YANG authoring guidelines for OpenConfig models

Contributors: Anees Shaikh, Rob Shakir, Kristian Larsson
October 26, 2015
Updated: June 2, 2019


This document describes conventions adopted in the OpenConfig operator group
when writing YANG modules. YANG is a domain-specific language for describing
configuration and operational state data for networking systems, protocols, and
software. The official language
is maintained by the IETF
working group. The
current version of the language is 1.0, with version 1.1 expected to be ratified
and released soon.

General guidelines

IETF guidelines

OpenConfig YANG modules adopt some rules from IETF modeling standards, including
some of those defined in RFC 6087.

Module compilation

All YANG modules should be validated / compiled with
pyang using the following flags:

pyang --strict --lint <module>*

All errors and warnings should be corrected before submitting or
posting any modules. Use of the --lint flag will cause pyang to check for
most of the guidelines mentioned in RFC 6087. Adding the –ietf flag will also
check for conventions required to submit OpenConfig models to the IETF when

*: The –lint flag was introduced in pyang v1.6.

Line length

Per IETF formatting guidelines, lines should be no more than 70 characters (also
checked by the --ietf flag).

Module template

OpenConfig has adapted the example template from RFC 6087 as a starting point
for writing new YANG modules (see the Appendix).

Modeling operational state

OpenConfig has adopted a structural convention for YANG models that emphasizes
the importance of modeling operational state (i.e., monitoring and telemetry
data), in addition to configuration data. At a high level, this convention uses
specially named config and state containers, in every subtree to explicitly
indicate configuration and operational state data. The rationale and details
for this convention are described in an IETF

These conventions are reflected in naming and structure of YANG groupings and
containers as described in more detail in the corresponding sections of this

Top-level data nodes vs. groupings

In general, directly defined data nodes should be avoided in all modules.
Instead, define the top-level container or other data nodes in a grouping, and
then instantiate it once in the module with a uses statement.

This allows maximum reuse of data definitions across models, and also makes it
easier to compose models using simple imports.

Modules should generally have a single xxx-top grouping that allows it to be
instantiated in other modules. This top-level grouping should not have any

Module version

Every module must have an openconfig-version statement indicating its
semantic version number. This statement is a YANG extension defined in the
openconfig-extensions module. The YANG revision statement should reference
semantic version.

oc-ext:openconfig-version "0.4.0";

  revision "2016-05-31" {
      "Public release";
    reference "0.4.0";

Individual YANG modules are versioned independently – the
semantic version is generally incremented only when there is a
change in the corresponding file. Submodules, however, must have
the same semantic version as their parent modules. Further details on
versioning rules are available in the definition of the
openconfig-version extension in the openconfig-extensions.yang

YANG style conventions

Style conventions describe guidelines related to conventions used in writing
YANG modules.


Module naming

YANG modules should have filenames of the form openconfig-<function>.yang.
The ‘openconfig’ prefix indicates that the module is originated by the
OpenConfig operator group.

Examples: openconfig-bgp.yang, openconfig-mpls.yang,

Submodule naming

Related module and submodule filenames should be named

Examples: openconfig-bgp-policy.yang, openconfig-mpls-te.yang,

Grouping naming

Grouping names should make it easy to quickly understand the nature of the
data within. A suggested convention is xxx-yyy[-config|state|top], where xxx
is the top-level module name (without the openconfig prefix), yyy is a string
which indicates the contents of the groupings.

For data that will be placed in a container, three groupings should be created:

  • xxx-yyy-config – configuration (read/write) leaves or leaf-lists
  • xxx-yyy-state – operational state (read-only) leaves or leaf-lists
  • xxx-yyy-top – a top-level grouping that defines the container structure,
    with the enclosing container, and the config and state containers within.

See the example in the Appendix.

Prefix naming

Each module requires a prefix statement with a prefix that other dependent
modules will use (also used in path references within the same module). Prefixes
should be short and clear, with abbreviations as appropriate.

Module prefixes should be of the form oc-xxx[-yyy]

Examples: oc-types, oc-lldp, oc-if-ethernet

Path references

Intra-model paths

For leafrefs, XPaths, augments, etc. use relative paths when referencing nodes
in the same module.

Inter-model paths

For references external to the module (i.e., in another namespace), absolute
paths may be used.


In most cases, identifiers in YANG modules, e.g., names of leaves, lists,
containers, etc. are lower case with dashes between words. Further details


enum values within an enumeration type should be UPPER_CASE_WITH_UNDERSCORES,
keeping with conventions used for enumerated types in many programming
languages. They MUST begin with an alphanumeric character (A-Z or 0-9),
optionally followed by a “_” or “.” or additional alphanumeric characters
(A-Z or 0-9).


   type enumeration {
     enum ACCEPT_ROUTE {
       description "default policy to accept the route";
     enum REJECT_ROUTE {
       description "default policy to reject the route";


YANG identities allow the definition of a “base” constant and additional values
that act as “derived” types – identity values, including base identities,

Since identities are most often implemented as enumerations in language
bindings, it is helpful to follow the same convention as with enumerations.
Identities should be upper case such that where an identityref is used in
preference to an enumeration, this is transparent to the entity interacting with
the model.


    "Type of optical fiber connector";

identity SC_CONNECTOR {
    "SC type fiber connector";

identity LC_CONNECTOR {
    "LC type fiber connector";

YANG language usage

Language rules describe guidelines on use of specific YANG language statements,
including how modules should be structured and parsed.


YANG list keys should be quoted:

list interfaces {
  key "name";

list servers {
  key "address port";

YANG requires leaf nodes that are list keys to be direct descendants of the
list statement. Since key leaf nodes must also be members of the list data,
they will generally reside in a config or state container (see Modeling
operational state
). Hence, the list key leaf
nodes should be of type leafref with a path pointing to the corresponding
“actual” leaf in the config or state container.

List keys must reference a direct child of the config or state container -
rather than referencing descendends in the state container (structure is not
allowed within the config container by other rules). That is to say a key
leafref may have a path of ../state/foo but is not allowed to have a path

grouping interfaces-config {

  leaf name {

grouping interfaces-list-top
  list interface {
    key "name";

    leaf name {
      type leafref {
        path "../config/name";

    container config {

      uses interfaces-config;


Lists should have an enclosing container with no other data nodes inside

container interfaces {

  list interface {

Lists without keys must not be used unless the openconfig-extensions
atomic extension is set for the list’s surrounding container. Some transport
protocols (e.g., gNMI) do not have a mechanism to refer to individual elements
within a list with no key, and this ensures that telemetry updates for such
lists include all elements, rather than partial updates being sent.


Use of presence containers should be avoided.

Presence containers express implicit configuration semantics, which is more
difficult for management systems to interpret. An alternative is to use an
explicit “enabled” leaf (or similar) to make activation of the corresponding
configuration explicit. Presence containers are also incompatible with
hierarchical models in which lower levels inherit configuration from higher

Presence containers in YANG reflect CLIs which turn configuration on or off with
a single feature keyword, e.g., signalling graceful-restart, rather than
signalling graceful-restart enable.

feature and if-feature

Use of if-feature should be avoided.

The feature and if-feature statements are to define an optional feature and
designate specific data as part of the optional feature. OpenConfig models are
vendor-neutral and intended to express an operationally complete set of
features. Non-compliance by implementors should be expressed by deviation files
rather than if-feature.

To add extensions or additional features to a model beyond the base OpenConfig
model, vendors and implementors should rather use YANG augmentations or
extension modules.


Use of choice statements should be avoided where possible.

YANG offers choice statements as an analog to case/switch statements in other
languages. However, choice nodes do not appear in the actual data instances,
or in schema paths – they are used primarily for validating instance data to
ensure that only one of the sets of data appears.


choice bandwidth {
  case explicit {
    leaf bw-value {
      type uint32;
  case auto {
    leaf min {
      type uint32;
    leaf max {
      type uint32;

The corresponding path to the bw-value leaf in the example is .../bw-value
rather than .../bandwidth/explicit/bw-value which is much clearer.

Since very few nodes in the model generally need to be made mandatory, an
alternative approach is allow both options to appear in the data and rely on
separate semantic validation in the management system or device to flag an
invalid combination.

If a conditional set of values is really needed, a when statement could be
used to validate that certain data is allowed in the data instance.


leaf bandwidth-set {
  type enumeration {
    enum AUTO;
    enum EXPLICIT;
container explicit {
  when "../bandwidth-set = EXPLICIT";
  leaf bw-value {
container auto {
  when "../bandwidth-set = AUTO";
  leaf min {
  leaf max {

In this approach all nodes appear in schema paths, and the when statement
still allows the management system to validate instance data.


Avoid complex XPath expressions. The goal is to keep it simple, both for the
sake of readability but also so that the OpenConfig models can be used in
environments that only support a basic set of XPath functions.

The following guidelines should be followed when using XPath expressions in

  • tests should use simple operators, like equality - avoid complex data
    manipulation in the XPath rules
  • paths used in XPath should always be relative where possible
  • only use the following YANG 1.0 functions:
  • and
  • current
  • not
  • or
  • avoid using any of the new XPath types that are included in YANG 1.1

Regular expressions

Use regular expressions available in the POSIX Extended Regular


The YANG language specification lists the W3C XML Schema
as its
reference for regular
However, this is not a commonly used standard for implementors.


Example groupings for containers

grouping rsvp-graceful-restart-config {
    "Configuration data ";

grouping rsvp-graceful-restart-state {
    "Operational state data ";

grouping rsvp-graceful-restart-top {
    "Top-level grouping ";

  container graceful-restart {
      "Top-level container ";

    container config {
        "Configuration data ";

      uses rsvp-graceful-restart-config;

    container state {

      config false;

        "Operational state data ";

      uses rsvp-graceful-restart-config;
      uses rsvp-graceful-restart-state;

OpenConfig YANG module template

module openconfig- {

  yang-version "1";

  // namespace
  namespace "http://openconfig.net/yang/";

  prefix "";

  // import some basic types
  import ietf-inet-types { prefix inet; }

  // meta
  organization "OpenConfig working group";

    "OpenConfig working group

    "This module ";

  revision "" {
      "Initial revision";
    reference "TBD";

  // extension statements

  // feature statements

  // identity statements

  // typedef statements

  // grouping statements

  // data definition statements

  // augment statements

  // rpc statements

  // notification statements