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Developing with Azure Resource Manager - Part 1 - Creating a Service Principal for your AAD using PowerShell


Welcome to Part 1 in the Developing with Azure series. In this post I will walk you through how to use PowerShell in order to create an Azure Active Directory (AAD) Application and then also create a new Service Principal which we'll use to authenticate and authorize requests to the Azure Resource Manager.

When we talk about various auth alternatives, there's a lot of options. We'll focus on using an account/service principal for our AAD Application but in another post we'll investigate how we can set up the authentication using a Certificate.

Background: Why use a Service Principal?

On of the considerations I've faced during the work I've done with the Azure Resource Manager is how I would authenticate my requests. There's really three options that comes to mind, and those are:

  • Use your Username and Password (Your own account)
  • Use a Certificate
  • Use a Service Principal

I've tried all fo the above methods, and find that using a Service Principal is the easiest way to manage and control the permissions in Azure. Since Azure supports RBAC (Role-Based Access Control), you can easily assign specific permissions or limitations on what the service principal or account should be allowed to do.

Benefits of RBAC with a Service Principal:

  • Fine-grained permission configuration
  • An account limited to a single purpose using role-based access control
  • Remove any unecessary permissions and privileges
  • Create a unique service principal with limited permissions per service
  • etc..

Scenarios when this type of account comes in handy:

  • Continuous Integration (CI) from a Build Server using PowerShell
  • Release Manager automation with PowerShell for automatic deployments etc
  • Custom API's, Applications or Services you build that need to authenticate and work with the Azure Resource Manager API's
  • Etc..

Authenticate to Azure Resource Management from PowerShell

First of all, make sure you're running Azure PowerShell 1.0 or later. Previous editions are targeting older versions with deprecated cmdlets for Azure Resource Management.

Next, we also need to have the Azure Resource Manager Cmdlets (please visit the link and install..).

In order to get started, we need to make sure that the powershel session is authenticated. We'll do this by using the following command:


It should bring up an Azure Sign-in dialogue. Use it to sign in with your account (or whichever account has the required permissions to manage your subscription):

Login-AzureRmAccount cmdlet in PowerShell

The output of the command should be some data about your session, like this:

PS C:\Users\tobia> Login-AzureRmAccount

Environment           : AzureCloud  
Account               : [email protected]  
TenantId              : YourGuid  
SubscriptionId        : YourGuid  
CurrentStorageAccount :  

Creating an AzureRM AD Application

Great, we're using PowerShell to authenticate ourselves to our subscription with the aforementioned command. Now it's time to create a new AAD Application (Azure Active Directory). This will be an Azure Resource Manager application, and we'll use the new AzureRm cmdlets. As I mentioned in the pre-reqs, make sure you've got at least Azure PowerShell 1.0 installed.

The cmdlet for creating a new AAD Application is:


You should run it like this:

$myAADApp = New-AzureRmADApplication 
    -DisplayName "ZimmerAADApp1" 
    -HomePage "https://zimmergren.net/aadapp1" 
    -IdentifierUris "https://zimmergren.net/aadapp1" -Password "My Pass"

After running this command, you need to check that the application was successfully created. Do this by simply checking the value of the $myAADApp variable (or whatever you named it):

PS C:\Users\tobia> $myAADApp

DisplayName             : ZimmerAADApp1  
Type                    : Application  
ApplicationId           : YourGuid  
ApplicationObjectId     : YourGuid  
AvailableToOtherTenants : False  
AppPermissions          : {}  
IdentifierUris          : {https://zimmergren.net/aadapp1}  
ReplyUrls               : {}  

NOTE: You should copy your ApplicationId from the output and save for later.

Creating a Service Principal

We have created our AzureRm AD Application and we're ready to create an account which can get access to this application in order to later work with the APIs. We're doing this with something called a Service Principal, which essentially is a type of service account.

New-AzureRmADServicePrincipal -ApplicationId <your application id>  

NOTE: The *ApplicationId *you should use is the one you got from the previous query and saved.

Next step is to assign a Role Assignment to the Application. We'll do this using the New-AzureRmRoleAssignment command. I'm giving Contributor access, but you can choose whatever access level you want:

    -RoleDefinitionName Contributor 
    -ServicePrincipalName "<application id>"

The result of this should be something like this:

RoleAssignmentId   : /subscriptions/A GUID/providers/Microsoft.Authorization/roleAssignments/<GUID>  
Scope              : /subscriptions/A GUID  
DisplayName        : ZimmerAADApp1  
SignInName         :  
RoleDefinitionName : Contributor  
RoleDefinitionId   : A GUID  
ObjectId           : A GUID  
ObjectType         : ServicePrincipal  

In order to move on to the next step, we first need to get the subscription id. The easiest thing to do in achieving this is:

$mySubscription = Get-AzureRmSubscription

This will result in something like this:

C:\Users\tobias> $mySubscription

SubscriptionName : Production  
SubscriptionId   : <a guid>  
TenantId         : <a guid>  
State            : Enabled  

From here, make a note of the SubscriptionId and the TenantId. Both are required for the next commands to execute.

Authenticate using your new Service Principal to verify

In order to try our new Service Principal out, we need to try and authenticate the requests through that account.

To do this, create a new credential object like so:

$svcPrincipalCredentials = Get-Credential

It should yield a login image like this:

Azure Resource Manager Authenticating the service principal

Enter the ApplicationId as username and the Password that you configured in the beginning of this article.

Awesome - you have fetched the Credentials for the new Service Principal. That means we can now start logging in to the Azure Resource Manager with any approach we want. In this post we'll just verify that we can access it using PowerShell:

    -Credential $svcPrincipalCredentials 
    -TenantId "<your tenant id guid>"

It should yield an output like this, and verify that you are signed in using the new service principal account (the account guid..):

Environment           : AzureCloud  
Account               : <your guid>  
TenantId              : <your guid>  
SubscriptionId        : <your guid>  
CurrentStorageAccount :  

Run the Azure Resource Manager PowerShell commands

Once you've hooked up everything as described above, you're ready to run some PowerShell cmdlets (and currently also have a session which is authenticated).

There's some Azure PowerShell cmdlets for the Resource Manager which are described in more detail available here.

As an example, you can now list all your resource groups by running this command:

Get-AzureRmResourceGroup | ft ResourceGroupName,Location  

This should yield a result like this:

ARM results


Bingo! We have achieve the following result:

  • Sign in and authenticate with Azure using PowerShell
  • Create a new Azure Resource Manager AAD Application
  • Create a Service Principal (essentially a "service account")
  • Assign the Service Principal with (in my case) Contributor permissions
  • Verified that we could login using the new service principal through PowerShell with the Login-AzureRmAccount cmdlet
  • Run the Azure Resource Manager cmdlets successfully to fetch amazing magic from our Azure subscription

This means we're good to go, and can now start building any type of application which can authenticate (using the Service Principal's ID and Password) and work with the Azure Resource Manager API's. Which in turn means that if we want to continue and evolve what we've just done, we can start building C# applications, web api's, backend services or whatever you prefer.

0 Comments 20 February 2016
Tobias Zimmergren

Tobias Zimmergren

Hi, I'm Tobias. I am a Microsoft MVP for SharePoint and I use this site to share my thoughts on tech with you on topics like SharePoint, Office 365, Azure and general web development.

  Malmö, Sweden

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