» Authorizing Packer Builds in Azure

In order to build VMs in Azure Packer needs 6 configuration options to be specified:

  • subscription_id - UUID identifying your Azure subscription (where billing is handled)

  • client_id - UUID identifying the Active Directory service principal that will run your Packer builds

  • client_secret - service principal secret / password

  • resource_group_name - name of the resource group where your VHD(s) will be stored

  • storage_account - name of the storage account where your VHD(s) will be stored

In order to get all of the items above, you will need a username and password for your Azure account.

» Device Login

Device login is an alternative way to authorize in Azure Packer. Device login only requires you to know your Subscription ID. (Device login is only supported for Linux based VMs.) Device login is intended for those who are first time users, and just want to ''kick the tires.'' We recommend the SPN approach if you intend to automate Packer.

Device login is for interactive builds, and SPN is automated builds.

There are three pieces of information you must provide to enable device login mode.

  1. SubscriptionID
  2. Resource Group - parent resource group that Packer uses to build an image.
  3. Storage Account - storage account where the image will be placed.

Device login mode is enabled by not setting client_id and client_secret.

Device login mode is for the Public and US Gov clouds only.

The device login flow asks that you open a web browser, navigate to http://aka.ms/devicelogin, and input the supplied code. This authorizes the Packer for Azure application to act on your behalf. An OAuth token will be created, and stored in the user's home directory (~/.azure/packer/oauth-TenantID.json). This token is used if the token file exists, and it is refreshed as necessary. The token file prevents the need to continually execute the device login flow. Packer will ask for two device login auth, one for service management endpoint and another for accessing temp keyvault secrets that it creates.

» Install the Azure CLI

To get the credentials above, we will need to install the Azure CLI. Please refer to Microsoft's official installation guide.

If you already have node.js installed you can use npm to install azure-cli:

$ npm install -g azure-cli --no-progress

You can also use the Python-based Azure CLI in Docker. It also comes with jq pre-installed:

$ docker run -it azuresdk/azure-cli-python

As there are differences between the node.js client and the Python client, we've included commands for the Python client underneath each node.js command.

» Guided Setup

The Packer project includes a setup script that can help you setup your account. It uses an interactive bash script to log you into Azure, name your resources, and export your Packer configuration.

» Manual Setup

If you want more control or the script does not work for you, you can also use the manual instructions below to setup your Azure account. You will need to manually keep track of the various account identifiers, resource names, and your service principal password.

» Identify Your Tenant and Subscription IDs

Login using the Azure CLI

$ azure config mode arm
$ azure login -u USERNAME

If you're using the Python client:

$ az login
# To sign in, use a web browser to open the page https://aka.ms/devicelogin and enter the code CODE_PROVIDED to authenticate

Once you've completed logging in, you should get a JSON array like the one below:

    "cloudName": "AzureCloud",
    "id": "$uuid",
    "isDefault": false,
    "name": "Pay-As-You-Go",
    "state": "Enabled",
    "tenantId": "$tenant_uuid",
    "user": {
      "name": "my_email@anywhere.com",
      "type": "user"

Get your account information

$ azure account list --json | jq -r '.[].name'
$ azure account set ACCOUNTNAME
$ azure account show --json | jq -r ".[] | .id"

Python: shell $ az account set "$(az account list | jq -r '.[].name')"

This will print out one line that look like this:


This is your subscription_id. Note it for later.

» Create a Resource Group

A resource group is used to organize related resources. Resource groups and storage accounts are tied to a location. To see available locations, run:

$ azure location list
# ...

$ azure group create -n $GROUPNAME -l $LOCATION


$ az group create -n $GROUPNAME -l $LOCATION

Your storage account (below) will need to use the same GROUPNAME and LOCATION.

» Create a Storage Account

We will need to create a storage account where your Packer artifacts will be stored. We will create a LRS storage account which is the least expensive price/GB at the time of writing.

$ azure storage account create \
  -l $LOCATION \
  --sku-name LRS \
  --kind storage STORAGENAME


$ az storage account create -n STORAGENAME -g $GROUPNAME -l $LOCATION --sku Standard_LRS

Make sure that GROUPNAME and LOCATION are the same as above. Also, ensure that GROUPNAME is less than 24 characters long and contains only lowercase letters and numbers.

» Create an Application

An application represents a way to authorize access to the Azure API. Note that you will need to specify a URL for your application (this is intended to be used for OAuth callbacks) but these do not actually need to be valid URLs.



Password is your client_secret and can be anything you like. I recommend using openssl rand -base64 24.

$ azure ad app create \
  -n $APPNAME \
  -i $APPURL \
  --home-page $APPURL \


$ az ad app create --display-name $APPNAME --identifier-uris $APPURL --homepage $APPURL --password $PASSWORD

» Create a Service Principal

You cannot directly grant permissions to an application. Instead, you create a service principal associated with the application and assign permissions to the service principal.

First, get the APPID for the application we just created.

$ azure ad app show --json --search $APPNAME  | jq '.[0] | .appId'
$ APPID=$(!!)
# ...

$ azure ad sp create --applicationId $APPID


$ az ad app list | jq -r ".[] | select(.displayName == \"${APPNAME}\") | .appId"
$ APPID=$(!!)

$ az ad sp create --id $APPID

» Grant Permissions to Your Application

Finally, we will associate the proper permissions with our application's service principal. We're going to assign the Owner role to our Packer application and change the scope to manage our whole subscription. (The Owner role can be scoped to a specific resource group to further reduce the scope of the account.) This allows Packer to create temporary resource groups for each build.

$ azure role assignment create \
  --spn $APPURL \
  -o "Owner" \
  -c /subscriptions/SUBSCRIPTIONID


# NOTE: Trying to assign the role to the service principal by name directly yields a HTTP 400 error. See: https://github.com/Azure/azure-cli/issues/4911
$ az role assignment create --assignee "$(az ad sp list | jq -r ".[] | select(.displayName == \"$APPNAME\") | .objectId")" --role Owner

There are a lot of pre-defined roles and you can define your own with more granular permissions, though this is out of scope. You can see a list of pre-configured roles via:

$ azure role list --json | jq ".[] | {name:.Name, description:.Description}"

» Configuring Packer

Now (finally) everything has been setup in Azure. Let's get our configuration keys together:


$ cat <<EOF
  "subscription_id": $(az account show | jq '.id'),
  "client_id": $(az ad app list | jq ".[] | select(.displayName == \"$APPNAME\") | .appId"),
  "client_secret": "$PASSWORD",
  "location": "$LOCATION",
  "tenant_id": $(az account show | jq '.tenantId'),
  "object_id": $(az ad app list | jq ".[] | select(.displayName == \"$APPNAME\") | .objectId")


Get subscription_id:

$ azure account show --json | jq ".[] | .id"

Get client_id

$ azure ad app list --json | jq ".[] | select(.displayName | contains(\"$APPNAME\")) | .appId"
$ CLIENT_ID=$(!!)

Get client_secret

This cannot be retrieved. If you forgot this, you will have to delete and re-create your service principal and the associated permissions.

Get object_id (OSTYpe=Windows only)

azure ad sp show -n $CLIENT_ID

Get resource_group_name

$ azure group list

Get storage_account

$ azure storage account list