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Free private Docker image registry
Categories: Docker

Yes, the title is largely click-bait, but with good reason. I am presently using Code Fresh as my Docker registry, but I’m not really a fan of their service. I have therefore been spending a great deal of search-engine time on finding a replacement for my (unfunded) tech projects, to little avail. Free is of course ideal, but I had essentially settled on moving to AWS ECR. This is fairly inexpensive, and I was planning to make use of it, despite not being particularly enamoured of AWS’s customer service.

For my continuous integration, I’ve been using CircleCI, as they have a generous 1,500 minutes/month free build tier, but they don’t have their own Docker registry. I became aware of GitLab after I had implemented all my CI at Circle, and I have no plans to move, but it turns out that the build allowance at GitLab is even better, clocking in at 2,000 minutes per month.

What is even better is that GitLab have a built-in Docker registry, it’s available on the free tier, and it is subject to a very generous limitation of 10G per repository. That’s going to be more than enough for most needs. The use case I have in mind is a microservice-based app I’ve been building, consistently presently of 13 images, and as far as I can tell I can store 10G of versioned images for each one of these – effectively, for me, a 130G size limit. Not bad!

I’ve tested this by creating an expiring personal access token, tagging a test image in the format<user>/<project>, logging in to the registry at, and then pushing – and it worked on the first try.

What strikes me as odd is that GitLab aren’t making more of this for marketing purposes, as far as I can tell. I appreciate the CI space is competitive, but the potential value of the free tier should not be underestimated. For every tech professional a CI service can attract to their service, that’s another voice who might do unpaid advocacy for their product in the future. For myself, I’m now amenable to GitLab, even though I already have a CI service I am happy with.

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