Understanding Images, Image Families, and Instances

The AI Platform Deep Learning VM Images are a set of prepackaged virtual machine images with a deep learning framework that are ready to be run out of the box. The Deep Learning VM images take the hassle out of setting up an environment for training deep learning models by pre-configuring dependencies, preinstalling essential tools, and optimizing performance.

It is important to distinguish between images, image families, and instances.

Image families

An image family is a set of images that are preconfigured for a specific purpose or using a specific architecture.

There are numerous Deep Learning VM image families. They are listed here, according to each one's main installed framework:

  • Tensorflow family, with or without GPU.
  • PyTorch family, with or without GPU.
  • Chainer experimental family, with or without GPU.
  • A base, or "common" image family to which you can add your preferred framework, with or without GPU.

If you know what framework you want to use and whether you want to enable one or more GPUs, you then choose whether to use the latest version of your framework or, if available, an older version. The Deep Learning VM image families include support for some previous versions of supported frameworks. To find out more, see Choosing an Image.


An image is an individual virtual machine template. The Deep Learning VM images are preconfigured public Compute Engine virtual machine images.

For more information about VM images, see the Images conceptual topic in Compute Engine documentation.

For information about choosing a Deep Learning VM image, see Choosing an Image.


An instance is a single virtual machine hosted on Google's infrastructure. A Deep Learning VM instance is based on one of the pre-configured Deep Learning VM images. You create an instance from an image using the Google Cloud Platform Console or the gcloud command-line tool.

For information about choosing a Deep Learning VM image, see Choosing an Image.

For information about creating instances of a Deep Learning VM image, see:

For general information about creating instances in Compute Engine, see Virtual Machine Instances.

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