Azure Active Directory service principal with Azure SQL
Applies to: Azure SQL Database Azure SQL Managed Instance
Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) supports user creation in Azure SQL Database (SQL DB) on behalf of Azure AD applications (service principals). This is supported for Azure SQL Database and Azure SQL Managed Instance.
Service principal (Azure AD applications) support
This article applies to applications that are integrated with Azure AD, and are part of Azure AD registration. These applications often need authentication and authorization access to Azure SQL to perform various tasks. This feature allows service principals to create Azure AD users in SQL Database. There was a limitation preventing Azure AD object creation on behalf of Azure AD applications that was removed.
When an Azure AD application is registered using the Azure portal or a PowerShell command, two objects are created in the Azure AD tenant:
- An application object
- A service principal object
For more information on Azure AD applications, see Application and service principal objects in Azure Active Directory and Create an Azure service principal with Azure PowerShell.
SQL Database and SQL Managed Instance support the following Azure AD objects:
- Azure AD users (managed, federated, and guest)
- Azure AD groups (managed and federated)
- Azure AD applications
The T-SQL command
CREATE USER [Azure_AD_Object] FROM EXTERNAL PROVIDER on behalf of an Azure AD application is now supported for SQL Database.
Functionality of Azure AD user creation using service principals
Supporting this functionality is useful in Azure AD application automation processes where Azure AD objects are created and maintained in SQL Database without human interaction. Service principals can be an Azure AD admin for the SQL logical server, as part of a group or an individual user. The application can automate Azure AD object creation in SQL Database when executed as a system administrator, and does not require any additional SQL privileges. This allows for a full automation of a database user creation. This feature also supports Azure AD system-assigned managed identity and user-assigned managed identity that can be created as users in SQL Database on behalf of service principals. For more information, see What are managed identities for Azure resources?
Enable service principals to create Azure AD users
To enable an Azure AD object creation in SQL Database on behalf of an Azure AD application, the following settings are required:
Assign the server identity. The assigned server identity represents the Managed Service Identity (MSI). The server identity can be system-assigned or user-assigned managed identity. For more information, see User-assigned managed identity in Azure AD for Azure SQL.
- For a new Azure SQL logical server, execute the following PowerShell command:
New-AzSqlServer -ResourceGroupName <resource group> -Location <Location name> -ServerName <Server name> -ServerVersion "12.0" -SqlAdministratorCredentials (Get-Credential) -AssignIdentity
For more information, see the New-AzSqlServer command, or New-AzSqlInstance command for SQL Managed Instance.
- For existing Azure SQL Logical servers, execute the following command:
Set-AzSqlServer -ResourceGroupName <resource group> -ServerName <Server name> -AssignIdentity
For more information, see the Set-AzSqlServer command, or Set-AzSqlInstance command for SQL Managed Instance.
- To check if the server identity is assigned to the server, execute the Get-AzSqlServer command.
Server identity can be assigned using REST API and CLI commands as well. For more information, see az sql server create, az sql server update, and Servers - REST API.
Grant the Azure AD Directory Readers permission to the server identity created or assigned to the server.
- To grant this permission, follow the description used for SQL Managed Instance that is available in the following article: Provision Azure AD admin (SQL Managed Instance)
- The Azure AD user who is granting this permission must be part of the Azure AD Global Administrator or Privileged Roles Administrator role.
- For dedicated SQL pools in an Azure Synapse workspace, use the workspace's managed identity instead of the Azure SQL server identity.
With Microsoft Graph support for Azure SQL, the Directory Readers role can be replaced with using lower level permissions. For more information, see User-assigned managed identity in Azure AD for Azure SQL
Steps 1 and 2 must be executed in the above order. First, create or assign the server identity, followed by granting the Directory Readers permission, or lower level permissions discussed in User-assigned managed identity in Azure AD for Azure SQL. Omitting one of these steps, or both will cause an execution error during an Azure AD object creation in Azure SQL on behalf of an Azure AD application.
You can assign the Directory Readers role to a group in Azure AD. The group owners can then add the managed identity as a member of this group, which would bypass the need for a Global Administrator or Privileged Roles Administrator to grant the Directory Readers role. For more information on this feature, see Directory Readers role in Azure Active Directory for Azure SQL.
Troubleshooting and limitations
- When creating Azure AD objects in Azure SQL on behalf of an Azure AD application without enabling server identity and granting Directory Readers permission, or lower level permissions discussed in User-assigned managed identity in Azure AD for Azure SQL, the operation will fail with the following possible errors. The following example error is for a PowerShell command execution to create a SQL Database user
myappin the article Tutorial: Create Azure AD users using Azure AD applications.
Exception calling "ExecuteNonQuery" with "0" argument(s): "'myapp' is not a valid login or you do not have permission. Cannot find the user 'myapp', because it does not exist, or you do not have permission."
Exception calling "ExecuteNonQuery" with "0" argument(s): "Principal 'myapp' could not be resolved. Error message: 'Server identity is not configured. Please follow the steps in "Assign an Azure AD identity to your server and add Directory Reader permission to your identity" (https://aka.ms/sqlaadsetup)'"
- For the above error, follow the steps to Assign an identity to the Azure SQL logical server and Assign Directory Readers permission to the SQL logical server identity.
- Setting the service principal (Azure AD application) as an Azure AD admin for SQL Database is supported using the Azure portal, PowerShell, REST API, and CLI commands.
- Using an Azure AD application with service principal from another Azure AD tenant will fail when accessing SQL Database or SQL Managed Instance created in a different tenant. A service principal assigned to this application must be from the same tenant as the SQL logical server or Managed Instance.
- Az.Sql 2.9.0 module or higher is needed when using PowerShell to set up an individual Azure AD application as Azure AD admin for Azure SQL. Ensure you are upgraded to the latest module.
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