Tutorial: Use GitHub Actions to deploy to App Service and connect to a database

Learn how to set up a GitHub Actions workflow to deploy a ASP.NET Core application with an Azure SQL Database backend. When you're finished, you have an ASP.NET app running in Azure and connected to SQL Database. You'll first use an ARM template to create resources.

This tutorial does not use containers. If you want to deploy to a containerized ASP.NET Core application, see Use GitHub Actions to deploy to App Service for Containers and connect to a database.

In this tutorial, you learn how to:

  • Use a GitHub Actions workflow to add resources to Azure with a Azure Resource Manager template (ARM template)
  • Use a GitHub Actions workflow to build an ASP.NET Core application

If you don't have an Azure subscription, create an Azure free account before you begin.


To complete this tutorial, you'll need:

Download the sample

Fork the sample project in the Azure Samples repo.


Create the resource group

Open the Azure Cloud Shell at https://shell.azure.com. You can alternately use the Azure CLI if you've installed it locally. (For more information on Cloud Shell, see the Cloud Shell Overview.)

az group create --name {resource-group-name} --location {resource-group-location}

Generate deployment credentials

OpenID Connect is an authentication method that uses short-lived tokens. Setting up OpenID Connect with GitHub Actions is more complex process that offers hardened security.

  1. If you don't have an existing application, register a new Active Directory application and service principal that can access resources. Create the Active Directory application.

    az ad app create --display-name myApp

    This command will output JSON with an appId that is your client-id. Save the value to use as the AZURE_CLIENT_ID GitHub secret later.

    You'll use the objectId value when creating federated credentials with Graph API and reference it as the APPLICATION-OBJECT-ID.

  2. Create a service principal. Replace the $appID with the appId from your JSON output.

    This command generates JSON output with a different objectId and will be used in the next step. The new objectId is the assignee-object-id.

    Copy the appOwnerTenantId to use as a GitHub secret for AZURE_TENANT_ID later.

     az ad sp create --id $appId
  3. Create a new role assignment by subscription and object. By default, the role assignment will be tied to your default subscription. Replace $subscriptionId with your subscription ID, $resourceGroupName with your resource group name, and $assigneeObjectId with the generated assignee-object-id. Learn how to manage Azure subscriptions with the Azure CLI.

    az role assignment create --role contributor --scope /subscriptions/$subscriptionId/resourceGroups/$resourceGroupName --subscription $subscriptionId --assignee-object-id  $assigneeObjectId --assignee-principal-type ServicePrincipal
  4. Run the following command to create a new federated identity credential for your active directory application.

    • Replace APPLICATION-OBJECT-ID with the objectId (generated while creating app) for your Active Directory application.
    • Set a value for CREDENTIAL-NAME to reference later.
    • Set the subject. The value of this is defined by GitHub depending on your workflow:
      • Jobs in your GitHub Actions environment: repo:< Organization/Repository >:environment:< Name >
      • For Jobs not tied to an environment, include the ref path for branch/tag based on the ref path used for triggering the workflow: repo:< Organization/Repository >:ref:< ref path>. For example, repo:n-username/ node_express:ref:refs/heads/my-branch or repo:n-username/ node_express:ref:refs/tags/my-tag.
      • For workflows triggered by a pull request event: repo:< Organization/Repository >:pull_request.
    az rest --method POST --uri 'https://graph.microsoft.com/beta/applications/<APPLICATION-OBJECT-ID>/federatedIdentityCredentials' --body '{"name":"<CREDENTIAL-NAME>","issuer":"https://token.actions.githubusercontent.com","subject":"repo:organization/repository:ref:refs/heads/main","description":"Testing","audiences":["api://AzureADTokenExchange"]}' 

To learn how to create a Create an active directory application, service principal, and federated credentials in Azure portal, see Connect GitHub and Azure.

Configure the GitHub secret for authentication

You need to provide your application's Client ID, Tenant ID, and Subscription ID to the login action. These values can either be provided directly in the workflow or can be stored in GitHub secrets and referenced in your workflow. Saving the values as GitHub secrets is the more secure option.

  1. In GitHub, go to your repository.

  2. Go to Settings in the navigation menu.

  3. Select Security > Secrets and variables > Actions.

    Screenshot of adding a secret

  4. Select New repository secret.

  5. Create secrets for AZURE_CLIENT_ID, AZURE_TENANT_ID, and AZURE_SUBSCRIPTION_ID. Use these values from your Active Directory application for your GitHub secrets:

    GitHub Secret Active Directory Application
    AZURE_CLIENT_ID Application (client) ID
    AZURE_TENANT_ID Directory (tenant) ID
  6. Save each secret by selecting Add secret.

Add GitHub secrets for your build

  1. Create two new secrets in your GitHub repository for SQLADMIN_PASS and SQLADMIN_LOGIN. Make sure you choose a complex password, otherwise the create step for the SQL database server will fail. You won't be able to access this password again so save it separately.

  2. Create an AZURE_SUBSCRIPTION_ID secret for your Azure subscription ID. If you do not know your subscription ID, use this command in the Azure Shell to find it. Copy the value in the SubscriptionId column.

    az account list -o table

Create Azure resources

The create Azure resources workflow runs an ARM template to deploy resources to Azure. The workflow:

To run the create Azure resources workflow:

  1. Open the infraworkflow.yml file in .github/workflows within your repository.

  2. Update the value of AZURE_RESOURCE_GROUP to your resource group name.

  3. Set the input for region in your ARM Deploy actions to your region.

    1. Open templates/azuredeploy.resourcegroup.parameters.json and update the rgLocation property to your region.
  4. Go to Actions and select Run workflow.

    Run the GitHub Actions workflow to add resources.

  5. Verify that your action ran successfully by checking for a green checkmark on the Actions page.

    Successful run of create resources.

  6. After you've created your resources, go to Actions, select Create Azure Resources, disable the workflow.

    Disable the Create Azure Resources workflow.

Create a publish profile secret

  1. In the Azure portal, open your new staging App Service (Slot) created with the Create Azure Resources workflow.

  2. Select Get Publish Profile.

  3. Open the publish profile file in a text editor and copy its contents.

  4. Create a new GitHub secret for AZURE_WEBAPP_PUBLISH_PROFILE.

Build and deploy your app

To run the build and deploy workflow:

  1. Open your workflow.yaml file in .github/workflows within your repository.

  2. Verify that the environment variables for AZURE_RESOURCE_GROUP, AZURE_WEBAPP_NAME, SQLSERVER_NAME, and DATABASE_NAME match the ones in infraworkflow.yml.

  3. Verify that your app deployed by visiting the URL in the Swap to production slot output. You should see a sample app, My TodoList App.

Clean up resources

If you no longer need your sample project, delete your resource group in the Azure portal and delete your repository on GitHub.

Next steps