; this just results in an idle Redis pubsub connection. The opposite is not possible: CI long polling requires a correct Redis configuration.

Below we discuss the options for the [redis] section in the config file.

URL = "unix:///var/run/gitlab/redis.sock"
Password = "my_awesome_password"
Sentinel = [ "tcp://sentinel1:23456", "tcp://sentinel2:23456" ]
SentinelMaster = "mymaster"
  • URL takes a string in the format unix://path/to/redis.sock or tcp://host:port.
  • Password is only required if your redis instance is password-protected
  • Sentinel is used if you are using Sentinel. NOTE that if both Sentinel and URL are given, only Sentinel will be used

Optional fields are as follows:

DB = 0
ReadTimeout = "1s"
KeepAlivePeriod = "5m"
MaxIdle = 1
MaxActive = 1
  • DB is the Database to connect to. Defaults to 0
  • ReadTimeout is how long a redis read-command can take. Defaults to 1s
  • KeepAlivePeriod is how long the redis connection is to be kept alive without anything flowing through it. Defaults to 5m
  • MaxIdle is how many idle connections can be in the redis-pool at once. Defaults to 1
  • MaxActive is how many connections the pool can keep. Defaults to 1

Relative URL support

If you are mounting GitLab at a relative URL, e.g., then you should also use this relative URL in the authBackend setting:

gitlab-workhorse -authBackend http://localhost:8080/gitlab


To install gitlab-workhorse you need Go 1.5 or newer and GNU Make.

To install into /usr/local/bin run make install.

make install

To install into /foo/bin set the PREFIX variable.

make install PREFIX=/foo

On some operating systems, such as FreeBSD, you may have to use gmake instead of make.

Error tracking

GitLab-Workhorse supports remote error tracking with Sentry. To enable this feature set the GITLAB_WORKHORSE_SENTRY_DSN environment variable.

Omnibus (/etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb):

gitlab_workhorse['env'] = {'GITLAB_WORKHORSE_SENTRY_DSN' => 'https://foobar'}

Source installations (/etc/default/gitlab):

export GITLAB_WORKHORSE_SENTRY_DSN='https://foobar'


Run the tests with:

make clean test

Coverage / what to test

Each feature in gitlab-workhorse should have an integration test that verifies that the feature 'kicks in' on the right requests and leaves other requests unaffected. It is better to also have package-level tests for specific behavior but the high-level integration tests should have the first priority during development.

It is OK if a feature is only covered by integration tests.


This code is distributed under the MIT license, see the LICENSE file.