GitHub Actions is a continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) platform that allows you to automate your software development workflows right in your GitHub repository. It provides a simple and powerful way to build, test, and deploy your code, as well as automate other tasks such as managing issues and pull requests.

Configuring GitHub Actions

GitHub Actions uses secrets to store sensitive information, such as API keys and passwords. Secrets are encrypted and stored in GitHub’s secure environment.

KoalaOps configures GitHub Actions workflows for you that expect a secret called GCP_CREDENTIALS to be present. This secret needs to represent a key file for a service account with permissions to interact with k8s clusters and GCP Artifact Registry.

To make it as easy as possible, the koala CLI can be used to automate the creation of a service account (if one doesn’t exist), add the necessary roles, and download the key file. Once you’ve installed the CLI (instructions):

Make sure you’re working with the right project in GCP:

gcloud config get-value project

If not, set it:

gcloud config set project <project>

Then create or update a service account, set roles, generate key and download file using:

koala auth sa-creds -n <name> -p <project>

This will save a file called sa-key.json to your current working dir.

Saving the Secret in GitHub

  • Go to the Settings page for your organization.
  • Click on the ‘Secrets and variables’ tab on the left hand side.
  • Click on the New organization secret button.
  • Enter a name for your secret: GCP_CREDENTIALS or AWS_CREDENTIALS according to the cloud provider.
  • Enter the value of your secret: copy the entire contents of the sa-key.json file created in the previous step.
  • Click on the ‘Add secret’ button.

Working with Protected Branches

KoalaOps creates GitHub Actions workflows for you, which in some cases need to automatically push changes to your git repo:

  • Automatic handling of semantic versioning: bumping your service’s version (in a VERSION file in the root dir) in each release.
  • If using GitOps mode, deploying versions via updating kustomize overlays.

If you use GitHub’s protected branches feature and restrict pushes to main, the GitHub Actions Workflows won’t be able to push these changes, because the built-in GITHUB_TOKEN token does not have sufficient permissions. This is a well-known limitation of GitHub, requiring slightly inelegant workarounds (see example discussion / FR).

The simplest solution is to create a PAT (Personal Access Token), with a user that has bypass branch protection permissions. Organization and repository administrators can always bypass required pull requests, but you can also create a “service account” specifically for this if you prefer and allow it to bypass branch protection via Repository settings -> Branches -> main -> Edit -> Allow specified actors to bypass required pull requests.


  1. Create a PAT via Make sure to grant it full repo access, but you don’t need other permissions. It is recommended to only use this token for GitHub Actions, and since it’s easy to regenerate by repeating this process, you can avoid storing it anywhere else once you complete this process. Copy the new token: GitHub Actions Personal Access Token creation page

  2. Create a new organization secret via Settings -> Secrets and Variables -> Actions. Choose a name, e.g. GHA_PAT and paste the PAT you created in the previous step as the value.

  3. Update the Workflows release.yml and (optionally, for GitOps mode) deploy.yml to use the PAT when checking out the code:

    - uses: actions/checkout@v3
        token: ${{ secrets.GHA_PAT }}

The workflows will now use the new PAT instead of the default GITHUB_TOKEN, and will be able to push changes even if branch protection is enabled.