Getting Started with Azure CLI to Manage Azure Resources

By:   |   Updated: 2024-07-03   |   Comments   |   Related: > Azure


Managing Azure resources can become quite tedious using the Azure portal, so Microsoft create Azure CLI which is a command line tool to help you manage your Azure infrastructure using code versus the portal.


Azure CLI is a cross-platform command-line tool you can use to manage Azure resources. This allows you to perform interactive functions using minimal commands on a PowerShell or bash terminal and enables you to run automated tasks by grouping the commands into a shell/python script you can deploy.

Microsoft turned to Python because it enabled them to produce one implementation which is consistent across multiple platforms (Windows, Linux, IOS). Every command on the Azure CLI is an equivalent of one or more Python Functions on the Azure SDK for Python. This way, although the SDK is open source, developers can create scripts for typical use case scenarios and repetitive tasks. Since the Azure CLI is written in Python, the Azure SDK for Python and Azure CLI are closely related, this means that you are guaranteed a 100% equivalence in features if you plan to use both the Azure CLI and / or Azure SDK for Python.


Why use Azure CLI

  • Access to features: Compared to the Azure GUI, the Azure CLI gives you early access to new features. This is because the GUI requires additional complex and time-consuming programs to be developed and maintained.
  • Service Utilization: GUI developments are usually geared to cover the essential functionalities and services. Using the CLI would enable you to have direct access to niche features and resources which might not be available on the GUI.
  • Speed and efficiency: GUIs make it visually easy to interact with Azure Resources but at a cost of speed, you must navigate the web app to carry out tasks, for a technical user, this is a repetitive and slow approach. The CLI on the other hand enables you to be direct by requesting specific functions.
  • Automation: Azure CLI enables you to automate repetitive tasks and popular use cases.

From Azure CLI 1.0 to 2.0

Azure CLI 1.0 was based on node.js and used the Azure Service Management (ASM) API. Since then, Microsoft has switched to using the Azure Resource Management (ARM) API and Azure CLI 1.0 was migrated to support the ARM API.

Azure CLI 2.0 was created on top of ARM from the get-go. The language used to build the Azure CLI 2.0 was changed from Node.js to Python, and the commands essentially changed a bit in the process like how commands on Azure CLI 1.0 started with azure while they start with az on Azure CLI 2.0.

Azure CLI Installation

If you do not want to install a program locally to run Azure CLI commands locally, you can use the Azure cloud shell via your browser to run your Azure CLI commands. This article focuses on installing and using Azure CLI on a Windows OS, you can view this page if you want to install on other Operating Systems like IOS or Linux. The best way to install the Azure CLI on Windows is via the MSI package installer.

Using Azure CLI on VS Code

After installing the CLI, the best way to interact with the Azure CLI is via Visual Studio Code. Assuming you have VS Code installed, if not, download VS Code and install the Azure CLI tools on the IDE:

Adding VS Code extension
Adding Azure Cli tool extension

Azure CLI tools on VS Code will install all the necessary tools you will need to manage your Azure using Azure CLI on VS Code. Once you are done loading your tools, you must get your tenant ID using the Azure portal. First, login to the Azure portal and click on the settings icons on the top right corner:

Azure portal get tenant id

You will see your directory number under your Directory ID column.

Now, to login Azure using Azure CLI on VS Code, simply open a new terminal in VS Code using the Ctrl + Shift + ‘ shortcut and add the following Azure CLI command, also make sure that your terminal is set to PowerShell:

az login –tenant <Your_tenant_ID>

Running this command will automatically open your browser and ask you to authenticate to your account:

Azure CLI browser authentication prompt

With a successful login, your VS Code terminal will show you all the available tenant options you have and ask you to choose:

select tenant

Press Enter to login to the default account.

That's it. That's the easiest way to login to your Azure account using Azure CLI.

After you login, the first things you want to check is your subscription details, resources you have running and having a way to get updated commands or being able to find commands:

Definition Command
List all commands az
List subscription az account list --output table
Show subscription details Az account show
List resources az group list
Setting az configure --defaults group=<resourceGroupName> vm=<vmName>
Find a command az find [<CLI_TERM>]
Activate interactive mode that automatically displays help information and makes it easier to select subcommands az interactive
Get recommendations for the next Azure CLI command based on customer execution patterns az next

Azure Access Management

It is critical to control who has access to your Azure cloud resources and Azure uses the Azure role-based access control (Azure RBAC) is designed to help you with managing user access to your cloud resource and assigning roles to users or group of users.

Azure has general built-in permissions. If you own the Azure account, you are deemed the owner of all the resources under the account and you are granted full access to the resources and have the permission to assign roles to the Azure RBAC. If you are not the owner, you should ask to be a contributor and you will also have full access to all the resources but will not be allowed to assign roles in Azure RBAC. You either need to be the owner or Azure RBAC manager to assign user roles.

You can add or remove user roles using Azure CLI as well:

Definition Azure CLI command
Create role to grant assignee read permissions on a virtual machine az role assignment create --assignee sp_name --role Reader --scope /subscriptions/00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000/resourceGroups/MyResourceGroup/providers/Microsoft.Compute/virtualMachines/MyVm
Delete user role az role assignment delete --assignee 00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000 --role "Storage Account Key Operator Service Role"
List all assigned roles az role assignment list --all

Azure CLI Common Server Commands

Most people and companies use the cloud to store data and host services, basically as their servers. So, the most common commands are server related commands like:

Description Azure CLI command
Login Azure account az login
Create resource group az group create --name <resource group name> --location "<region>"
Create SQL server az sql server create -l westus -g mygroup -n myserver -u myadminuser -p myadminpassword
Delete SQL server az sql server delete --ids <SQL id> --name <SQL name> --resource-group <resource group> --subscription <subscription> [--yes]
List all SQL servers in the current subscription az sql server list
Create Cosmos DB account az cosmosdb create --resource-group <resource group name> --name <cosmos account name> --kind GlobalDocumentDB
Create a Cosmos SQL database az cosmosdb sql database create --account-name <account name> --name <database name> --resource-group <resource group name>
Get Cosmos database endpoint az cosmosdb show --name <account-name> --resource-group <resource-group-name>
Get Cosmos database keys az cosmosdb keys list --name <account-name> --resource-group <resource-group-name>
Create a keyvault az keyvault create --name <YourKeyVaultName> --resource-group <YourResourceGroupName> --location <YourLocation>
Deploy bicep or ARM template az deployment group create --resource-group <resource-group-name> --template-file <path-to-template>

az Common Reference Commands

Here is a list of command groups you might find common and interesting:

Description command

Manage Azure subscription information

az account

Manage Azure Kubernetes Services

az aks

Manage Azure Backups

az backup

Manage Azure Billing

az billing

Manage consumption of Azure resources

az consumption

Manage Azure Machine Learning resources with the Azure CLI ML extension v2

az ml

Manage Azure Network resources

az network

Manage Azure Cloud Storage resources

az storage

Manage Power BI resources

az powerbi

Final thoughts

Computing is moving to cloud infrastructure and Azure is one of the leading global cloud infrastructure providers. As an IT or software professional, you will be required to understand and use these systems. Azure CLI is the equivalent to the Azure web portal and more for developers or technical users. You can essentially access all the Azure cloud services using the CLI like access management and resource management.

This tutorial covered the basics you need to know and understand when starting with Azure CLI. This is a broad topic and has many layers to it, the natural progression is to create .azcli files which enable you to write blocks of cli code you can run and store.

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Levi Masonde Levi Masonde is a developer passionate about analyzing large datasets and creating useful information from these data. He is proficient in Python, ReactJS, and Power Platform applications. He is responsible for creating applications and managing databases as well as a lifetime student of programming and enjoys learning new technologies and how to utilize and share what he learns.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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Article Last Updated: 2024-07-03

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