Tutorial: Create linked Azure Resource Manager templates

Learn how to create linked Azure Resource Manager templates. Using linked templates, you can have one template call another template. It is great for modularizing templates. In this tutorial, you use the same template used in Tutorial: Create Azure Resource Manager templates with dependent resources, which creates a virtual machine, a virtual network, and other dependent resource including a storage account. You separate the storage account resource creation to a linked template.

Calling a linked template is like making a function call. You also learn how to pass parameter values to the linked template, and how to get "return values" from the linked template.

This tutorial covers the following tasks:

  • Open a QuickStart template
  • Create the linked template
  • Upload the linked template
  • Link to the linked template
  • Configure dependency
  • Deploy the template
  • Additional practices

For more information, see Use linked and nested templates when deploying Azure resources.

If you don't have an Azure subscription, create a free account before you begin.


This article has been updated to use the new Azure PowerShell Az module. You can still use the AzureRM module, which will continue to receive bug fixes until at least December 2020. To learn more about the new Az module and AzureRM compatibility, see Introducing the new Azure PowerShell Az module. For Az module installation instructions, see Install Azure PowerShell.


To complete this article, you need:

Open a Quickstart template

Azure QuickStart Templates is a repository for Resource Manager templates. Instead of creating a template from scratch, you can find a sample template and customize it. The template used in this tutorial is called Deploy a simple Windows VM. This is the same template used in Tutorial: Create Azure Resource Manager templates with dependent resources. You save two copies of the same template to be used as:

  • The main template: create all the resources except the storage account.
  • The linked template: create the storage account.
  1. From Visual Studio Code, select File>Open File.

  2. In File name, paste the following URL:

  3. Select Open to open the file.

  4. There are six resources defined by the template:

  5. Select File>Save As to save a copy of the file to your local computer with the name azuredeploy.json.

  6. Select File>Save As to create another copy of the file with the name linkedTemplate.json.

Create the linked template

The linked template creates a storage account. The linked template can be used as a standalone template to create a storage account. In this tutorial, the linked template takes two parameters, and passes a value back to the main template. This "return" value is defined in the outputs element.

  1. Open linkedTemplate.json in Visual Studio Code if the file is not opened.

  2. Make the following changes:

    • Remove all the parameters other than location.

    • Add a parameter called storageAccountName.

        "type": "string",
        "metadata": {
            "description": "Azure Storage account name."

      The storage account name and location are passed from the main template to the linked template as parameters.

    • Remove the variables element, and all the variable definitions.

    • Remove all the resources other than the storage account. You remove a total of four resources.

    • Update the value of the name element of the storage account resource to:

        "name": "[parameters('storageAccountName')]",
    • Update the outputs element, so it looks like:

      "outputs": {
        "storageUri": {
            "type": "string",
            "value": "[reference(parameters('storageAccountName')).primaryEndpoints.blob]"

      storageUri is required by the virtual machine resource definition in the main template. You pass the value back to the main template as an output value.

      When you are done, the template shall look like:

        "$schema": "https://schema.management.azure.com/schemas/2015-01-01/deploymentTemplate.json#",
        "contentVersion": "",
        "parameters": {
          "storageAccountName": {
            "type": "string",
            "metadata": {
              "description": "Azure Storage account name."
          "location": {
            "type": "string",
            "defaultValue": "[resourceGroup().location]",
            "metadata": {
              "description": "Location for all resources."
        "resources": [
            "type": "Microsoft.Storage/storageAccounts",
            "apiVersion": "2018-11-01",
            "name": "[parameters('storageAccountName')]",
            "location": "[parameters('location')]",
            "sku": {
              "name": "Standard_LRS"
            "kind": "Storage",
            "properties": {}
        "outputs": {
          "storageUri": {
            "type": "string",
            "value": "[reference(parameters('storageAccountName')).primaryEndpoints.blob]"
  3. Save the changes.

Upload the linked template

The main template and the linked template need to be accessible from where you run the deployment. In this tutorial, you use the Cloud shell deployment method as you used in Tutorial: Create Azure Resource Manager templates with dependent resources. The main template (azuredeploy.json) is uploaded to the shell. The linked template (linkedTemplate.json) must be shared somewhere securely. The following PowerShell script creates an Azure Storage account, uploads the template to the Storage account, and then generates a SAS token to grant limited access to the template file. To simplify the tutorial, the script downloads a completed linked template from a Github repository. If you want to use the linked template you created, you can use the Cloud shell to upload your linked template, and then modify the script to use your own linked template.


The script limits the SAS token to be used within eight hours. If you need more time to complete this tutorial, increase the expiry time.

$projectNamePrefix = Read-Host -Prompt "Enter a project name:"   # This name is used to generate names for Azure resources, such as storage account name.
$location = Read-Host -Prompt "Enter a location (i.e. centralus)"

$resourceGroupName = $projectNamePrefix + "rg"
$storageAccountName = $projectNamePrefix + "store"
$containerName = "linkedtemplates" # The name of the Blob container to be created.

$linkedTemplateURL = "https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Azure/azure-docs-json-samples/master/tutorial-linked-templates/linkedStorageAccount.json" # A completed linked template used in this tutorial.
$fileName = "linkedStorageAccount.json" # A file name used for downloading and uploading the linked template.

# Download the tutorial linked template
Invoke-WebRequest -Uri $linkedTemplateURL -OutFile "$home/$fileName"

# Create a resource group
New-AzResourceGroup -Name $resourceGroupName -Location $location

# Create a storage account
$storageAccount = New-AzStorageAccount `
    -ResourceGroupName $resourceGroupName `
    -Name $storageAccountName `
    -Location $location `
    -SkuName "Standard_LRS"

$context = $storageAccount.Context

# Create a container
New-AzStorageContainer -Name $containerName -Context $context

# Upload the linked template
Set-AzStorageBlobContent `
    -Container $containerName `
    -File "$home/$fileName" `
    -Blob $fileName `
    -Context $context

# Generate a SAS token
$templateURI = New-AzStorageBlobSASToken `
    -Context $context `
    -Container $containerName `
    -Blob $fileName `
    -Permission r `
    -ExpiryTime (Get-Date).AddHours(8.0) `

Write-Host "You need the following values later in the tutorial:"
Write-Host "Resource Group Name: $resourceGroupName"
Write-Host "Linked template URI with SAS token: $templateURI"
Write-Host "Press [ENTER] to continue ..."
  1. Select the Try It green button to open the Azure cloud shell pane.
  2. Select Copy to copy the PowerShell script.
  3. Right-click anywhere inside the shell pane (the navy blue part), and then select Paste.
  4. Make a note of the two values (Resource Group Name and Linked template URI) at the end of the shell pane. You need the values later in the tutorial.
  5. Select Exit focus mode to close the shell pane.

In practice, you generate a SAS token when you deploy the main template, and give the SAS token expiry a smaller window to make it more secure. For more information, see Provide SAS token during deployment.

Call the linked template

The main template is called azuredeploy.json.

  1. Open azuredeploy.json in Visual Studio Code if it is not opened.

  2. Replace the storage account resource definition with the following json snippet:

      "name": "linkedTemplate",
      "type": "Microsoft.Resources/deployments",
      "apiVersion": "2018-05-01",
      "properties": {
          "mode": "Incremental",
          "templateLink": {
          "parameters": {
              "storageAccountName":{"value": "[variables('storageAccountName')]"},
              "location":{"value": "[parameters('location')]"}

    Pay attention to these details:

    • A Microsoft.Resources/deployments resource in the main template is used to link to another template.
    • The deployments resource has a name called linkedTemplate. This name is used for configuring dependency.
    • You can only use Incremental deployment mode when calling linked templates.
    • templateLink/uri contains the linked template URI. Update the value to the URI you get when you upload the linked template (the one with a SAS token).
    • Use parameters to pass values from the main template to the linked template.
  3. Make sure you have updated the value of the uri element to the value you got when you upload the linked template (the one with a SAS token). In practice, you want to supply the URI with a parameter.

  4. Save the revised template

Configure dependency

Recall from Tutorial: Create Azure Resource Manager templates with dependent resources, the virtual machine resource depends on the storage account:

Azure Resource Manager templates dependency diagram

Because the storage account is defined in the linked template now, you must update the following two elements of the Microsoft.Compute/virtualMachines resource.

  • Reconfigure the dependsOn element. The storage account definition is moved to the linked template.

  • Reconfigure the properties/diagnosticsProfile/bootDiagnostics/storageUri element. In Create the linked template, you added an output value:

    "outputs": {
        "storageUri": {
            "type": "string",
            "value": "[reference(parameters('storageAccountName')).primaryEndpoints.blob]"

    This value is required by the main template.

  1. Open azuredeploy.json in Visual Studio Code if it is not opened.

  2. Expand the virtual machine resource definition, update dependsOn as shown in the following screenshot:

    Azure Resource Manager linked templates configure dependency

    linkedTemplate is the name of the deployments resource.

  3. Update properties/diagnosticsProfile/bootDiagnostics/storageUri as shown in the previous screenshot.

  4. Save the revised template.

Deploy the template

Refer to the Deploy the template section for the deployment procedure. Use the same resource group name as the storage account for storing the linked template. It makes it easier to clean up resources in the next section. To increase security, use a generated password for the virtual machine administrator account. See Prerequisites.

Clean up resources

When the Azure resources are no longer needed, clean up the resources you deployed by deleting the resource group.

  1. From the Azure portal, select Resource group from the left menu.
  2. Enter the resource group name in the Filter by name field.
  3. Select the resource group name. You shall see a total of six resources in the resource group.
  4. Select Delete resource group from the top menu.

Additional practice

To improve the project, make the following additional changes to the completed project:

  1. Modify the main template (azuredeploy.json) so that it takes the linked template URI value via a parameter.
  2. Instead of generating a SAS token when you upload the linked template, generate the token when you deploy the main template. For more information, see Provide SAS token during deployment.

Next steps

In this tutorial, you modularized a template into a main template and a linked template. To learn how to use virtual machine extensions to perform post deployment tasks, see: