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A curated list of awesome self-hosted GitHub Action runner solutions in a large comparison matrix

Purpose

The purpose of this repository is to provide an overview on self-hosted runner solutions for GitHub Actions compared by various criteria. There is no rating implied as the importance of the various categories differ from use case to use case. Data can be out of date, so if a certain feature is told to be missing, please double check whether this is still the case.

PRs Welcome

General collection of self-hosted runner best practices

During my research, I stumbled over dduzgun-security/github-self-hosted-runners with āœØ tips āœØ on what to consider when using self-hosted runners by yourself.

A word about self-hosted action runner images / virtual environments and how to test locally

The virtual environments provided by GitHub Action managed runners like ubuntu-latest contain a LOT of pre-installed tools already. If all of those tools were installed in your self-hosted runner, this would result in images > 18 GB. In many cases where you have a better picture for which purposes/platforms you will use your self-hosted runners, this is probably not what you want for performance and maintenance reasons. All of the self-hosted solutions compared allow to define custom images with custom tooling.

If you like to test your custom images with your Actions workflows locally before you expose them to your end users at large scale, you can use nektos/act to specify your own Docker image for a specific runner label using the -P option, see a more complex example here.

The matrix (might be better readable on GitHub pages)

Solution name Runtime GHES RegScope Scaling AutoScaling Architecture AutoDereg PATInRunner CleanUp Privileged Exposed AllInOne SelfService IdleCosts
actions-runner-controller/actions-runner-controller GitHub license GitHub contributors GitHub Stars GitHub issues GitHub issues-closed k8s āœ… Enterprise, Org, Repo, Labels, RunnerGroups k8s manifests & dynamic scaling āœ… (pending + running jobs or percentage runners already busy, check run events, scale up/down and flapping prevention parameters) x86, AMD64, ARM, ARM64 āœ… no yes (ephemeral) yes (install time, optional DInD) only if github-webhook autoscaler is used no yes (IssueOps project available) actions-runner controller + at least one pod per org runner
philips-labs/terraform-aws-github-runner GitHub license GitHub contributors GitHub Stars GitHub issues GitHub issues-closed AWS EC2/Lambda for Linux and Windows VMs āœ… Org, Repo, Labels, RunnerGroups Terraform config & dynamic scaling āœ… (pending jobs in org/repo, scale up/down and flapping prevention parameters) x86, AMD64, ARM, ARM64 āœ… no no no yes (GitHub check_run events) yes (at least intended this way) yes (IssueOps project available) no (only Lambdas, KMS, queue service, API gateway)
myoung34/docker-github-actions-runner GitHub license GitHub contributors GitHub Stars GitHub issues GitHub issues-closed Docker āœ… Org, Repo, Labels, RunnerGroups docker-compose, Nomad & k8s examples āŒ x86, ARM64, ARM āœ… yes no yes (DInD) no no no no
evryfs/github-actions-runner-operator GitHub license GitHub contributors GitHub Stars GitHub issues GitHub issues-closed k8s āœ… Organization, Repo yes (k8s manifests define max and min) āœ… scales up to min runners ASAP, then adds one runner at a time up to max if all current runners are busy, scales down idle runners up to min x86 āœ… no no yes (install time, optional DInD) no no no actions-runner controller
MonolithProjects/ansible-github_actions_runner GitHub license GitHub contributors GitHub Stars GitHub issues GitHub issues-closed bare metal/VM āœ… Organization, Repo, Labels based on Ansible playbook āŒ x86, AMD64, ARM, ARM64 explicitly in playbook no no install Ansible agents Ansible agents possible no Ansible agents
SanderKnape/github-runner GitHub license GitHub contributors GitHub Stars GitHub issues GitHub issues-closed Docker āŒ Org, Repo, Labels k8s manifest example āŒ x86 āœ… yes no no no no no no
machulav/ec2-github-runner GitHub license GitHub contributors GitHub Stars GitHub issues GitHub issues-closed AWS EC2 āŒ Repo GitHub Actions workflow params āœ… (1 runner per workflow run that requests it) x86 part of Actions workflow no yes (ephemeral) no embedded in GitHub Action workflow possible yes (Actions Workflow) no
terraform-google-modules/terraform-google-github-actions-runners GitHub license GitHub contributors GitHub Stars GitHub issues GitHub issues-closed k8s (GKE), Docker, VMs (GCE) āŒ Repo Terraform config/k8s manifests only on k8s, based on generic pod CPU consumption (HPA metric) x86 only worked for Docker yes no no no VMs could be configured like this no at least one idle runner to allow HPA to kick in based on CPU consumption
github-developer/self-hosted-runners-anthos GitHub license GitHub contributors GitHub Stars GitHub issues GitHub issues-closed k8s (Anthos GKE) āŒ Repo Terraform config/k8s manifests only on k8s, based on generic pod CPU consumption (HPA metric) x86 āœ… yes no yes, for DinD (can be turned off) no no no at least one idle runner to allow HPA to kick in based on CPU consumption
cosmoconsult/github-runner-windows GitHub license GitHub contributors GitHub Stars GitHub issues GitHub issues-closed Windows Docker container āŒ Org, Repo docker compose example in blog post āŒ win-x86 replace but not remove yes no no no no no no
aslafy-z/github-runner GitHub license GitHub contributors GitHub Stars GitHub issues GitHub issues-closed (fat) Docker, AWS EC2 āŒ Repo, Labels k8s & Nomad examples āŒ x86 āŒ yes no optional to run DInD no yes (50G+ image with all tools) no no
redhat-actions/self-hosted-runner-installer GitHub license GitHub contributors GitHub Stars GitHub issues GitHub issues-closed Kubernetes (OpenShift) āœ… Org, Repo, Labels HELM chart parameters āŒ x86 āœ… yes no no no no no no
peter-murray/github-actions-runner-container GitHub license GitHub contributors GitHub Stars GitHub issues GitHub issues-closed Docker āŒ Enterprise, Org, Repo, Labels, RunnerGroups āŒ āŒ x86 āœ… yes yes no no no no no
lts-beratung/ansible-github-action-runner GitHub license GitHub contributors GitHub Stars GitHub issues GitHub issues-closed bare metal or VM āŒ Org, Repo Ansible playbook āŒ x86 āœ… yes no install Ansible agents Ansible agents possible no Ansible agents
rakheshster/github-runner-on-ubuntu GitHub license GitHub contributors GitHub Stars GitHub issues GitHub issues-closed Azure VM (ARM template) āŒ Repo āŒ āŒ x86 āŒ yes no no no possible no no

Comparison categories

Runtime - Container, Kubernetes, virtual machines

Specifies whether the self-hosted runners are running on a container, Kubernetes cluster or virtual machine. Virtual machine based runners typically have some cloud specific dependencies.

GHES - GitHub Enterprise Server support

While GitHub.com is supported by all self-hosted runner solutions evaluated, not all of them support GitHub Enterprise Server yet (although supporting GitHub Enterprise Server is often just a matter on changing the API endpoint).

RegScope - Registration Scope

Self-hosted runners can be registered on the repo, org and enterprise level and may register with custom labels inside runner groups - but not all runner solutions provide support for all those options.

Scaling - Ability to specify multiple runner instances

Some self-hosted runner solutions have the ability to specify how many runners of a certain kind should be launched and whether crashed runners should be restarted.

Scaling

Some self-hosted runner solutions have the ability to scale automatically with the amount of pending jobs, busy runners, CPU utilization, ...

Architecture - Operating systems supported

While self-hosted action runners can support Linux (x86, ARM, ARM64), Mac and Windows - most self-hosted runner solutions are restricted to a subset of those architectures

Dereg - Automatic Runner Deregistration

Not all runner solutions remove themselves after they have been deleted, which can be problematic, especially, if combined aith auto-scaling capabilities.

PATInRunner - Personal access or OAuth token needed in runner

Some runner solutions provide a personal access token (PAT) or OAuth token directly to the runner so that it can register itself. This imposes the risk of a malicious job trying to steal the token and use it to elevate its permissions. Solutions that only pass a runner token to the actual runners are preferred from a security perspective.

CleanUp - Automated clean up after a build

While self-hosted runner provide some isolation between jobs, it is the responsibility of the job to clean up in most cases. Some self-runner solutions automatically de-register and clean-up runners after every build to avoid any interference between jobs.

Privileged - Any special privileges needed to run or install the solution

Calls out any special privileges (like Kubernetes cluster admin, Docker privileged mode) needed to run or install the solution.

Exposed - Need for GitHub to reach parts of the runner solution via web hooks

Some centralized runner solutions rely on the ability to receive web hook events from GitHub about new jobs. This approach might not be feasible for some installations, although a reverse proxy may help.

AllInOne - Software installed in the self-hosted runners

GitHub's own, hosted runners have a lot of software already pre-installed. Most container based solutions follow a different philosophy where only a minimum amount of software is pre-installed.

Contributors - Number of contributors to the solution

While the number of contributors is not the only criteria, it is typically a good indicator for the maturity of a solution.

SelfService - Ability for end users to setup new runner scale sets

Some runner solutions have add-ons that allow end users to stand up new runner groups in a self-service fashion, e.g. via IssueOps.

IdleCosts - Costs that incur even if no jobs are running

Some solutions require certain central components to be up and running all the time or at least one idle runner to allow scaling up properly - this category provides an idea of what is needed in terms of components, not concrete $$$ costs.

Matrix bonus

If you like to test the auto-scaling capabilities of your awesome runners with Matrix inspired action build runs, including LED matrices and Raspberry PIs, check out this repo.

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