Authenticate to Azure DevOps as a managed identity

Recently I have been fiddling with the Azure DevOps tooling, especially playing with authentication. Yup, I know how to have fun 🤓
After a post about workload identity federation and Terraform, let me share some tips about managed identities.

If you are not familiar with managed identities, in short it allows to assign identities to Azure resources and let them authenticate without credentials. Go learn about this here.

Add a managed identity in Azure DevOps

To run the snippets shared in this post, you’ll need an Azure resource with a managed identity and shell access. For instance, I have used a virtual machine with a system assigned managed identity.
You will also need to add the managed identity as a user in your Azure DevOps organization, this can be done by following the steps here.

Once this is ready, you can connect to the resource and start by getting an access token.

Get an access token

To authenticate against any Azure DevOps tool, we need an access token. How to get one is documented in the official docs, but let me highlight two tips about this.

Using Azure CLI

The first tip is the magic guid 499b84ac-1321-427f-aa17-267ca6975798. It’s the application id of Azure DevOps’s app registration from Microsoft’s tenant. Every Entra ID tenant (including yours) has an enterprise application (service principal) linked to this app registration, thus this guid is common to everyone.

You can verify this with following command: az ad sp show --id 499b84ac-1321-427f-aa17-267ca6975798 and see the properties of the service principal

Using Azure CLI, we can pass this id to the --ressource parameter of the az account get-access-token command:

az login --identity --allow-no-subscriptions
token=$(az account get-access-token --resource 499b84ac-1321-427f-aa17-267ca6975798 --query accessToken -o tsv)

By default this command returns an access token to use with Azure, but specifying the --resource parameter like this gives a token for Azure DevOps.

The --allow-no-subscriptions flag passed to the az login command is necessary if your managed identity doesn’t have access to any Azure subscription

If you don’t want to use a guid, you can use for the --resource parameter (this value comes from the servicePrincipalNames property of the service principal).

Using authorization endpoint

Second tip, if you don’t want to use Azure CLI, there is an authorization endpoint that you can call from a VM linked to a managed identity (I haven’t tested it on another type of resource yet).
The key here is to use the resource query string parameter with the same guid as with the Azure CLI. You can do it like this in PowerShell:

$response = Invoke-WebRequest -Uri '' -Header @{ Metadata = $true }
$token = ($response.Content | ConvertFrom-Json).access_token

Or from a Linux shell:

response=$(curl '' -H Metadata:true -s)
token=$(echo $response | jq -r '.access_token')

Now that we have an access token stored in a $token variable, let’s see how to use it.

Use the token

Using the token is not complicated, basically what’s not clear in the official docs is that the access token can be used like a PAT (Personal Access Token).

With the CLI

When working with the Azure DevOps CLI, there are two options to authenticate:

  1. You can pipe the access token to the az devops login command, like this in PowerShell: $token | az devops login or like this from a Linux shell: echo $token | az devops login
  2. Or you can set the AZURE_DEVOPS_EXT_PAT environment variable and that’s it ($env:AZURE_DEVOPS_EXT_PAT = $token in PowerShell, export AZURE_DEVOPS_EXT_PAT="$token" in a Linux shell.)

And then you can start running commands.

With the REST API

This is pretty straightforward as the access token has to be set in the Authorization header, for instance in PowerShell (don’t forget to replace the {organization} placeholder with your organization’s name):

Invoke-WebRequest -Headers @{ Authorization = "Bearer $token" } -Uri "{organization}/_apis/projects?api-version=7.2-preview.4"

Or from a Linux shell:

curl -s -H "Authorization: Bearer $token" "{organization}/_apis/projects?api-version=7.2-preview.4"

As a self-hosted agent

Finally, when configuring a self-hosted agent for Azure Pipelines, you can use the access token as if it was a PAT.
For a Windows agent, set the auth and token parameters of the config.cmd script:

.\config.cmd --auth pat --token $token

For a Linux agent, same thing with the script:

./ --auth pat --token "$token"

Refer to the official docs for the rest of the configuration depending on your scenario.


This concludes this post about managed identity authentication and Azure DevOps. This was a short one as I don’t want to repeat what you can find in the official docs, just highlight a few tips that I think can save some time.
I hope this helps, thanks for reading 🤓

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.