Build your own CI/CD pipeline

The Journey Ends

My journey towards a self-hosted devops pipeline began a few years ago with steps to architect a personal devops pipeline. The system grew into the Podman era when I wrote how to host your services with podman.

Inspired by Christian Ştefănescu’s brilliant design for a Tiny CI System and motivated by the need to redeploy my entire web stack to a cloud server while we move, I’ve crafted my own minimal deployment system that may be the last step in my devops saga for a while.

Step 1: SSH Access

The first leg of the journey is to configure the server so that I can access it via SSH. These steps are common knowledge or a simple Google search so I won’t reiterate.

Step 2: Server Configuration

Now that I can use SSH I’m able to run my Ansible web/deployment server playbook. This playbook installs common admin programs, installs and configures my Nginx web server, and enables a firewall. It also installs podman, redis, and the glue scripts used for the CI/CD process.


Shoutout to Steve Owens for Ansible help with Ansible Git Server Installation.

Step 3: Chaos Suite Installation

With the server configured, I run a second Ansible playbook to install all my chaos suite roles. This installs the proxy configuration and systemd files, adds a bare Git repo, and includes a post-receive hook to interact with the CI/CD redis service.

Step 4: Add Git Remote

The final step is to configure my local repo to push to the new remote.

How It Works

Let’s say I’m working on my chaos-micropub service. I’ve finished a feature and want to deploy it to production, so I ~cut a release branch~ merge it into master. Then I push the changes to my CI/CD-enabled remote.

git push pi master

I get a message back that reads:


started job 0d313b1e-cca8-11ec-8c59-67453021b8a9 for chaos-micropub.

This job was added to a Redis queue along with a few hash set values that are relevant to the build: timestamp, ref, revision, and repo.

A script waits for updates to this queue and takes my job off the top. It gets the hash set values from Redis, changes to the repo directory and checks out the revision. It runs a standardized Bash script in the repo that kicks off a Podman build ~and restarts the systemd service~ (see note below).

When the image is built and the service bounced, the script updates the hash set with success and output values.

A Note About Nonroot Containers

You can make all of these steps work with root containers, but you’ll hit one snag when restarting a nonroot container that I haven’t solved yet. If you’re running any nonroot container with this method you’ll have to manually redeploy the systemd service.

SystemD allows user-specific unit files which makes perfect sense to manage user-specific Podman containers. However, there’s not presently a way to execute a systemctl command to restart your container from within a script. If you have a line in your bash script that looks like this:

systemctl --user restart container-micropub`

It will fail with a message about XDG_RUNTIME_DIR and DEBUS_SESSION_BUS_ADDRESS.

Some Googling revealed that you could run loginctl enable-linger ${user} to solve this, but it doesn’t quite work for this scenario. Linger allows your user to launch the systemd unit file at boot if it’s enabled. These errors are about something else.

From what I have been able to gather, the problem (if you want to call it that) is isolation and identity. SystemD maintains strict isolation between systemd services for the root user and those for a specific user. If you try to restart the systemd service from a script, it balks because it can’t confirm that you’re a “real” user (identity). However, if you try to impersonate a user with root to hack your way in, it will also fail. Although the systemd manual mentioned the --machine flag can allow root to run systemd services as another user, I was not able to get it to work.

So there’s no way that I’ve found to run a user’s systemd service except by logging in and doing it myself.

Additional Steps For Ease-of-Use

I initially thought I’ll want a web UI to check the status of my builds. I may still; however, I’ve found a couple shortcuts that work perfectly fine for now. CLI to the rescue!

First, checking the status of the build is a straightforward redis-cli command.

ssh pi@web redis-cli hgetall c9a00824-d5fa-11ec-b339-27be07fe7dfd

I can copy the Podman image hash from the output for later use. If the build succeeds, I restart the service (which works since it’s my terminal instance).

ssh pi@web systemctl --user restart container-micropub

And as a sanity check I can verify that the production image matches the my newly minted image hash with a little more CLI Kung-Fu.

ssh pi@web 'podman inspect webhook | jq .[].Image'



Time and again on the road to a personal devops pipeline I thought it would end with Kubernetes. I had zero experience operating Linux systemd services or running containers outside Dockerland. Now I can write an Ansible role and deploy any number of services, managed by native systemd, isolated in nonroot containers, in less than an hour.

I keep my Ansible deployments public. You may find them on Github here.