Tutorial 1: Classify Iris - Preparing the data

Azure Machine Learning service (preview) is an integrated, end-to-end data science and advanced analytics solution for professional data scientists to prepare data, develop experiments, and deploy models at cloud scale.

This tutorial is part one of a three-part series. In this tutorial, you walk through the basics of Azure Machine Learning services (preview) and learn how to:

  • Create a project in Azure Machine Learning Workbench
  • Create a data preparation package
  • Generate Python/PySpark code to invoke a data preparation package

This tutorial uses the timeless Iris flower data set.


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

To complete this tutorial, you must have:

  • An Azure Machine Learning Experimentation account
  • Azure Machine Learning Workbench installed

If you don't have these prerequisites already, follow the steps in the Quickstart: Install and start article to set up your accounts and install the Azure Machine Learning Workbench application.

Create a new project in Workbench

If you followed the steps in the Quickstart: Install and start article you should already have this project and can skip to the next section.

  1. Open the Azure Machine Learning Workbench app, and log in if needed.

    • On Windows, launch it using the Machine Learning Workbench desktop shortcut.
    • On macOS, select Azure ML Workbench in Launchpad.
  2. Select the plus sign (+) in the PROJECTS pane and choose New Project.

    New workspace

  3. Fill out of the form fields and select the Create button to create a new project in the Workbench.

    Field Suggested value for tutorial Description
    Project name myIris Enter a unique name that identifies your account. You can use your own name, or a departmental or project name that best identifies the experiment. The name should be 2 to 32 characters. It should include only alphanumeric characters and the dash (-) character.
    Project directory c:\Temp\ Specify the directory in which the project is created.
    Project description leave blank Optional field useful for describing the projects.
    Visualstudio.com GIT Repository URL leave blank Optional field. You can associate a project with a Git repository on Visual Studio Team Services for source control and collaboration. Learn how to set that up.
    Selected workspace IrisGarden (if it exists) Choose a workspace that you have created for your Experimentation account in the Azure portal.
    If you followed the Quickstart, you should have a workspace by the name IrisGarden. If not, select the one you created when you created your Experimentation account or any other you want to use.
    Project template Classifying Iris Templates contain scripts and data you can use to explore the product. This template contains the scripts and data you need for this quickstart and other tutorials in this documentation site.

    New project

    A new project is created and the project dashboard opens with that project. At this point, you can explore the project home page, data sources, notebooks, and source code files.

    Open project

Create a data preparation package

Next, you can explore and start preparing the data in Azure Machine Learning Workbench. Each transformation you perform in Workbench is stored in a JSON format in a local data preparation package (*.dprep file). This data preparation package is the primary container for your data preparation work in Workbench.

This data preparation package can be handed off later to a runtime, such as local-C#/CoreCLR, Scala/Spark, or Scala/HDI.

  1. Select the folder icon to open the Files view, then select iris.csv to open that file.

    This file contains a table with 5 columns and 50 rows. Four columns are numerical feature columns. The fifth column is a string target column. None of the columns have header names.



    Do not include data files in your project folder, particularly when the file size is large. Because the iris.csv data file is tiny, it was included in this template for demonstration purposes. For more information, see How to read and write large data files.

  2. In the Data view, select the plus sign (+) to add a new data source. The Add Data Source page opens.

    Data view in Azure Machine Learning Workbench

  3. Select Text Files(*.csv, *.json, *.txt., ...) and click Next. Data Source in Azure Machine Learning Workbench

  4. Browse to the file iris.csv, and click Finish. This will use default values for parameters such as the separator and data types.


    Make sure you select the iris.csv file from within the current project directory for this exercise. Otherwise, later steps might fail.

    Select iris

  5. A new file named iris-1.dsource is created. The file is named uniquely with "-1" because the sample project already comes with an unnumbered iris.dsource file.

    The file opens, and the data is shown. A series of column headers, from Column1 to Column5, is automatically added to this data set. Scroll to the bottom and notice that the last row of the data set is empty. The row is empty because there is an extra line break in the CSV file.

    Iris data view

  6. Select the Metrics button. Histograms are generated and displayed.

    You can switch back to the data view by selecting the Data button.

    Iris data view

  7. Observe the histograms. A complete set of statistics has been calculated for each column.

    Iris data view

  8. Begin creating a data preparation package by selecting the Prepare button. The Prepare dialog box opens.

    The sample project contains a iris.dprep data preparation file that is selected by default.

    Iris data view

  9. Create a new data preparation package by selecting + New Data Preparation Package from the drop-down menu.

    Iris data view

  10. Enter a new value for the package name (use iris-1) and then select OK.

    A new data preparation package named iris-1.dprep is created and opened in the data preparation editor.

    Iris data view

    Now, let's do some basic data preparation.

  11. Select each column header to make the header text editable. Then, rename each column as follows:

    In order, enter Sepal Length, Sepal Width, Petal Length, Petal Width, and Species for the five columns respectively.

    Rename the columns

  12. Count distinct values:

    1. Select the Species column
    2. Right-click to select it.
    3. Select Value Counts from the drop-down menu.

    The Inspectors pane opens below the data. A histogram with four bars appears. The target column has four distinct values: Iris-virginica, Iris-versicolor, Iris-setosa, and a (null) value.

    Select Value Counts

    Value count histogram

  13. To filter out the null values, select the "(null)" bar and then select the minus sign (-).

    Then, the (null) row turns gray to indicate that it was filtered out.

    Filter out nulls

  14. Take notice of the individual data preparation steps that are detailed in the STEPS pane. As you renamed the columns and filtered the null value rows, each action was recorded as a data preparation step. You can edit individual steps to adjust their settings, reorder the steps, and remove steps.


  15. Close the data preparation editor. Select the x icon on the iris-1 tab with the graph icon to close the tab. Your work is automatically saved into the iris-1.dprep file shown under the Data Preparations heading.


Generate Python/PySpark code to invoke a data preparation package

The output of a data preparation package can be explored directly in Python or in a Jupyter Notebook. The packages can be executed across multiple runtimes including local Python, Spark (including in Docker), and HDInsight.

  1. Find the iris-1.dprep file under the Data Preparations tab.

  2. Right-click the iris-1.dprep file, and select Generate Data Access Code File from the context menu.

    Generate code

    A new file named iris-1.py opens with the following lines of code to invoke the logic you created as a data preparation package:

    # Use the Azure Machine Learning data preparation package
    from azureml.dataprep import package
    # Use the Azure Machine Learning data collector to log various metrics
    from azureml.logging import get_azureml_logger
    logger = get_azureml_logger()
    # This call will load the referenced package and return a DataFrame.
    # If run in a PySpark environment, this call returns a
    # Spark DataFrame. If not, it will return a Pandas DataFrame.
    df = package.run('iris-1.dprep', dataflow_idx=0)
    # Remove this line and add code that uses the DataFrame

    Depending on the context in which this code is run, df represents a different kind of DataFrame:

    To learn more about how to prepare data in Azure Machine Learning Workbench, see the Get started with data preparation guide.

Clean up resources

If you're not going to continue to use this app, delete all resources created by this quickstart with the following steps so you don't incur any charges:


These resources are useful when following the other Azure Machine Learning services tutorials now.

  1. In the Azure portal, select Resource groups on the far left.

    Delete in Azure portal

  2. From the list of resource groups, select the resource group you created, and then click Delete resource group.

  3. Type the name of the resource group to delete, and then click Delete.

Next steps

In this tutorial, you used Azure Machine Learning Workbench to:

  • Create a new project
  • Create a data preparation package
  • Generate Python/PySpark code to invoke a data preparation package

You are ready to move on to the next part in the tutorial series, where you learn how to build an Azure Machine Learning model: