Creating Instance Templates

This page describes how to create and manage instance templates. Instance templates allow you to define the machine type, image, network and other instance properties to use when creating new VM instances. You can use instance templates to create instances in a managed instance group or to create individual instances.

Before you begin

Creating a new instance template

Most of the instance properties that you can define in a regular API request to create an individual VM instance can be defined in the instance template, including any instance metadata, startup scripts, persistent disks, service accounts, and so on.

At a minimum, the same required properties for creating an instance are also required to create an instance template. See a list of the required fields on the instanceTemplates().insert reference.

Create an instance template through the Google Cloud Platform Console, gcloud compute tool, or the API.


  1. In the GCP Console, go to the Instance Templates page.

    Go to the Instance templates page

  2. Click Create instance template.
  3. Fill in the fields you want for your instance template, or accept the default values. The following values are provided by default:

    • Machine type: n1-standard-1
    • Image: The latest Debian image
    • Boot disk: A new standard boot disk named after the instance
    • VPC network: The default VPC network
    • IP address: An ephemeral external IP address
  4. Click Create to create the template.


In gcloud compute, create an instance template using the instance-templates create command:

gcloud compute instance-templates create [INSTANCE_TEMPLATE_NAME]

where you replace [INSTANCE_TEMPLATE_NAME] with the desired name of the instance template.

If you do not provide explicit template settings, gcloud compute creates a template with the following default values:

  • Machine type: n1-standard-1
  • Image: The latest Debian image
  • Boot disk: A new standard boot disk named after the instance
  • Network: The default VPC network
  • IP address: An ephemeral external IP address

You can also explicitly provide these configuration settings. For example:

gcloud compute instance-templates create example-template-custom \
    --machine-type n1-standard-4 \
    --image-family debian-9 \
    --image-project debian-cloud \
    --boot-disk-size 250GB

You can see a list of available flags in the gcloud compute reference.

A template with the default configuration settings might look like the following:

gcloud compute instance-templates describe example-template

creationTimestamp: '2014-09-10T16:18:32.042-07:00'
description: ''
id: '6057583701980539406'
kind: compute#instanceTemplate
name: example-template
  canIpForward: false
  - autoDelete: true
    boot: true
    kind: compute#attachedDisk
    mode: READ_WRITE
    type: PERSISTENT
  machineType: n1-standard-1
  - accessConfigs:
    - kind: compute#accessConfig
      name: external-nat
      type: ONE_TO_ONE_NAT
    automaticRestart: true
    onHostMaintenance: MIGRATE
  - email: default


In the instance template API, you must explicitly define all of the required configuration fields as described in the instanceTemplates().insert documentation. For example, an instance template with the minimal required fields looks like the following:

"name": "example-template",
"properties": {
  "machineType": "zones/us-central1-a/machineTypes/n1-standard-4",
  "networkInterfaces": [
      "network": "global/networks/default",
          "name": "external-IP",
          "type": "ONE_TO_ONE_NAT"
      "type": "PERSISTENT",
      "boot": true,
      "mode": "READ_WRITE",
        "sourceImage": "projects/debian-cloud/global/images/family/debian-9"

For the disks property, you must either provide the initializeParams property to create new persistent boot disks for each instance, or you can provide the source property to attach an existing persistent boot disk. If you attach an existing boot disk, you can only create one instance from your template.

Creating an instance template that specifies a subnet

Instance template commands now have --subnet and --region flags that place new instances into the subnet of your choice. The --subnet flag requires the --region flag. The subnet must exist before you can include it in an instance template.

gcloud compute instance-templates create [INSTANCE_TEMPLATE_NAME] \
    --region [REGION] \
    --subnet [SUBNET_NAME]

where you replace the following:

  • [INSTANCE_TEMPLATE_NAME] with the desired name of the instance template.
  • [REGION] with the region of the subnet.
  • [SUBNET_NAME] with the name of the subnet.

This example creates a template called template-qa that only creates instances in the subnet-us-qa subnet.

gcloud compute instance-templates create template-qa \
    --region us-central1 \
    --subnet subnet-us-qa
Created [].
template-qa n1-standard-1             2015-12-23T20:34:00.791-07:00

Using this template to create instances for a Managed Instance Group (with or without autoscaling) automatically creates the instance in the specified region and subnet. This lets you control the subnet of new instances created for load balancing.

Using custom or public images in your instance templates

Because managed instance groups are designed to add and remove instances frequently, it is useful to create a custom image and specify it in the instance template. Prepare your image with the applications and settings that your instances need so you don't have to manually configure those items on individual instances in the managed instance group.

Alternatively, you can create an instance template that uses a public image and a startup script to prepare the instance after it starts running. Custom images are more deterministic and start more quickly than instances with startup scripts. However, startup scripts are more flexible and allow you to update the applications and settings in your instances more easily.

Updating an instance template

It is not possible to update an existing instance template or change an instance template after it has been created. If an instance template goes out of date, or you need to make changes to the configuration, create a new instance template.

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