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Read-only Jenkins Configuration

Tim Jacomb
Tim Jacomb
May 25, 2020

I’m excited to announce that the 'read-only' Jenkins feature is now available for preview. This feature allows restricting configuration UIs and APIs while providing access to essential Jenkins system configuration, diagnostics, and self-monitoring tools through Web UI. Such mode is critical for instances managed as code, e.g. with Jenkins Configuration-as-Code plugin. It is delivered as a part of the JEP-224: Readonly system configuration effort.

You will want to use at least Jenkins 2.238 to have all the features mentioned in this post.

Read-only Jenkins currently allows users to have access to:

  • job configuration

  • system configuration

  • plugin manager

  • system logs

  • cloud configuration

  • agent configuration

  • agent logs

For more planned integrations see the JENKINS-12548 epic.

Read-only Jenkins is split into three permissions:

  • Job/ExtendedRead - Read-only access to job configurations

    • existed since 2009 but the UI didn’t do anything to indicate to the users that they couldn’t edit the job configuration page. This has now been adapted to the new read-only engine.

  • Agent/ExtendedRead - Read-only access to agent configurations

    • existed since 2013 but it was undocumented and only allowed access to API and no UI

    • UI support added in Jenkins 2.238

  • Overall/SystemRead - Read-only access to Jenkins system configuration. It is very useful for Jenkins instances managed as code, e.g. with help of the Jenkins Configuration as Code Plugin.

You can selectively grant the permission(s) as you wish.

Why do I want this?

Given the rise of the configuration-as-code plugin a lot of Jenkins instances are fully managed as code, which means that no changes are allowed through the UI.

The problem with this is you don’t know when new plugin versions are available and in order to see what other configuration options are available to a plugin you currently need the 'Administer' permission.

Read-only access to system administration information allows users who are not administrators to more easily debug build issues. For example, given a 'Jenkins' error message in a build the user can check:

  1. which plugins are installed

  2. the version of the plugin

This can allow the user to solve their issue themselves and makes it easier for the user to report an issue with a plugin directly to the maintainers.

What can I expect

All built in UI controls have been adapted to clearly distinguish between an editable control and a control you don’t have permission to edit:


build discarder edit

Non editable:

build discarder read

Note: there are other controls such as in the credentials and pipeline plugins that have not been updated yet.

Action buttons, (Such as 'Save' and 'Apply') have been hidden in most cases.

Work will continue on read-only configuration. Some plugins need support added and certain controls could have some improvements done to render better.

How can I use it?

These permissions are currently available in beta and for now disabled by default. You can enable them by installing the Extended read permission plugin v3.2 or above.

Then you will need to add the following permissions to a user / group depending on your use case:

  • Overall/SystemRead

  • Job/ExtendedRead

  • Agent/ExtendedRead

Note: You will need to set the Overall/Read and Job/Read permissions as well. You might want to consider creating a role containing the required permissions.

        - name: "admin"
            - id: "Overall/Administer"
            - "admin"
        - name: "global read"
            - id: "Agent/ExtendedRead"
            - id: "Overall/SystemRead"
            - id: "Overall/Read"
            - id: "Job/Read"
            - id: "Job/ExtendedRead"
            - "reader"

I can’t see a configuration that I think should be allowed

Most of Jenkins itself has been updated to support read-only Jenkins, but not very many plugins. Please create an enhancement issue on the plugins issue tracker. If the plugin uses Jira to track issues, then you can add it to the JENKINS-12548 epic.

How do I update my plugin to support it

See the Read only view section of the developer documentation.

What’s next

In this release we introduce a foundation feature which is already supported in all key Jenkins core controls and in some plugins. There are many plugins which contribute to global configurations and diagnostics which still need to be adapted to support the new mode. We will keep working on this feature and its adoption so that the next LTS baseline in September provides a full-fledged user experience for Jenkins admins.

System read permission is a featured project in the UI/UX Hackfest happening May 25-29 2020. If you want to get involved please check it out!

About the author

Tim Jacomb

Tim Jacomb

Jenkins core maintainer, along with slack, azure-keyvault and configuration-as-code plugins. Tim started using Jenkins in 2013 and became an active contributor in 2018. Tim enjoys working on open source software in his “free” time.