Tutorial: Run an ACR task on a defined schedule

This tutorial shows you how to run an ACR Task on a schedule. Schedule a task by setting up one or more timer triggers. Timer triggers can be used alone, or in combination with other task triggers.

In this tutorial, learn about scheduling tasks and:

  • Create a task with a timer trigger
  • Manage timer triggers

Scheduling a task is useful for scenarios like the following:

  • Run a container workload for scheduled maintenance operations. For example, run a containerized app to remove unneeded images from your registry.
  • Run a set of tests on a production image during the workday as part of your live-site monitoring.


About scheduling a task

  • Trigger with cron expression - The timer trigger for a task uses a cron expression. The expression is a string with five fields specifying the minute, hour, day, month, and day of week to trigger the task. Frequencies of up to once per minute are supported.

    For example, the expression "0 12 * * Mon-Fri" triggers a task at noon UTC on each weekday. See details later in this article.

  • Multiple timer triggers - Adding multiple timers to a task is allowed, as long as the schedules differ.

    • Specify multiple timer triggers when you create the task, or add them later.
    • Optionally name the triggers for easier management, or ACR Tasks will provide default trigger names.
    • If timer schedules overlap at a time, ACR Tasks triggers the task at the scheduled time for each timer.
  • Other task triggers - In a timer-triggered task, you can also enable triggers based on source code commit or base image updates. Like other ACR tasks, you can also manually run a scheduled task.

Create a task with a timer trigger

Task command

First, populate the following shell environment variable with a value appropriate for your environment. This step isn't strictly required, but makes executing the multiline Azure CLI commands in this tutorial a bit easier. If you don't populate the environment variable, you must manually replace each value wherever it appears in the example commands.

Embed launch

ACR_NAME=<registry-name>        # The name of your Azure container registry

When you create a task with the az acr task create command, you can optionally add a timer trigger. Add the --schedule parameter and pass a cron expression for the timer.

As a simple example, the following task triggers running the hello-world image from Microsoft Container Registry every day at 21:00 UTC. The task runs without a source code context.

az acr task create \
  --name timertask \
  --registry $ACR_NAME \
  --cmd mcr.microsoft.com/hello-world \
  --schedule "0 21 * * *" \
  --context /dev/null

Run the az acr task show command to see that the timer trigger is configured. By default, the base image update trigger is also enabled.

az acr task show --name timertask --registry $ACR_NAME --output table
--------  ----------  --------  -------------------     -----------------
timertask linux       Enabled                           BASE_IMAGE, TIMER

Also, a simple example, of the task running with source code context. The following task triggers running the hello-world image from Microsoft Container Registry every day at 21:00 UTC.

Follow the Prerequisites to build the source code context and then create a scheduled task with context.

az acr task create \
  --name timertask \
  --registry $ACR_NAME \
  --context https://github.com/$GIT_USER/acr-build-helloworld-node.git#master \
  --file Dockerfile \
  --image timertask:{{.Run.ID}} \
  --git-access-token $GIT_PAT \
  --schedule "0 21 * * *"

Run the az acr task show command to see that the timer trigger is configured. By default, the base image update trigger is also enabled.

az acr task show --name timertask --registry $ACR_NAME --output table

Run the az acr task run command to trigger the task manually.

az acr task run --name timertask --registry $ACR_NAME

Trigger the task

Trigger the task manually with az acr task run to ensure that it is set up properly:

az acr task run --name timertask --registry $ACR_NAME

If the container runs successfully, the output is similar to the following. The output is condensed to show key steps

Queued a run with ID: cf2a
Waiting for an agent...
2020/11/20 21:03:36 Using acb_vol_2ca23c46-a9ac-4224-b0c6-9fde44eb42d2 as the home volume
2020/11/20 21:03:36 Creating Docker network: acb_default_network, driver: 'bridge'
2020/11/20 21:03:38 Launching container with name: acb_step_0

Hello from Docker!
This message shows that your installation appears to be working correctly.

After the scheduled time, run the az acr task list-runs command to verify that the timer triggered the task as expected:

az acr task list-runs --name timertask --registry $ACR_NAME --output table

When the timer is successful, output is similar to the following:

--------  ---------  ----------  ---------  ---------  --------------------  ----------
ca15      timertask  linux       Succeeded  Timer      2020-11-20T21:00:23Z  00:00:06
ca14      timertask  linux       Succeeded  Manual     2020-11-20T20:53:35Z  00:00:06

Manage timer triggers

Use the az acr task timer commands to manage the timer triggers for an ACR task.

Add or update a timer trigger

After a task is created, optionally add a timer trigger by using the az acr task timer add command. The following example adds a timer trigger name timer2 to timertask created previously. This timer triggers the task every day at 10:30 UTC.

az acr task timer add \
  --name timertask \
  --registry $ACR_NAME \
  --timer-name timer2 \
  --schedule "30 10 * * *"

Update the schedule of an existing trigger, or change its status, by using the az acr task timer update command. For example, update the trigger named timer2 to trigger the task at 11:30 UTC:

az acr task timer update \
  --name timertask \
  --registry $ACR_NAME \
  --timer-name timer2 \
  --schedule "30 11 * * *"

List timer triggers

The az acr task timer list command shows the timer triggers set up for a task:

az acr task timer list --name timertask --registry $ACR_NAME

Example output:

    "name": "timer2",
    "schedule": "30 11 * * *",
    "status": "Enabled"
    "name": "t1",
    "schedule": "0 21 * * *",
    "status": "Enabled"

Remove a timer trigger

Use the az acr task timer remove command to remove a timer trigger from a task. The following example removes the timer2 trigger from timertask:

az acr task timer remove \
  --name timertask \
  --registry $ACR_NAME \
  --timer-name timer2

Cron expressions

ACR Tasks uses the NCronTab library to interpret cron expressions. Supported expressions in ACR Tasks have five required fields separated by white space:

{minute} {hour} {day} {month} {day-of-week}

The time zone used with the cron expressions is Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Hours are in 24-hour format.


ACR Tasks does not support the {second} or {year} field in cron expressions. If you copy a cron expression used in another system, be sure to remove those fields, if they are used.

Each field can have one of the following types of values:

Type Example When triggered
A specific value "5 * * * *" every hour at 5 minutes past the hour
All values (*) "* 5 * * *" every minute of the hour beginning 5:00 UTC (60 times a day)
A range (- operator) "0 1-3 * * *" 3 times per day, at 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00 UTC
A set of values (, operator) "20,30,40 * * * *" 3 times per hour, at 20 minutes, 30 minutes, and 40 minutes past the hour
An interval value (/ operator) "*/10 * * * *" 6 times per hour, at 10 minutes, 20 minutes, and so on, past the hour

To specify months or days you can use numeric values, names, or abbreviations of names:

  • For days, the numeric values are 0 to 6 where 0 starts with Sunday.
  • Names are in English. For example: Monday, January.
  • Names are case-insensitive.
  • Names can be abbreviated. Three letters is the recommended abbreviation length. For example: Mon, Jan.

Cron examples

Example When triggered
"*/5 * * * *" once every five minutes
"0 * * * *" once at the top of every hour
"0 */2 * * *" once every two hours
"0 9-17 * * *" once every hour from 9:00 to 17:00 UTC
"30 9 * * *" at 9:30 UTC every day
"30 9 * * 1-5" at 9:30 UTC every weekday
"30 9 * Jan Mon" at 9:30 UTC every Monday in January

Clean up resources

To remove all resources you've created in this tutorial series, including the container registry or registries, container instance, key vault, and service principal, issue the following commands:

az group delete --resource-group $RES_GROUP
az ad sp delete --id http://$ACR_NAME-pull

Next steps

In this tutorial, you learned how to create Azure Container Registry tasks that are automatically triggered by a timer.

For an example of using a scheduled task to clean up repositories in a registry, see Automatically purge images from an Azure container registry.

For examples of tasks triggered by source code commits or base image updates, see other articles in the ACR Tasks tutorial series.