Azure Lighthouse – A Cloud Native Managed Services Model for Service Providers

Recently Azure announced this service called ‘Azure Lighthouse’. It allows managed service providers and customers to manage the tenant access and the delegation from a single point of interface in the Azure Portal itself. With some marketing garnish, I would like to call it as Cloud Native Managed Service Model. Let me take you through the fundamentals of Azure Lighthouse.

Before proceeding further, this post assumes, you’re familiar with AAD concepts like tenants/directories, object ids, service principles, RBAC etc. I have not referenced or elaborated them here.

Before diving in, let’s look at how the existing managed service providers access their customer tenants. Generally, they use either one of the following.

  1. Service Provider access Customer Tenant as a Guest.
  2. Service Provider access Customer Tenant with a customer tenant user account.

Consider this example, Aventude Digital with its Azure tenant looking for a partner to manage our Azure Resources. MassRover is a managed service provider; Aventude Digital reaches MassRover and requests their service. Bob is the support engineer from MassRover with his UPN ( should gain access to Aventude Digital tenant.

Scenario #1

Bob gets access to Aventude Digital tenant as a Guest user. In this case Aventude Digital administrator Linda should invite Bob to her tenant, with the required RBAC permissions. Once Bob receives the invitation, he can access Aventude Digital directory. When Bob logs in using his own UPN (, he can see two directories in Azure – MassRover directory where he is a direct member and Aventude Digital directory where he’s a guest user.

Bob can switch between them and access the resources as per the granted permissions and continue his support work. The invitation process is manual and repetitive. Below image shows, how Bob access different tenants, being the Guest user.

aventude guest directories

Scenario #2

Bob gets a user account from Aventude Digital tenant. Aventude Digital administrator creates a user account in their directory for Bob, something like Bob must use this user to access Aventude Digital tenant. This becomes a mess when Bob manages many customers, because he has to switch between different tenants using different UPNs and related passwords. Bob ends up maintaining a table of UPNs and passwords for each tenant he works for.

In short, Guest access is commonly used. But still this is an AAD level delegation only. It is manual and when Bob selects different directories the authentication takes place and the experience is not smooth.

How Azure Lighthouse Improves this.

Azure Lighthouse offers service providers a single control plane to view and manage Azure across all their customers with higher automation, scale, and enhanced governance. With Azure Lighthouse, service providers can deliver managed services using comprehensive and robust management tooling built into the Azure platform. This offering can also benefit enterprise IT organizations managing resources across multiple tenants.

At the core of Azure Lighthouse is Azure Delegated Resource Management, on top of this Azure Portal based Cross Tenant Management Experience comes. Addition to this, we can have Extended Scenarios like Market Place & Managed Apps.

Rest of this post covers the technical implementation of Azure Delegated Resource Management and Cross Tenant Management Experience.

Delegated access can be done by two aspects, one is by manually executing the Azure Delegated Resource Management ARM scripts or by installing the published Market Place Managed Service Offering from the customer. In this post will cover the manual approach.

First, as a service provider, we should create the required ARM template to obtain the Azure Delegated Resource Management permissions from the customer tenant. These permissions can be obtained at subscription level or at the resource group level. Service Provider prepares the required ARM template, and this should be executed at the customer subscription

Below is the ARM template and the associated parameter file.

"$schema": "",
"contentVersion": "",
"parameters": {
"mspOfferName": {
"type": "string",
"metadata": {
"description": "Specify the name of the offer from the Managed Service Provider"
"mspOfferDescription": {
"type": "string",
"metadata": {
"description": "Name of the Managed Service Provider offering"
"managedByTenantId": {
"type": "string",
"metadata": {
"description": "Specify the tenant id of the Managed Service Provider"
"authorizations": {
"type": "array",
"metadata": {
"description": "Specify an array of objects, containing tuples of Azure Active Directory principalId, a Azure roleDefinitionId, and an optional principalIdDisplayName. The roleDefinition specified is granted to the principalId in the provider's Active Directory and the principalIdDisplayName is visible to customers."
"variables": {
"mspRegistrationName": "[guid(parameters('mspOfferName'))]",
"mspAssignmentName": "[guid(parameters('mspOfferName'))]"
"resources": [
"type": "Microsoft.ManagedServices/registrationDefinitions",
"apiVersion": "2019-06-01",
"name": "[variables('mspRegistrationName')]",
"properties": {
"registrationDefinitionName": "[parameters('mspOfferName')]",
"description": "[parameters('mspOfferDescription')]",
"managedByTenantId": "[parameters('managedByTenantId')]",
"authorizations": "[parameters('authorizations')]"
"type": "Microsoft.ManagedServices/registrationAssignments",
"apiVersion": "2019-06-01",
"name": "[variables('mspAssignmentName')]",
"dependsOn": [
"[resourceId('Microsoft.ManagedServices/registrationDefinitions/', variables('mspRegistrationName'))]"
"properties": {
"registrationDefinitionId": "[resourceId('Microsoft.ManagedServices/registrationDefinitions/', variables('mspRegistrationName'))]"
"outputs": {
"mspOfferName": {
"type": "string",
"value": "[concat('Managed by', ' ', parameters('mspOfferName'))]"
"authorizations": {
"type": "array",
"value": "[parameters('authorizations')]"
"$schema": "",
"contentVersion": "",
"parameters": {
"mspOfferName": {
"value": "Aventude Ops Servive"
"mspOfferDescription": {
"value": "Aventude Ops Service for Azure Managed Customers Tier1"
"managedByTenantId": {
"value": "261e3bf5-f768-49cc-a8bb-ab7dcc73817c"
"authorizations": {
"value": [
"principalId": "6665e9a2-e27a-42f0-8ce1-203c03255695",
"principalIdDisplayName": "Individual User",
"roleDefinitionId": "b24988ac-6180-42a0-ab88-20f7382dd24c"
"principalId": "52f00b53-e404-4b0e-9564-ffb8388702cd",
"principalIdDisplayName": "User Group Id (reccomended)",
"roleDefinitionId": "b24988ac-6180-42a0-ab88-20f7382dd24c"
view raw parameter.json hosted with ❤ by GitHub

The ARM template expects certain meta data like the managed service offering name, description and mainly the required delegated permissions (as authorizations). These authorizations are AAD principles (users / groups / service principles) paired with the RBAC roles. The values are fed to the ARM template using the corresponding parameter file.

AAD principle Ids can be found in the relevant blades (we need to use the respective Object IDs) and RBAC role IDs can be obtained from this link

Example: Bob’s Object ID in the MassRover (service provider) tenant is – 6665e9a2-e27a-42f0-8ce1-203c03255695 and we’re requesting a Contributor permission for this user. Azure RBAC ID for the Contributor role is – b24988ac-6180-42a0-ab88-20f7382dd24c. (obtained from the above link). This combination along with a name we provide to be displayed makes one authorization delegated access management record as below.

azure lighthouse authorization snippet

We can add many and different authorizations.

parameter file with different authorizations

Once the ARM template and associated parameter file are completed, customer should execute this in their subscription. In order to execute this, a non-guest user from the customer tenant with Owner permissions to the subscription is required.

PS C:\Windows\system32> az deployment create --name AzureLightHouseDeployment1 --location southeastasia --template-file "C:\Users\Thuru\Desktop\light house blog\json\al.json" --parameters "C:\Users\Thuru\Desktop\light house blog\json\alparam.json" –verbose

It takes, some time and the CLI will spit out an output json.

I used two tenants for this testing. One is called MassRover (service provider) and the other one is Aventude Digital (customer). Above script is executed at the Aventude Digital subscription and script was prepared with the parameters from MassRover. (Bob is in the MassRover tenant).

After execution. In the MassRover tenant Lighthouse, under the My Customers section we can see Aventude Digital.

In the  Aventude Digital tenant Lighthouse, under the Service Providers section we can see MassRover.

This explains the basic of Azure Lighthouse, but it has some limitations at this point. One of the key limitations is, if DataBricks is provisioned in a tenant, then Azure Delegated Resource Management fails, and there are some other limitations too.

If you’re a service provider Azure Lighthouse provides a greater visibility by being in the marketplace. This requires additional setup via partner portal. Also, using service principle delegation, service providers can programmatically automate management tasks. Customers can view the Service Providers at one place including the granted access permissions.

In this post I have covered only one path of Azure Lighthouse, (subscription level delegated resource management), Let me know your experience with Azure Lighthouse and any interesting combinations.


Deep Dive into Azure Managed Identities – Behind the scenes


Sometime back when it was in the preview, I posted an article on Azure Managed Service Identity (MSI) and how we can use it, to eliminate storing credentials in the code, whilst avoiding the bootstrap problem. Read the link for more details.

This post is about Managed Identity, in short, Managed Identity is the new name for Managed Service Identity. Though the purpose and the functionality stay the same, Managed Identities provide more granular control, Azure Portal options and sophisticated improved SDK support, which convinced me enough to write a post.

Managed Identities is a feature of Azure Active Directory (free to use), which helps to eliminate storing credentials in the code. Since, Managed Identities is a feature of AAD, it can be used to authenticate to any Azure service that supports AAD authentication. Let’s start from AAD and drill down into the Managed Identities.

AAD Principles

AAD can have two different principles, user principle and service principle. A user principle is a user object, and a service principle is an instance of application registration.


So what is an application in AAD ?  An application is a global template for a service principle. The directory (AAD tenant), the application is registered is known as the home directory. When the permissions / consent has been given to a application the service principle object is created.

Other than the creation and configuration phases, what we deal with is a service principle. I recommend you to use the terms user principle, service principle and application to have the clear understanding in the communication. You can read more about the application and service principle from this link

Managed Identities

Managed Identities are special type of service principles, they are two types.

User assigned Managed Identity – Available to create as a standalone Azure resource. Should be created manually, when created, a corresponding AAD application will be registered (more details below). One Azure resource can have many user assigned managed identities. The life cycle of a user assigned managed identity is independent of the resource life cycle, meaning a user assigned managed identity can exist without being attached to any resource.

System assigned Managed Identity – These are created by Azure when enabling the Managed Identity for a service. The lifetime is scoped to the lifetime of the resource. One service can have only one system assigned Managed Identity.

The below image summarizes the things. Mindful this, is a specific diagram I have created to illustrate the AAD principles. AAD is not limited to below context.

aad managed identities full.PNG

Enabling Managed Identities to a Service (App Service)

I take a simple example of how we can use Managed Identities to access a Azure Key Vault, which contains the secrets.  This article covers creation and assignment of the Managed Identities to App Service, —

app service capture

System Assigned Identity, we have to enable and in the second tab, you can see the User Assigned identity (still in preview).

Enabling System Assigned Managed Identity 

Switch the status to ON and this will create a system assigned managed identity. Just to explain what is happening behind the scenes.

Before enabling run this PowerShell command (you need GA permissions to the tenant) to see the number of service principles in the AAD.


view raw

hosted with ❤ by GitHub

This will give you the number of service principles in the AAD, and after enabling the System Assigned Managed Identity when you run the above command the count will be +1. Also in the portal, you can see the object id of the service principle.


Executing the below will give the details

Get-AzureRmADServicePrincipal -ObjectId db9c6f9e-bea0-4325-b18c-dcd6eda668af
ServicePrincipalNames : {98b1ebaf-b6b2-4368-ba53-c36ae0551b90,}
ApplicationId : 98b1ebaf-b6b2-4368-ba53-c36ae0551b90
DisplayName : chimp01
Id : db9c6f9e-bea0-4325-b18c-dcd6eda668af
Type : ServicePrincipal

Behind the scenes, Azure has created a service principle for us. In the portal, under Enterprise Applications, make a search with the Display Name (retrieved from PowerShell), you will see the associated service principle. (make sure, you have selected All Applications in the drop down)

But, this is a special kind of a service principle, which we cannot configure any explicit permissions. If you navigate to the Permissions section you will notice that.

Enabling User Assigned Managed Identity

This is still in preview, and in the second tab of the Identity blade. Here we add a Managed Identity as a standalone resource in Azure. You can add an existing user assigned Managed Identity in the tab as shown below.

Screen Link 001


In order to create a User Assigned Managed Identity,  you can add it in the portal, as a separate resource. Search for User Assigned Managed Identity, and click create.


This is like any other Azure resource creation, fill the details and create it.


After creating the User Assigned Managed Identity, run the above count script, you will see one more service principle in AAD tenant.

Also, if you search the resource name under the Enterprise Applications (All Applications enabled) you will see the service principle.

Additionally, we can see the created Managed Identity as a resource in the specified Resource Group.


Now go back to the screen link 001, and you can add the created user assigned Managed Identity.


As you can see, we can add more than one user assigned managed identities to a Azure service.


We have created and assigned the Managed Identities to our service, next article will explain how to use them both in production and development.



Democratizing Enterprise Cloud in Azure

Cloud is the new normal; almost, all the enterprises have been going through or at least planning their cloud adoption. Gone are the days, enterprise IT deals with big chunks of metal.

Though the cloud adoption is at its peak, I rarely see democratized cloud adoption in enterprises. Cloud is often used as a centralized IT hosting solution. In this article, let’s analyze the issues for such cases, and what are the options available in Azure to enable democratized cloud adoption with enterprise governance.

It is predicted that, 83% of the workloads will be running in some form of cloud in 2020, where 41% on public cloud.

where IT workloads will run in 2020 : aventude

Cloud is not only the successor of IT assets and management, but also, it has evolved to provide agility and innovation at scale. These aspects, have been changing the way organizations deal with technology along with other techno-cultural and techno-commercial shifts like DevOps, PaaS and Opex.

public cloud drivers aventude

As per the above graph, the key motives are agility, DevOps and innovative aspects.

In order to leverage the full potential of the cloud, it is mandatory for the enterprise IT to deliver cloud with its real essence. This will help the cloud adoption, without putting the key motives under threat.

If your enterprise has cloud but still require calls, emails and requests to spin up a resources or to make change, it kills the agility the cloud naturally offers. It’s like buying a Ferrari and restricting it to go in 20 kmph.

Once the agility is killed, innovation is blocked, and soon the cloud becomes a mere hosting solution.

A successful enterprise cloud adoption is not just things are in the cloud, it should be democratized with proper governance, in order to leverage the agility whilst maintaining the governance.

What makes the enterprises not to democratize their cloud adoption?

In most enterprises, the cloud adoption is strictly controlled by the IT, often tampering the autonomy of the business agility and digital transformation cadence.  There are several reasons for this.

  • Cloud Sprawl – Organizations fear cloud sprawl, cloud sprawl refers to the unwanted/uncontrolled cloud footprint, which leads to unnecessary cost.
  • Security – Concerns about security implementations, how the resources should be created, linked, managed and monitored. This knowledge mostly stays with the IT teams and often sensitive, this leads the IT to keep the management within themselves.
  • Governance and Policies – Organizational policies in terms of access levels and governance should be adhered, this is an organizational knowledge (internal) where it often remains tacit. Example – Organizational policies in firewall settings? Patch administration and etc.
  • Unified Tools and licenses – Larger enterprises, especially who have complex IT structure should leverage the maximum return of investments they have made on tools and licenses. So certain tools and licenses are commonly used and certain things are prohibited (partner relationships also play a significant role here). Historically, IT has the knowledge and the relationship management of these tools and license offerings, it creates a dependency on IT to decide on tools and licenses. Example – What license to bring to cloud? what are the available ones? Do we have any alternative tools in-house and etc.
  • Lack of cloud knowledge – Lack of knowledge about the cloud and offerings. Business stakeholders often get confused and try to compare things in wrong ways, this kind of experience often leads the IT to keep the cloud as a black box as possible and forces the IT to centrally manage the cloud.
  • Centralized culture – Enterprises have cultural problems that often create authoritative and knowledge pools, which blocks the democratization of the technology and decision making.

With all these challenges, Finding the right balance between autonomy and the governance is the key.

What Azure has in place?

Earlier, Azure subscriptions are part of a tenant, and under the subscription we have resource groups and then the resources. This hierarchy is very basic and it does not have the flexibility to govern and mange enterprise complexity.

Azure got a new hierarchical elements in structuring enterprise cloud footprint closer to the organizational structure.

The below figure shows the current new structure.

azure management group hierarchty

These management groups can have policies to ensure the governance. Policies can be set at any level. Policies by default inherit the permissions from the level above.

Policies can be very granular like which restrict resource types, SKUs and locations, policies to ensure security aspects like patch, endpoint controls and etc.

Use Cases and structuring

There’s no hard and fast rule on how do we structure the management groups and subscriptions, but it is often better to follow the organizational decision tree. Below are some common structuring approaches.

One organization with departmental separation

aventude: departmental management group structure

Global organization with geographic footprint

aventude : global management group structure


aventude : conglomerate management group structure :


Once the right policies are in place, IT can take a relax approach, like a development team shouldn’t create that big VM, you are always afraid of.

Though, the above hierarchical approach gives lots of flexibility, in certain cases still you may find challenges to address the hierarchical management, especially in the group of companies, where each company has its own CIO office and some policies are controlled centrally. Also, when these business units use different tenants it adds more complexity to the picture.

Regardless, of the tools – the key point I want to stress out from this article is – in enterprise cloud adoption IT teams and management should focus on democratizing the IT much as possible whilst maintaining the governance policies intact.  Too much control at central place will tamper the agility of the cloud and kills the momentum of the digital transformation.




Build your SaaS right with Azure

Cloud has the proven promise of great opportunities and agility for ISVs. Modern cloud platforms have low entry barriers and huge array of service offerings beyond traditional enterprise application requirements. Cloud services provide intact environment to SaaS applications with features such as cutting edge innovative services, intelligence as services, continuous integration and continuous delivery, computation and storage scale for the global reach.

The current digitized environment, device proliferation and the span of intelligent cloud services give the best mix of social, technical and business aspects for SaaS products to emerge and prevail with high success.

Cloud enables equal opportunity to every SaaS player – technical and business domain skills and expertise are vital elements in order to succeed in the SaaS playground, knowing the business and knowing the technology are two utmost important facts.

From a SaaS consumer point of view, a customer has ample number of choices available to choose from list of SaaS providers. Having the right mix of features, availability, security and business model is important. Choosing the right tools at the right time at the right cost is the skill to master.

Figure 1: What customers expect from SaaS providers.

1Source: Frost & Sullivan, 2017

In order to deliver successful SaaS application, ISVs should have attributes such as – concrete DevOps practices to deliver features and fixes seamlessly, responsible SaaS adoption models concerning Administration & Shadow IT, trust and the privacy of Data & Encryption, promising service Uptime and many more.

DevOps with Azure Tooling

Azure tools bring agile development practices and continuous integration & continuous delivery. Code changes take immediate effect in the build pipeline with VSTS build definitions and deployed to the respective environments in Azure.

Figure 2: The simple DevOps model with Azure tooling


Environment and resource provisioning is handled via automated ARM template deployments from VSTS build and release pipeline. The model depicted in Figure 2 vary based on the context and complexity of the project with multiple environments, workflows and different services.

Centralized Administration and Shadow IT

Customers have the concern of how the SaaS enables the centralized organizational access management can be performed. On the other hand, SaaS providers require frictionless approach in the adoption of the services and enable more users much as possible.

Azure based organizational SaaS implementations often utilize Azure Active Directory (AAD) based integration and Single Sign On (SSO).

Data Security and Encryption

Customers trust the SaaS providers with their data. It is the most valuable asset SaaS providers take responsibility of in delivering value and helping the business of the customers. Data security and encryption is a prime concern and growing rapidly with complex and fast evolving regulatory and complaince requirements.

Azure has great compliancy support, tools and services in data protection. It offers many out of the box data encryption and protection services like TDE, DDM (Dynamic Data Masking), RLS (Row Level Security), In-built blob encryption and etc.

In certain cases, built-in security features do not provide the sufficient protection and compliance. In those sensitive environments we can leverage additional Azure services which provide high degree data security.

Figure 3: Advanced data security implementation in Azure


Azure Key Vault based encryption with SQL Database Always Encrypted, Blob encryption (envelope encryption), AAD based access control and MFA can be implemented in such cases. Also, this provides new models of Bring Your Own Key (BYOK) in encryption where customers can provide and manage their keys.


Service uptime should be considered not only during unexpected failures but also during updates.

Azure provides inbuilt geo replication for databases, storage and specific services. Application tier redundancy is implemented with the use of Traffic Manager. Configuring geo replication and redundancy introduces concerns like geographic regulatory concerns of data, synchronization issues and performance.

Azure tools like Application Insights for application monitoring & telemetry, auto scaling, geo replication, traffic manager and many others are mixed with architectural practices to deliver required uptime for the SaaS application.


Apart from the technologies and tools, SaaS application development on a cloud platform requires expertise on the platform of choice, in order to achieve cost effectiveness, business agility and innovation.

How SaaS application is bundled and sold is a crucial decision in technology strategies like cache priming, tenant isolation, security aspects, centralized security, multi-tenancy at different services and etc.

This article provides a high level of view about the considerations customers look from SaaS providers and how Azure tools and services can help in achieving them.



Passwords are like underwear – Keep them hidden using Azure MSI


We keep the credentials and other secrets of  the application in the source files. These secrets are visible to developers and being pushed to the source control. In order to avoid this, we can keep the secrets in centralized key management systems – but the credentials of the centralized key management system should be kept in the source files, resulting that at least one credential being placed in the source files.


Azure Managed Service Identity (MSI) solves this bootstrap problem. It eliminates the need of storing any credentials in the source files.

MSI is supported by different Azure services. This post explains how to set up MSI in the Azure Web App and retrieve a secret stored in Azure Key Vault (a database password).

Setting MSI in Azure Web App

MSI works on Azure AD authentication.  When MSI is enabled in a service (web app) it creates an application principle in the same tenant where the subscription of the Web App is attached to.

Navigate to your Web App, select the Managed Service Identity option and switch the feature ON.

enable MSI in azure web apps

This will create an application principle in the AAD with the same name of the Web App (teslaspace).


You can also notice the following section with the specific IDs in the ARM template of Web App.


Creating Azure Key Vault and set up Developer Access for Secrets

Now we should create a Azure Key Vault in a subscription attached to the same tenant. We will store our credentials and other sensitive strings in this Key Vault.

Creating a Azure Key Vault is straight forward and it can easily be done via the portal. I have skipped those steps in this post. Read more articles about Azure Key Vault

Once the Key Vault is created, we should add the Web App Service Principle to the Key Vault access policies. Give minimum permissions are possible.


This principle is given only Get permissions to the secret. This is enough to retrieve a sensitive string from Azure Key Vault.

We should create a secret in the Azure Key Vault and obtain the secret URI.


Navigate to the secret and copy the URI. Secret URIs are in the below format

https://{key vault name}{secret name}/{version no}


We have done below items.

  1. We created Web App and enabled MSI
  2. This created a service principle in the corresponding tenant
  3. We created a Azure Key vault
  4. We granted some permissions to the Web App Service Principle
  5. We created a secret in Key Vault and obtained the URI

Now, the MSI enabled Web App should connect to the Azure Key Vault and obtain the value of the secret. In order to connect to the Key Vault it does not require any credentials to be stored in the source code.

There is a NuGet package which facilitates this process.

Install-Package Microsoft.Azure.Services.AppAuthentication -Version 1.0.0-preview

Also, add a reference to Azure Key Vault

Install-Package Microsoft.Azure.KeyVault -Version 2.3.2

The below code will retrieve the secret for you, ex – a db password

public async Task<string> RetrieveSecretBasedOnMSIAsync()
 AzureServiceTokenProvider azureServiceTokenProvider = new AzureServiceTokenProvider();
 string accessToken = await azureServiceTokenProvider.GetAccessTokenAsync("");

 var kv = new KeyVaultClient(new KeyVaultClient.AuthenticationCallback(azureServiceTokenProvider.KeyVaultTokenCallback));
 var secret = await kv.GetSecretAsync("secret uri");

return secret.Value;

If you turn off the MSI from the Web App the above code will throw an exception that it cannot authenticate to the AAD.

Developer Environment

The above works in the production as MSI is enabled in the Web App, but how to set the same configuration in the developer machine and make sure that the authentication happens to AAD via the above code.

This is straight forward, via Azure CLI. You should install Azure CLI 2.0 or above in your development machine.

Also, we need a user principle to authenticate to the AAD. The same principle should be added to the Azure Key Vault with the required permissions (Get permissions for the secrets).

So create a user in AAD. ex – Add the user principle to the Key Vault as shown above. You don’t need to assign any subscription access to this user.

That’s all we should do in the Azure. In the developer machine, after installing the Azure CLI 2.0 or above, login to the Azure CLI using below command.

az login --allow-no-subscriptions

This will pop up the device login and complete the login using the credentials of the created user.

Note : You have to provide the — allow-no-subscriptions flag since user does not have any subscription level access. This is the bare minimum developer permission that can be given in MSI.

As long as the developer is logged in to the Azure CLI which has the required permissions in the Azure Key Vault, the above code will work.

Things to note

  • MSI service principle is a AAD V1 approach. V2 or MSAL support is yet to be released. So if you’ve a V2 app registration, enabling MSI will create another V1 application in the tenant. Read more
  • Developer gets to see the secrets during debug. There are workarounds to eliminate this.
    • Use a different KV in production environment
    • User a token based access for the service which have AAD authentication. This is possible in SQL Databases. But it adds additional complexity in handling tokens expiry and etc. Read more




Understanding GDPR and personal data

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) the law imposes new rules on companies, government agencies, non-profits, and other organizations that offer goods and services to people in the European Union (EU), or that collect and analyze data tied to EU residents. The GDPR applies no matter where you are located.

I have been reading the key aspects of the GDPR from the above official site, and thought to summarize the points I came across in order to understand what GDPR is, how we can make the systems complaint to the GDPR.

  1. GDPR is a regulation will take effect in May 2018
  2. It gives more control to the EU citizens over their personal data
  3. GDPR enforces controls over data collection, usage, storage, handling breaches, transparency, expiry and etc.
  4. GDPR puts non-technical regulations as well, in few scenarios. Ex – A must to have data security officer in organization in certain scenarios.
  5. It does not explicitly mention on encryption or end-to-end data protection but the regulatory requirements will force the applications deal with personal data to use those technologies.
  6. Strict security audits, logs and documentation should be in place in order to be complaint with the GDPR.

GDPR defines ‘personal data’ as – any information related to a natural person or ‘Data Subject’, that can be used to directly or indirectly identify the person.

According to the definition name, address, credit card number, social security number, bank account number, telephone number, license number, vehicle number and any other explicit identification information is a personal data. But the following types of data also fall under the personal data category.

  1. Calls to customer care services or any other voice based services where they record the voice of the user. Though the voice record takes place without the name and with the full anonymity, still the voice data itself should be treated as a personal data.
  2. Any video surveillance recordings (CCTV) or any other visual recordings should be treated as personal data (both in the edge and cloud storages).
  3. Any forms of biometric data should be treated personal data.
  4. Drawings which represents the state of a real image like drawing of a portrait, a family or anything which exhibits the behavior of socio cultural aspects of a family or an individual can be considered as personal data.
  5. Value of an asset – this is a number but still considered as a personal when it is linked with the a person’s profile and can be used to guestimate the economic state and the obligation of the person.
  6. Call logs and any other data usage logs.
  7. Real-time geo location monitoring and geo-location data. Ex –  Uber drivers
  8. Meeting minutes and any forms of such data for official purpose which any relatable links or traceable information to a person.
  9. Any sort of medical imagery with traceable information.
  10. Photos, videos and voice recordings of any person on any sort is a personal data.
  11. Any non-aggregated data which reveals consumer patterns on goods and services.
  12. IP addresses – including dynamic IPs

The above list is does not include all, but summarizes the personal data in short from the above link. In my opinion any data seems to be a personal data as long as it can be traced and tracked to a person.

In certain scenarios GDPR ensures the organizations to have non-technical complaints such as having a data security officer and etc.

Encrypting the personal data is a one aspect of GDPR which is covered by the clause of “pseudonymous data”. This does not make the solutions complaint to the GDPR because encrypted personal data is also considered as personal data, but this gives some relaxation on on security breaches and how the breach should be handled and notified.

In summary all the solutions should have the technical and non-technical aspects of

  1. Why we collect and store the personal data
  2. How the personal data is used
  3. Transparency of the usage and sharing policies of the personal data
  4. Store personal data as pseudonymous data
  5. Continuous security auditing and monitoring
  6. Notification to the users upon breaches and policy changes

Azure B2C with custom attributes with predetermined values

Azure B2C is a large membership database which also provides the features of tokens, sessions and membership/authentication experience (sign-up, sign-in, forget password and etc). But there are some scenarios which are little tricky based on how the entire solution is handled. Let me explain such a use case and describe different ways to handle that in B2C.

Case : You have an application which is a reselling portal, where a user can either be a seller or a buyer. During the registration / sign-up process user type will automatically be detected by the application, thus the user does not need to select the type. The below diagram explains the case.

Figure 1


Question: In this case why we cannot pass the parameters from step 1which holds the user type value and populate that value in a hidden field in the custom.html or the rendered mobile view in step 2. So it is straight forward to persist that information in B2C.

Answer: Since the rendering is controlled by B2C, any script execution is not allowed in that context. (I’m not sure is there any way to do this). Also the same html view is rendered in mobile or any other native clients passing the information from step 1 to step 2 in any means is not a safe option even if it is possible in any manner.

So we end up having the trouble of passing the user type information from step 1 to step 2 and instruct the B2C to persist that information.


There are different solutions. The trade off is always between how much of control we’re going to take from B2C and how much of control we let the B2C to have. This comes with the cost of development effort and control.

Solution 1: Let B2C handle the case much as possible and application controlled fields like user type to be saved in custom database column. And optionally update the B2C custom attribute using Graph API. Figure 2 explains this.


Figure 2


In this way, we get the benefits of the B2C policies and how to handle the auxiliary authentication services like password management, profiles offered by B2C. Most applications follow this without updating the B2C back using the Graph API.

Solution 2: Take control from B2C to the custom application and use B2C as a membership database.

Figure 3

In this model – In the step 1 some custom attribute values are determined (ex – user type) and passed to the step 2 which is a view controlled purely by the developer. Then step 2 passes the information to the application API in step 3. Server application updates B2C in step 4 and receives the JWT token in step 5. Application updates the database with the oid and other parameters in step 6.

What B2C could do in the future

In the current state of B2C – B2C has applications and policies. Applications and policies can be used many combinations. One application can have many policies of the same type with different settings and also one policy can be used across many applications as well.

In the custom rendering B2C should allow to have hide attributes with the default values. In that way in modeling the above scenario we can have have different policies with different settings and default values.

Primary critical requirement is in the below screen that B2C should add are..

  1. show/hide fields
  2. set default values


Controlling access to your Azure resources using RBAC

Being part of a software services company, customers often ask the question how to restrict access to Azure resources. It is understandable that any organization wouldn’t prefer to give all the rights of the organizational Azure subscription to a person.

In the classic Azure model the only way to give access to Azure portal is, adding the user as a co-admin for the subscription. This gives all the permissions to that user within the subscription except managing the administrators.

But the new Role Based Access Control  (RBAC) helps to solve this problem. Using RBAC we can control the permission scope to either subscriptions, resource groups or to individual resources.

Permissions in the top level scope are automatically inherited to the level below – meaning subscription level users have the same permissions to the resource groups and the resource group level users have the same permission to the individual resources within the resource group.

RBAC has several roles – read more about different roles

Here I’ve explained the flow of adding a new user to a Azure resource group and how his/her experience in accessing Azure via portal. Assume the user doesn’t have any permission in the Azure, and he’s just a developer with a Gmail account.

First, a subscription admin logs in to the portal and add this user in the Azure Active Directory of the specific subscription.


Note at this point, developer1 does not have a Microsoft account. She clicks on the link in the email  she received. She will be directed to create a Microsoft account with the specified email address. (if there’s a Microsoft account already available this step will not be required)


After creating the Microsoft account (entering a new password and create the Microsoft account), she can login to the Azure portal using – But within the portal this user cannot create any resources. In case if the user tries to create or try to perform any action she will get the below message. This is a very similar message to the old grey error box in classic portal, as the user exist in the Azure Active Directory but does not have a subscription, in this case does not have any resource.


Now let the admin assign a resource group for the user.  Assume you have a resource group DevelopmentRG and in the resource group IAM settings add the user (developer1) as a contributor.


Contributor is a predefined role in Azure which has the create/edit/delete permissions of the resources within the specified scope. In this case developer1 has those permissions within the resource group – DevelopmentRG.


After setting developer1 as a contributor, you can notice that the access type of the user is set to Assigned, because this is a an assigned permission. Also note that the subscription admins have the permission to the resource group as Inherited permission.


Now the developer1 logins to the portal and she will see the assigned resource group. Developer1 can perform actions within this resource group.


Also note that since, developer1 has only the specified resource group, she cannot create a new resource group or any permission outside the scope of the specific resource group.


RBAC provides more granular permissions with various roles required for the businesses, this helps the organizations to carefully delegate the permissions to the people without exposing the entire Azure subscription.

The feature to limit/set the quota for a resource group is in the request from the community.