The biggest limitation of Git, compared to some older centralized version control systems, has been the maximum size of the repositories.
The general recommendation is to not have Git repositories larger than 1GB to preserve performance. Although GitLab has no limit (some repositories in GitLab are over 50GB!), we subscribe to the advice to keep repositories as small as you can.
Not being able to version control large binaries is a big problem for many larger organizations. Videos, photos, audio, compiled binaries and many other types of files are too large. As a workaround, people keep artwork-in-progress in a Dropbox folder and only check in the final result. This results in using outdated files, not having a complete history and increases the risk of losing work.
This problem is solved in GitLab Enterprise Edition by integrating the git-annex application.
git-annex allows managing large binaries with Git without checking the
contents into Git.
You check-in only a symlink that contains the SHA-1 of the large binary. If you
need the large binary, you can sync it from the GitLab server over
very fast file copying tool.
GitLab git-annex Configuration
git-annex is disabled by default in GitLab. Below you will find the
configuration options required to enable it.
git-annex needs to be installed both on the server and the client side.
For Debian-like systems (e.g., Debian, Ubuntu) this can be achieved by running:
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install git-annex
For RedHat-like systems (e.g., CentOS, RHEL) this can be achieved by running:
sudo yum install epel-release && sudo yum install git-annex
Configuration for Omnibus packages
For Omnibus GitLab packages, only one configuration setting is needed. The Omnibus package will internally set the correct options in all locations.
/etc/gitlab/gitlab.rbadd the following line:
gitlab_shell['git_annex_enabled'] = true
Save the file and reconfigure GitLab for the changes to take effect.
Configuration for installations from source
There are 2 settings to enable git-annex on your GitLab server.
One is located in
config/gitlab.yml of the GitLab repository and the other
one is located in
config.yml of GitLab Shell.
config/gitlab.ymladd or edit the following lines:
gitlab_shell: git_annex_enabled: true
config.ymlof GitLab Shell add or edit the following lines:
Save the files and restart GitLab for the changes to take effect.
Using GitLab git-annex
Note: Your Git remotes must be using the SSH protocol, not HTTP(S).
Here is an example workflow of uploading a very large file and then checking it into your Git repository:
git clone firstname.lastname@example.org:group/project.git git annex init 'My Laptop' # initialize the annex project and give an optional description cp ~/tmp/debian.iso ./ # copy a large file into the current directory git annex add debian.iso # add the large file to git annex git commit -am "Add Debian iso" # commit the file metadata git annex sync --content # sync the Git repo and large file to the GitLab server
The output should look like this:
commit On branch master Your branch is ahead of 'origin/master' by 1 commit. (use "git push" to publish your local commits) nothing to commit, working tree clean ok pull origin remote: Counting objects: 5, done. remote: Compressing objects: 100% (4/4), done. remote: Total 5 (delta 2), reused 0 (delta 0) Unpacking objects: 100% (5/5), done. From example.com:group/project 497842b..5162f80 git-annex -> origin/git-annex ok (merging origin/git-annex into git-annex...) (recording state in git...) copy debian.iso (checking origin...) (to origin...) SHA256E-s26214400--8092b3d482fb1b7a5cf28c43bc1425c8f2d380e86869c0686c49aa7b0f086ab2.iso 26,214,400 100% 638.88kB/s 0:00:40 (xfr#1, to-chk=0/1) ok pull origin ok (recording state in git...) push origin Counting objects: 15, done. Delta compression using up to 4 threads. Compressing objects: 100% (13/13), done. Writing objects: 100% (15/15), 1.64 KiB | 0 bytes/s, done. Total 15 (delta 1), reused 0 (delta 0) To example.com:group/project.git * [new branch] git-annex -> synced/git-annex * [new branch] master -> synced/master ok
Your files can be found in the
master branch, but you'll notice that there
are more branches created by the
annex sync command.
Git Annex will also create a new directory at
.git/annex/ and will record the
tracked files in the
.git/config file. The files you assign to be tracked
git-annex will not affect the existing
.git/config records. The files
are turned into symbolic links that point to data in
debian.iso file in the example will contain the symbolic link:
git annex info to retrieve the information about the local copy of your
Downloading a single large file is also very simple:
git clone email@example.com:group/project.git git annex sync # sync Git branches but not the large file git annex get debian.iso # download the large file
To download all files:
git clone firstname.lastname@example.org:group/project.git git annex sync --content # sync Git branches and download all the large files
git-annex without GitLab, anyone that can access the server can also
access the files of all projects, but GitLab Annex ensures that you can only
access files of projects you have access to (developer, maintainer, or owner role).
How it works
Internally GitLab uses GitLab Shell to handle SSH access and this was a great
integration point for
There is a setting in GitLab Shell so you can disable GitLab Annex support
if you want to.
Differences in version of
git-annex on the GitLab server and on local machines
git-annex to raise unpredicted warnings and errors.
Consult the Annex upgrade page for more information about the differences between versions. You can find out which version is installed on your server by navigating to https://pkgs.org/download/git-annex and searching for your distribution.
Although there is no general guide for
git-annex errors, there are a few tips
on how to go around the warnings.
git-annex-shell: Not a git-annex or gcrypt repository
This warning can appear on the initial
git annex sync --content and is caused
by differences in
git-annex-shell. You can read more about it
in this git-annex issue.
One important thing to note is that despite the warning, the
and the files are pushed to the GitLab repository.
If you get hit by this, you can run the following command inside the repository that the warning was raised:
git config remote.origin.annex-ignore false
Consecutive runs of
git annex sync --content should not produce this
warning and the output should look like this:
commit ok pull origin ok pull origin ok push origin