CLI (v2) core YAML syntax

APPLIES TO: Azure CLI ml extension v2 (current)

Every Azure Machine Learning entity has a schematized YAML representation. You can create a new entity from a YAML configuration file with a .yml or .yaml extension.

This article provides an overview of core syntax concepts you will encounter while configuring these YAML files.

Referencing an Azure ML entity

Azure ML provides a reference syntax (consisting of a shorthand and longhand format) for referencing an existing Azure ML entity when configuring a YAML file. For example, you can reference an existing registered environment in your workspace to use as the environment for a job.

Referencing an Azure ML asset

There are two options for referencing an Azure ML asset (environments, models, data, and components):

  • Reference an explicit version of an asset:

    • Shorthand syntax: azureml:<asset_name>:<asset_version>
    • Longhand syntax, which includes the Azure Resource Manager (ARM) resource ID of the asset:
  • Reference the latest version of an asset:

    In some scenarios you may want to reference the latest version of an asset without having to explicitly look up and specify the actual version string itself. The latest version is defined as the latest (also known as most recently) created version of an asset under a given name.

    You can reference the latest version using the following syntax: azureml:<asset_name>@latest. Azure ML will resolve the reference to an explicit asset version in the workspace.

Reference an Azure ML resource

To reference an Azure ML resource (such as compute), you can use either of the following syntaxes:

  • Shorthand syntax: azureml:<resource_name>
  • Longhand syntax, which includes the ARM resource ID of the resource:

Azure ML data reference URI

Azure ML offers a convenience data reference URI format to point to data in an Azure storage service. This can be used for scenarios where you need to specify a cloud storage location in your YAML file, such as creating an Azure ML model from file(s) in storage, or pointing to data to pass as input to a job.

To use this data URI format, the storage service you want to reference must first be registered as a datastore in your workspace. Azure ML will handle the data access using the credentials you provided during datastore creation.

The format consists of a datastore in the current workspace and the path on the datastore to the file or folder you want to point to:


For example:

  • azureml://datastores/workspaceblobstore/paths/example-data/
  • azureml://datastores/workspaceblobstore/paths/example-data/iris.csv

In addition to the Azure ML data reference URI, Azure ML also supports the following direct storage URI protocols: https, wasbs, abfss, and adl, as well as public http and https URIs.

Expression syntax for configuring Azure ML jobs and components

v2 job and component YAML files allow for the use of expressions to bind to contexts for different scenarios. The essential use case is using an expression for a value that might not be known at the time of authoring the configuration, but must be resolved at runtime.

Use the following syntax to tell Azure ML to evaluate an expression rather than treat it as a string:

${{ <expression> }}

The supported scenarios are covered below.

Parameterizing the command with the inputs and outputs contexts of a job

You can specify literal values, URI paths, and registered Azure ML data assets as inputs to a job. The command can then be parameterized with references to those input(s) using the ${{inputs.<input_name>}} syntax. References to literal inputs will get resolved to the literal value at runtime, while references to data inputs will get resolved to the download path or mount path (depending on the mode specified).

Likewise, outputs to the job can also be referenced in the command. For each named output specified in the outputs dictionary, Azure ML will system-generate an output location on the default datastore where you can write files to. The output location for each named output is based on the following templatized path: <default-datastore>/azureml/<job-name>/<output_name>/. Parameterizing the command with the ${{outputs.<output_name>}} syntax will resolve that reference to the system-generated path, so that your script can write files to that location from the job.

In the example below for a command job YAML file, the command is parameterized with two inputs, a literal input and a data input, and one output. At runtime, the ${{inputs.learning_rate}} expression will resolve to 0.01, and the ${{inputs.iris}} expression will resolve to the download path of the iris.csv file. ${{outputs.model_dir}} will resolve to the mount path of the system-generated output location corresponding to the model_dir output.

code: ./src
command: python --lr ${{inputs.learning_rate}} --training-data ${{inputs.iris}} --model-dir ${{outputs.model_dir}}
environment: azureml:AzureML-Minimal@latest
compute: azureml:cpu-cluster
  learning_rate: 0.01
    type: uri_file
    mode: download

Parameterizing the command with the search_space context of a sweep job

You will also use this expression syntax when performing hyperparameter tuning via a sweep job, since the actual values of the hyperparameters are not known during job authoring time. When you run a sweep job, Azure ML will select hyperparameter values for each trial based on the search_space. In order to access those values in your training script, you must pass them in via the script's command-line arguments. To do so, use the ${{search_space.<hyperparameter>}} syntax in the trial.command.

In the example below for a sweep job YAML file, the ${{search_space.learning_rate}} and ${{search_space.boosting}} references in trial.command will resolve to the actual hyperparameter values selected for each trial when the trial job is submitted for execution.

type: sweep
  type: random
    type: uniform
    min_value: 0.01
    max_value: 0.9
    type: choice
    values: ["gbdt", "dart"]
  goal: minimize
  primary_metric: test-multi_logloss
  code: ./src
  command: >-
    --training-data ${{inputs.iris}}
    --lr ${{search_space.learning_rate}}
    --boosting ${{search_space.boosting}}
  environment: azureml:AzureML-Minimal@latest
    type: uri_file
    mode: download
compute: azureml:cpu-cluster

Binding inputs and outputs between steps in a pipeline job

Expressions are also used for binding inputs and outputs between steps in a pipeline job. For example, you can bind the input of one job (job B) in a pipeline to the output of another job (job A). This usage will signal to Azure ML the dependency flow of the pipeline graph, and job B will get executed after job A, since the output of job A is required as an input for job B.

For a pipeline job YAML file, the inputs and outputs sections of each child job are evaluated within the parent context (the top-level pipeline job). The command, on the other hand, will resolve to the current context (the child job).

There are two ways to bind inputs and outputs in a pipeline job:

Bind to the top-level inputs and outputs of the pipeline job

You can bind the inputs or outputs of a child job (a pipeline step) to the inputs/outputs of the top-level parent pipeline job using the following syntax: ${{parent.inputs.<input_name>}} or ${{parent.outputs.<output_name>}}. This reference resolves to the parent context; hence the top-level inputs/outputs.

In the example below, the input (raw_data) of the first prep step is bound to the top-level pipeline input via ${{parent.inputs.input_data}}. The output (model_dir) of the final train step is bound to the top-level pipeline job output via ${{parent.outputs.trained_model}}.

Bind to the inputs and outputs of another child job (step)

To bind the inputs/outputs of one step to the inputs/outputs of another step, use the following syntax: ${{<step_name>.inputs.<input_name>}} or ${{<step_name>.outputs.<outputs_name>}}. Again, this reference resolves to the parent context, so the expression must start with<step_name>.

In the example below, the input (training_data) of the train step is bound to the output (clean_data) of the prep step via ${{}}. The prepared data from the prep step will be used as the training data for the train step.

On the other hand, the context references within the command properties will resolve to the current context. For example, the ${{inputs.raw_data}} reference in the prep step's command will resolve to the inputs of the current context, which is the prep child job. The lookup will be done on prep.inputs, so an input named raw_data must be defined there.

type: pipeline
    type: uri_folder
    type: command
      raw_data: ${{parent.inputs.input_data}}
    code: src/prep
    environment: azureml:AzureML-Minimal@latest
    command: >-
      --raw-data ${{inputs.raw_data}} 
      --prep-data ${{outputs.clean_data}}
    compute: azureml:cpu-cluster
    type: command
      training_data: ${{}}
      num_epochs: 1000
      model_dir: ${{parent.outputs.trained_model}}
    code: src/train
    environment: azureml:AzureML-Minimal@latest
    command: >-
      --epochs ${{inputs.num_epochs}}
      --training-data ${{inputs.training_data}} 
      --model-output ${{outputs.model_dir}}
    compute: azureml:gpu-cluster

Parameterizing the command with the inputs and outputs contexts of a component

Similar to the command for a job, the command for a component can also be parameterized with references to the inputs and outputs contexts. In this case the reference is to the component's inputs and outputs. When the component is run in a job, Azure ML will resolve those references to the job runtime input and output values specified for the respective component inputs and outputs. Below is an example of using the context syntax for a command component YAML specification.

name: train_data_component_cli
display_name: train_data
description: A example train component
  author: azureml-sdk-team
version: 5
type: command
    type: uri_folder
    type: integer
    optional: true
    type: number
    default: 0.01
    optional: true
    type: string
    default: time-based
    optional: true
    type: uri_folder
code: ./train_src
environment: azureml:AzureML-sklearn-0.24-ubuntu18.04-py37-cpu:1
command: >-
  --training_data ${{inputs.training_data}} 
  $[[--max_epocs ${{inputs.max_epocs}}]]
  $[[--learning_rate ${{inputs.learning_rate}}]]
  $[[--learning_rate_schedule ${{inputs.learning_rate_schedule}}]]
  --model_output ${{outputs.model_output}}

Define optional inputs in command line

When the input is set as optional = true, you need use $[[]] to embrace the command line with inputs. For example $[[--input1 ${{inputs.input1}}]. The command line at runtime may have different inputs.

  • If you are using only specify the required training_data and model_output parameters, the command line will look like:
python --training_data some_input_path --learning_rate 0.01 --learning_rate_schedule time-based --model_output some_output_path

If no value is specified at runtime, learning_rate and learning_rate_schedule will use the default value.

  • If all inputs/outputs provide values during runtime, the command line will look like:
python --training_data some_input_path --max_epocs 10 --learning_rate 0.01 --learning_rate_schedule time-based --model_output some_output_path

Next steps