Earlier this week we had a post about how you can easily access secrets stored within Azure Key Vault in an Azure DevOps pipeline task, using the Key Vault Task. One other way you can achieve this same functionality is by using a variable group, and in this post we’re going to show you how.
Why would you use a variable group instead of the key vault task? If you know you require access to the secrets from across multiple stages within a pipeline using a group allows you to easily manage access without having to include the task in every single stage by scoping the group to the release or specific stages.
However, if only one stage requires access to the secrets it might be easier to just include the task in that particular stage and follow our previous post.
First you’ll need to setup your key vault so that your service principal or managed identity has GET access to your vault. Then, follow our previous post on creating a variable group with a key vault to setup DevOps for this integration.
Once you’ve done the above, it’s time to get started. Navigate to your release pipeline in Azure DevOps.
Connecting the variable group
From your release pipeline, click “Edit”. Go to the “Variables” tab at the top of the screen, and choose “Variable groups”.
Select the variable group you created in the above section, scope it to either the entire release or a stage of your pipeline (depending on where you need to have access to the secrets, keeping in mind the more restricted you can make it the better from a security perspective) and click “Save”.
Now from within your tasks, if you need to reference the secrets you can use the
$(your-variable-name) syntax. For instance, in the Azure Function App Deploy task, if we wanted to specify an app setting under “Application and Configuration Settings” we could use the following syntax:
The benefit of this is that the syntax is identical to that used with the key vault task (they both set the secrets as task variables) so if you need to, you can swap between using a variable group or key vault task with ease.
In summary, this is an alternative approach to using the key vault task in a pipeline. Depending on your needs, this may be a better approach than the other lesson, but mileage may vary.