GitLab CI/CD Triggers Simplified 101

Last Modified: October 5th, 2023

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CI/CD is gaining popularity and is likely one of the most discussed topics among DevOps newcomers. Configuring and operating a CI/CD pipeline has become much easier than it was 5-6 years ago, thanks to the availability of CI/CD tools on the market. There were no containers back then, and Jenkins was the only CI/CD tool that ruled the roost. Jenkins provides you with a task runner, allowing you to schedule your jobs to run sequentially or concurrently.

GitLab CI/CD Trigger is the most common and convenient technique for triggering CI/CD. GitLab CI/CD pipelines, by default, are executed automatically when new commits are pushed to a repository and do not require any intervention once created. However, there are times when you need to manually trigger pipelines without updating the project.

This blog discusses the GitLab CI/CD Trigger. It provides an overview and how to trigger a CI/CD Pipeline.

Table of Contents

What is CI/CD?

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Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery/Continuous Deployment are abbreviated as CI and CD, respectively. In a nutshell, continuous integration (CI) is a modern software development practice in which incremental code changes are made frequently and consistently.

CI/CD is a collection of best practices used to ensure that product updates are sent to your web application on a consistent and dependable basis. With each sprint that enters a new release cycle, your web application is bound to grow.

CI/CD is important because it allows DevOps professionals to work more efficiently and effectively. It reduces time-consuming and tedious manual development work, as well as legacy approval processes, allowing DevOps teams to be more innovative in their software development.

However, as your team develops, there will be more interaction points, and the likelihood of mistakes will increase as you attempt to migrate all of the code changes from one staging environment to another. This is when the CI/CD pipeline comes into play.

In today’s world, it’s difficult to envisage a web application that is scalable in terms of speed and consistency without adhering to CI/CD best practices.

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What is Continuous Integration?

In old SDLC models, developers would introduce new features into an environment one at a time. This caused problems when numerous developers were working on multiple features at the same time. Continuous Integration is a practice that ensures developers can commit numerous changes to the main branch of your web application in a systematic manner via a shared repository.

Using the Continuous Integration practice, your developers can integrate code for hotfixes, product enhancements, and so on into a shared repository multiple times per day. As a result, your total go-to-market launch will be accelerated, allowing you to be more agile.

If you have granted developers in your team edit access to the GitHub repository, you simply need to ensure that they are following best practices, code formatting, and, most critically, that the test cases that are not failing the GitLab CI/CD Trigger.

What is Continuous Delivery?

When it comes to continuous delivery, it occurs only when CI trigger has been completed. As the name implies, the practice of Continuous Delivery ensures that an automated pipeline is set up to deploy code updates from one staging environment to another.

Continuous Delivery encompasses all procedures required to make your program deployable. This comprises running complete tests, ensuring quality with testing tools, executing builds, signing code, documenting, and deploying to pre-production or user acceptance environments.

What is Continuous Deployment?

Continuous Deployment comes after Continuous Delivery. It is a development of Continuous Delivery. It advances Continuous Delivery to the point where the deployment of a new version release to production is done automatically.

The sole prerequisite for Continuous Deployment is that the process, procedures, and tests are in place to ensure a crash-free experience. Now, because it’s a completely automated system, it’s critical that you spend more time writing very stringent test cases because there’s no way for you to manually check your migration; once it’s gone, it’s gone!

As a result, not all businesses can benefit from Continuous Deployment. Because the procedure is totally automated and requires no human participation, Continuous Deployment should have the toughest rules possible before deploying the code.

Key Features of CI/CD

Here are some of the key features of CI/CD:

  • Centralized Repository: Source Code Management (SCM) stores all of the files and scripts required to create builds.
  • Frequent Visits to the Main Branch: Early and frequent integration of code in your trunk, mainline, or master branch — i.e. trunk-based development.
  • Frequent Iteration: Multiple commits to the repository reduces the number of places where conflicts can hide.
  • Stable Testing Environment: Test the code in a cloned version of the production environment.
  • Maximum Exposure: Every Developer should have access to the most recent executables and be able to see any changes made to the repository.
  • Predictable Deployment: Deployments are so routine and low-risk that the team feels at ease carrying them out at any time.

What Exactly is GitLab CI/CD?

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Gitlab provides great CI/CD services for projects hosted on Gitlab as well as other git providers. You may use GitLab CI/CD to combine all three processes we discussed: continuous integration, continuous delivery, and continuous deployment.

What makes GitLab CI/CD so strong is that it allows you to host your Git repository on any other Git provider, such as GitHub, while still utilizing its CI/CD system. You don’t even need to change your Git provider to use Gitlab CI/CD. The inclusion of a particular GitLab CI YAML configuration file is the only need for running CI/CD. The GitLab CI YAML file contains all of the instructions and data needed to run various CI/CD procedures.

Another important point to mention is that .gitlab-ci.yml is version-controlled and stored in the repository. This enables even older versions of your repository to be successfully built, making it easier for your team to adopt the CI practice. The reason for this is that putting the GitLab CI YAML in the repository means you’ve now integrated the CI/CD logic into your repository.

How to Trigger a CI/CD Pipeline?

Many CI platforms rely on integrations with other tools to complete all of the required fundamentals of full CI/CD. In order to have full CI/CD capabilities, many organizations must maintain costly and complex toolchains. This frequently entails maintaining a separate SCM such as Bitbucket or GitHub, connecting to a separate testing tool, which connects to their CI tool, which connects to a deployment tool such as Chef or Puppet, and which also connects to various security and monitoring tools.

Instead of focusing solely on developing great software, organizations must also maintain and manage a complex toolchain. GitLab is a single application for the entire DevOps lifecycle, which means we provide all of the fundamentals for CI/CD in a single environment.

GitLab CI/CD enables you to activate your pipeline in the following ways:

GitLab CI/CD Trigger: Manually

The GitLab CI/CD pipelines can always be triggered manually via the GitLab user interface by clicking the “Retry” button:

GitLab CI Trigger - Manual Trigger
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GitLab CI/CD Trigger has a feature that allows authorized users to request manual intervention to continue the job’s next steps. In the gitlab.yaml file, you can specify that a portion of the pipeline should run only after someone with access in the team has resumed the job from the UI.

This feature enables the creation of the previously discussed continuous delivery pipelines. Everything except deployment can be automated, and deployment can take place only after manual intervention.

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GitLab CI/CD Trigger: Through API

Webhooks are a convenient way to trigger CI/CD on demand by sending an HTTP post request to specialized URLs. This is particularly useful for event-based triggering, in which a webhook can be called whenever a specified event occurs.

  • For example, you can configure a cron to run nightly builds on Gitlab by simply sending a curl request to the webhook URL at the desired interval.
  • Any other event can be used as long as a webhook can be triggered in response to it.

Alternatively, you can use the GitLab CI/CD Trigger API to start the CI/CD pipelines.

To do so, navigate to the GitLab project’s Settings -> CI/CD Pipeline -> triggers, add a trigger (this will generate a TOKEN), and use the cURL and Webhook examples to trigger the project’s pipelines via the GitLab CI/CD Trigger API:

GitLab CI Trigger - API Trigger
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This method, as shown in the image above, can also be used to trigger the pipelines of one project from another project by calling the GitLab API via a script directive in another project’s .gitlab-ci.yml file.

Benefits of GitLab CI/CD Trigger

Listed below are some benefits of GitLab Trigger Pipeline:

  • Simplified Configuration: The GitLab CI/CD tool can be installed anywhere: on-premises, in the cloud, in a container, on almost any Linux distribution, and even in Kubernetes.
  • Automation of Pipelines: GitLab includes an Auto DevOps feature that can detect, build, test, deploy, and monitor applications automatically via the GitLab CI/CD Trigger pipeline. Everything that developers want to or are already doing with automation is covered by the functionality.
  • Scheduling Deployments: When code enters source control in a pure CI/CD pipeline, it is pushed to the CI process, which eventually kicks off the CD process to deploy the code. However, in a functioning enterprise production environment, the IT team may need to schedule releases to avoid conflicts or ensure that support staff can monitor for acceptable performance.


Many CI platforms rely on integrations with other tools to complete all of the required fundamentals of full CI/CD. In order to have full CI/CD capabilities, many organizations must maintain costly and complex toolchains.

This frequently entails maintaining a separate SCM such as GitLab CI/CD Trigger, connecting to a separate testing tool, which connects to their CI tool, which connects to a deployment tool such as Chef or Puppet, and which also connects to various security and monitoring tools.

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Also, let’s know your thoughts on GitLab CI/CD Triggers in the comments section below.

Former Research Analyst, Hevo Data

Davor is a data analyst at heart with a passion for data, software architecture, and writing technical content. He has experience writing more than 100 articles on data integration and infrastructure.

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