Introduction to authentication in Azure Automation

Azure Automation allows you to automate tasks against resources in Azure, on-premises, and with other cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS). In order for a runbook to perform its required actions, it must have permissions to securely access the resources with the minimal rights required within the subscription.

This article will cover the various authentication scenarios supported by Azure Automation and will show you how to get started based on the environment or environments you need to manage.

Automation Account overview

When you start Azure Automation for the first time, you must create at least one Automation account. Automation accounts allow you to isolate your Automation resources (runbooks, assets, configurations) from the resources contained in other Automation accounts. You can use Automation accounts to separate resources into separate logical environments. For example, you might use one account for development, another for production, and another for your on-premises environment. An Azure Automation account is different from your Microsoft account or accounts created in your Azure subscription.

The Automation resources for each Automation account are associated with a single Azure region, but Automation accounts can manage all the resources in your subscription. The main reason to create Automation accounts in different regions would be if you have policies that require data and resources to be isolated to a specific region.

All of the tasks that you perform against resources using Azure Resource Manager and the Azure cmdlets in Azure Automation must authenticate to Azure using Azure Active Directory organizational identity credential-based authentication. Certificate-based authentication was the original authentication method with Azure classic, but it was complicated to set up. Authenticating to Azure with Azure AD user was introduced back in 2014 to not only simplify the process to configure an Authentication account, but also support the ability to non-interactively authenticate to Azure with a single user account that worked with both Azure Resource Manager and classic resources.

Currently when you create a new Automation account in the Azure portal, it automatically creates:

  • Run As account which creates a new service principal in Azure Active Directory, a certificate, and assigns the Contributor role-based access control (RBAC), which is used to manage Resource Manager resources using runbooks.
  • Classic Run As account by uploading a management certificate, which is used to manage Azure classic resources using runbooks.

Role-based access control is available with Azure Resource Manager to grant permitted actions to an Azure AD user account and Run As account, and authenticate that service principal. Please read Role-based access control in Azure Automation article for further information to help develop your model for managing Automation permissions.

Runbooks running on a Hybrid Runbook Worker in your datacenter or against computing services in AWS cannot use the same method that is typically used for runbooks authenticating to Azure resources. This is because those resources are running outside of Azure and therefore, requires their own security credentials defined in Automation to authenticate to resources that they access locally.

Authentication methods

The following table summarizes the different authentication methods for each environment supported by Azure Automation and the article describing how to setup authentication for your runbooks.

Method Environment Article
Azure AD User Account Azure Resource Manager and Azure classic Authenticate Runbooks with Azure AD User account
Azure Run As Account Azure Resource Manager Authenticate Runbooks with Azure Run As account
Azure Classic Run As Account Azure classic Authenticate Runbooks with Azure Run As account
Windows Authentication On-Premises Datacenter Authenticate Runbooks for Hybrid Runbook Workers
AWS Credentials Amazon Web Services Authenticate Runbooks with Amazon Web Services (AWS)