Geo proxying for secondary sites (PREMIUM SELF)

FLAG: On self-managed GitLab, this feature is only available by default for Geo sites using a unified URL. See below to set up a unified URL for Geo sites. The feature is not ready for production use with separate URLs.

Use Geo proxying to:

  • Have secondary sites serve read-write traffic by proxying to the primary site.
  • Selectively accelerate replicated data types by directing read-only operations to the local site instead.

When enabled, users of the secondary site can use the WebUI as if they were accessing the primary site's UI. This significantly improves the overall user experience of secondary sites.

With secondary proxying, web requests to secondary Geo sites are proxied directly to the primary, and appear to act as a read-write site.

Proxying is done by the gitlab-workhorse component. Traffic usually sent to the Rails application on the Geo secondary site is proxied to the internal URL of the primary Geo site instead.

Use secondary proxying for use-cases including:

  • Having all Geo sites behind a single URL.
  • Geographically load-balancing traffic without worrying about write access.

Set up a unified URL for Geo sites

Secondary sites can transparently serve read-write traffic. You can use a single external URL so that requests can hit either the primary Geo site or any secondary Geo sites that use Geo proxying.

Configure an external URL to send traffic to both sites

Follow the Location-aware public URL steps to create a single URL used by all Geo sites, including the primary.

Update the Geo sites to use the same external URL

  1. On your Geo sites, SSH **into each node running Rails (Puma, Sidekiq, Log-Cursor) and change the external_url to that of the single URL:

    sudo editor /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb
  2. Reconfigure the updated nodes for the change to take effect if the URL was different than the one already set:

    gitlab-ctl reconfigure
  3. To match the new external URL set on the secondary Geo sites, the primary database needs to reflect this change.

    In the Geo administration page of the primary site, edit each Geo secondary that is using the secondary proxying and set the URL field to the single URL. Make sure the primary site is also using this URL.

In Kubernetes, you can use the same domain under global.hosts.domain as for the primary site.

Disable Geo proxying

You can disable the secondary proxying on each Geo site, separately, by following these steps with Omnibus-based packages:

  1. SSH into each application node (serving user traffic directly) on your secondary Geo site and add the following environment variable:

    sudo editor /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb
    gitlab_workhorse['env'] = {
      "GEO_SECONDARY_PROXY" => "0"
  2. Reconfigure the updated nodes for the change to take effect:

    gitlab-ctl reconfigure

In Kubernetes, you can use --set gitlab.webservice.extraEnv.GEO_SECONDARY_PROXY="0", or specify the following in your values file:


Enable Geo proxying with Separate URLs

The ability to use proxying with separate URLs is still in development. You can follow the "Geo secondary proxying with separate URLs" epic for progress.

To try out this feature, enable the geo_secondary_proxy_separate_urls feature flag. SSH into one node running Rails on your primary Geo site and run:

sudo gitlab-rails runner "Feature.enable(:geo_secondary_proxy_separate_urls)"

In Kubernetes, you can run the same command in the toolbox pod. Refer to the Kubernetes cheat sheet for details.


Behavior of secondary sites when the primary Geo site is down

Considering that web traffic is proxied to the primary, the behavior of the secondary sites differs when the primary site is inaccessible:

  • UI and API traffic return the same errors as the primary (or fail if the primary is not accessible at all), since they are proxied.
  • For repositories that already exist on the specific secondary site being accessed, Git read operations still work as expected, including authentication through HTTP(s) or SSH.
  • Git operations for repositories that are not replicated to the secondary site return the same errors as the primary site, since they are proxied.
  • All Git write operations return the same errors as the primary site, since they are proxied.

Features accelerated by secondary Geo sites

Most HTTP traffic sent to a secondary Geo site can be proxied to the primary Geo site. With this architecture, secondary Geo sites are able to support write requests. Certain read requests are handled locally by secondary sites for improved latency and bandwidth nearby. All write requests are proxied to the primary site.

The following table details the components currently tested through the Geo secondary site Workhorse proxy. It does not cover all data types, more will be added in the future as they are tested.

Feature / component Accelerated reads?
Project, wiki, design repository (using the web UI) {dotted-circle} No
Project, wiki repository (using Git) {check-circle} Yes 1
Project, Personal Snippet (using the web UI) {dotted-circle} No
Project, Personal Snippet (using Git) {check-circle} Yes 1
Group wiki repository (using the web UI) {dotted-circle} No
Group wiki repository (using Git) {check-circle} Yes 1
User uploads {dotted-circle} No
LFS objects (using the web UI) {dotted-circle} No
LFS objects (using Git) {check-circle} Yes
Pages {dotted-circle} No 2
Advanced search (using the web UI) {dotted-circle} No
  1. Git reads are served from the local secondary while pushes get proxied to the primary. Selective sync or cases where repositories don't exist locally on the Geo secondary throw a "not found" error.
  2. Pages can use the same URL (without access control), but must be configured separately and are not proxied.