GitOps way with Github Actions and self-hosted runner on Kubernetes

GitOps way with Github Actions and self-hosted runner on Kubernetes

In this tutorial, I will show how to:

  1. Deploy self-hosted-runner to Kubernetes and connect it with your GitHub repo.

  2. Redeploy Nginx server on your k8s cluster with every change in nginx/deployment.yaml, which pushed to Github repo.

Every change in configuration of deployment.yaml on Github will be propagated to Nginx server.”

Github Actions published guides:

  1. Use GitHub Actions and Terraform to provision EC2 instance

  2. GitOps way with Github Actions and self-hosted runner on Kubernetes

  3. Automatic scaling with Github Actions and self-hosted runners

  4. Github Actions with k8s and Karpenter to dynamically provision your runners on spot instances

  5. Github Actions with ChatOps to write beautiful python code

  6. Use OpenID Connect with Github Actions to authenticate with Amazon Web Services

So, why self-hosted runner?

The reason for self-hosted runner is coming from security limitation ( in my case), I have an internal k8s cluster which is not externally reachable and can be accessed only via VPN.

So how it works if the cluster can’t be reached externally?

The self-hosted runner connects to GitHub to receive job assignments and to download new versions of the runner application. The self-hosted runner uses an HTTPS long poll that opens a connection to GitHub for 50 seconds, and if no response is received, it then times out and creates a new long poll. The application must be running on the machine to accept and run GitHub Actions jobs. Since the self-hosted runner opens a connection to, you do not need to allow GitHub to make inbound connections to your self-hosted runner. meaning self-hosted runner using https polling to talk with Github, but Github not talking directly with self-hosted runners.

Let’s do it

Need to generate Github’s Personal access token (PAT) first

Go to your Github account ->, then to

Developer settings -> Generate new token

Provision of self-hosted runner to k8s

I will use Dockerfile for self-hosted runner from this repo: Github self-hosted

by Sander Knape,

Validation of PAT by running self-hosted runner as docker container

docker run --name github-runner \
     -e GITHUB_OWNER=warolv \
     -e GITHUB_REPOSITORY=github-actions-series \

I am using my Github account for testing: warolv, repo is ‘github-actions-series’ and PAT we generated previously

Go to your Github repo -> settings -> Actions -> runners, you will see new self-hosted runner:

self-hosted runner is connected to Github and ready to do the job, looks good:-)

Next step will be to deploy it to k8s.

I will use my ‘kind’ k8s cluster for demo:

kind create cluster

Now let’s actually provision self-hosted runner to k8s

First clone my repo: git clone [email protected]:warolv/github-actions-series.git

Creating of k8s secret with PAT in namespace: ‘github-runner’

# create github-runner namespace
kubectl create ns github-runner

# create secret from PAT we got previously
kubectl create secret generic gh-pat \
    -n github-runner \

Overview of manifests for deployment

gr-deployment.yaml (self-hosted-runner/gr-deployment.yaml in cloned repo)

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
  name: github-runner
  namespace: github-runner
    app: github-runner
  replicas: 1
      app: github-runner
        app: github-runner
      serviceAccountName: gr-sa
      - name: github-runner
        image: sanderknape/github-runner:latest
        - name: GITHUB_OWNER
          value: warolv
        - name: GITHUB_REPOSITORY
          value: github-actions-series
        - name: RUNNER_LABELS
          value: self-hosted-runner
        - name: GITHUB_PAT
              name: gh-pat
              key: pat
              command: ["sh", "-c", "install kubectl..."]

For deployment of self-hosted runner to k8s, you need to set proper values for:

  1. GITHUB_OWNER: warolv in my case
  2. GITHUB_REPOSITORY: [ github-actions-series], for my demo
  3. RUNNER_LABELS: [ self-hosted-runner ], used in workflow
  4. GITHUB_PAT: taken from k8s secret we created previously

Also we installing ‘kubectl’ to existing runner using ‘lifecycle poststart’ hook, we need kubectl to redeploy Nginx on configuration change.

PostStart The PostStart hook is called immediately after a container is created. This occurs as it transitions into the Running phase after its Waiting period.

gr_sa.yaml is a service account which will be attached to runner, in order to have permissions for redeploying Nginx.

apiVersion: v1
kind: ServiceAccount
  name: gr-sa
  namespace: github-runner

gr-cluster-role.yaml and gr-cluster-role-binding.yaml is a binding of needed permissions to ‘gr-sa’ service account.

kind: ClusterRole
  name: pod-handler
- apiGroups: ["apps"]
  resources: ["pods", "deployments"]
  verbs: ["get", "list", "watch", "create", "update", "patch", "delete"]
kind: ClusterRoleBinding
  name: pod-handler-binding
  namespace: github-runner
  kind: ClusterRole
  name: pod-handler 
- kind: ServiceAccount
  name: gr-sa
  namespace: github-runner

Let’s deploy all needed manifests in self-hosted-runner folder

kubectl apply -f self-hosted-runner

Validate self-hosted-runner is running and connected

kubectl get pods
github-runner-58855b59b6-l87sv   1/1     Running   0          165m

kubectl logs github-runner-58855b59b6-l87sv

Add Github Workflow to redeploy Nginx on configuration change

Last step actually would be to create workflow with Github Actions to redeploy Nginx server on configuration change, when nginx/deployment.yaml is changed, committed and pushed to repo.


name: Redeploy nginx after changes in deployment.yaml
      - nginx/**

    runs-on: self-hosted-runner
      - uses: actions/checkout@v3
      - name: Redeploy nginx
        run: |
          kubectl apply -f nginx/deployment.yaml

I use ‘paths:’ to make sure Nginx will be redeployed only if nginx/deployment.yaml is changed.

To actually apply changes I use ‘kubectl apply -f nginx/deployment.yaml’, kubectl was installed into runner as I explained previously.

Now each commit with a change of nginx/deployment.yaml which pushed, will redeploy Nginx (In this example I changed number of replicas to 2 replicas) :

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it, see you in the next post.

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