Terraform Azure AD

Over the last week or so, I realized that while I bang the drum of infrastructure as code very loudly, I have not been practicing it at home. I took some steps to reconcile that over the weekend.

The Goal

I have a fairly meager home presence in Azure. Primarily, I use a free version of Azure Active Directory (now Entra ID) to allow for some single sign-on capabilities in external applications like Grafana, MinIO, and ArgoCD. The setup for this differs greatly among the applications, but common to all of these is the need to create applications in Azure AD.

My goal is simple: automate provisioning of this Azure AD account so that I can manage these applications in code. My stretch goal was to get any secrets created as part of this process into my Hashicorp Vault instance.

Getting Started

The plan, in one word, is Terraform. Terraform has a number of providers, including both the azuread and vault providers. Additionally, since I have some experience in Terraform, I figured it would be a quick trip.

I started by installing all the necessary tools (specifically, the Vault CLI, the Azure CLI, and the Terraform CLI) in my WSL instance of Ubuntu. Why there instead of Powershell? Most of the tutorials and such lean towards the bash syntax, so it was a bit easier to roll through the tutorials without having to convert bash into powershell.

I used my ops-automation repository as the source for this, and started by creating a new folder structure to hold my projects. As I anticipated more Terraform projects to come up, I created a base terraform directory, and then an azuread directory under that.

Picking a Backend

Terraform relies on state storage. They use the term backend to describe this storage. By default, Terraform uses a local file backend provider. This is great for development, but knowing that I wanted to get things running in Azure DevOps immediately, I decided that I should configure a backend that I can use from my machine as well as from my pipelines.

As I have been using MinIO pretty heavily for storage, it made the most sense to configure MinIO as the backend, using the S3 backend to do this. It was “fairly” straightforward, as soon as I turned off all the nonsense:

terraform {
  backend "s3" {
    skip_requesting_account_id  = true
    skip_credentials_validation = true
    skip_metadata_api_check     = true
    skip_region_validation      = true
    use_path_style              = true
    bucket                      = "terraform"
    key                         = "azuread/terraform.tfstate"
    region                      = "us-east-1"

There are some obvious things missing: I am setting environment variables for values I would like to treat as secret, or, at least not public.

  • MinIO Endpoint -> AWS_ENDPOINT_URL_S3 environment variable instead of endpoints.s3
  • Access Key -> AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID environment variable instead of access_key
  • Secret Key -> AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY environment variable instead of secret_key

These settings allow me to use the same storage for both my local machine and the Azure Pipeline.

Configuration Azure AD

Likewise, I needed to configure the azuread provider. I followed the steps in the documentation, choosing the environment variable route again. I configured a service principal in Azure and gave it the necessary access to manage my directory.

Using environment variables allows me to set these from variables in Azure DevOps, meaning my secrets are stored in ADO (or Vault, or both…. more on that in another post).

Importing Existing Resources

I have a few resources that already exist in my Azure AD instance, enough that I didn’t want to re-create them and then re-configure everything which uses them. Luckily, most Terraform providers allow for importing existing resources. Thankfully, most of the resources I have support this feature.

Importing is fairly simple: you create the simplest definition of a resource that you can, and then run a terraform import variant to import that resource into your project’s state. Importing an Azure AD Application, for example, looks like this:

terraform import azuread_application.myapp /applications/<object-id>

It is worth noting that the provider is looking for the object-id, not the client ID. The provider documentation has information as to which ID each resource uses for import.

More importantly, Applications and Service Principals are different resources in Azure AD, even though they are pretty much a one to one. To import a Service Principal, you run a similar command:

terraform import azuread_service_principal.myprincipal <sp-id>

But where is the service principal’s ID? I had to go to the Azure CLI to get that info:

az ad sp list --display myappname

From this JSON, I grabbed the id value and used that to import.

From here, I ran a terraform plan to see what was going to be changed. I took a look at the differences, and even added some properties to the terraform files to maintain consistency between the app and the existing state. I ended up with a solid project full of Terraform files that reflected my current state.

Automating with Azure DevOps

There are a few extensions available to add Terraform tasks to Azure DevOps. Sadly, most rely on “standard” configurations for authentication against the backends. Since I’m using an S3 compatible backend, but not S3, I had difficulty getting those extensions to function correctly.

As the Terraform CLI is installed on my build agent, though, I only needed to run my commands from a script. I created an ADO template pipeline (planning for expansion) and extended it to create the pipeline.

All of the environment variables in the template are reflected in the variable groups defined in the extension. If a variable is not defined, it’s simply blank. That’s why you will see the AZDO_ environment variables in the template, but not in the variable groups for the Azure AD provisioning.

Stretch: Adding Hashicorp Vault

Adding HC Vault support was somewhat trivial, but another exercise in authentication. I wanted to use AppRole authentication for this, so I followed the vault provider’s instructions and added additional configuration to my provider. Note that this setup requires additional variables that now need to be set whenever I do a plan or import.

Once that was done, I had access to read and write values in Vault. I started by storing my application passwords in a new key vault. This allows me to have application passwords that rotate weekly, which is a nice security feature. Unfortunately, the rest of my infrastructure isn’t quite setup to handle such change. At least, not yet.



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