Custom Data and User Data in Azure Virtual Machine Creation

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Custom Data and User Data are mechanisms to provide configuration data to a virtual machine (VM) at the time of its creation. They allow you to automate the initial configuration and setup of VMs, ensuring that each VM starts with the required settings and scripts.

Custom Data

Custom Data is a way to pass data to a VM that the VM can use during its initialization process. This data can be in the form of scripts, configuration settings, or any other necessary information that the VM needs upon startup.

Key Points:

  • Purpose: Custom data is often used to provide cloud-init scripts or other initialization commands that are executed when the VM starts.
  • Format: Typically, custom data is provided as a base64-encoded string.
  • Usage: Custom data is particularly useful for Linux VMs that support cloud-init.


  1. Custom Data Script:
    • A simple cloud-init script to install Apache web server on a Linux VM:
package_update: true
  - apache2

2.Providing Custom Data:

  • In the Azure portal or using Azure CLI, you can provide this script as custom data during VM creation.

    Azure CLI Example:

    az vm create \
      --resource-group MyResourceGroup \
      --name MyVM \
      --image UbuntuLTS \
      --custom-data cloud-init-script.yml

    In this example, cloud-init-script.yml contains the cloud-init script to install Apache.

    User Data

    User Data is similar to custom data but is often associated with specific implementations and configurations that need to be run during the initial boot process. While custom data is a more general term, user data typically refers to a script that is executed as part of the VM initialization.

    Key Points:

    • Purpose: User data is used to run custom scripts when the VM boots for the first time.
    • Format: Usually provided as a base64-encoded string containing the script to be executed.
    • Usage: Commonly used with Linux and Windows VMs to automate setup tasks.


    1. User Data Script:
      • A script to configure a Linux VM on startup
    apt-get update
    apt-get install -y nginx

    2.Providing User Data:

    • User data can be provided during the VM creation process in the Azure portal or via Azure CLI.

      Azure CLI Example:

      az vm create \
        --resource-group MyResourceGroup \
        --name MyVM \
        --image UbuntuLTS \
        --custom-data cloud-init-script.yml

      In Azure, custom data and user data are typically used interchangeably, with the primary focus on providing initialization scripts and configuration during VM creation.

      Practical Use Cases

      1. Automated Software Installation:
        • Install necessary software packages on VM startup without manual intervention.
        • Example: Automatically installing a web server or database server when the VM is created.
      2. Configuration Management:
        • Apply configuration settings or security policies as soon as the VM is created.
        • Example: Configuring firewall rules, setting environment variables, or applying system updates.
      3. Bootstrap Processes:
        • Run initialization scripts to set up the application environment.
        • Example: Cloning a repository, configuring application settings, or starting services.


      1. Automation: Reduces manual configuration efforts and ensures consistency across VMs.
      2. Efficiency: Speeds up the deployment process by automating initial setup tasks.
      3. Consistency: Ensures that all VMs are configured identically, reducing configuration drift and potential errors.

      By using custom data and user data, you can streamline the process of VM deployment, ensuring that each VM starts with the necessary configuration and software, which is particularly useful in large-scale cloud environments.

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