In modern application development, managing secrets and sensitive configuration data is crucial. Azure Key Vault provides a secure and efficient way to store these sensitive values. In this article, we’ll explore how to integrate Azure DevOps pipelines with Azure Key Vault using templates and variable groups.


Before we begin, ensure you have the following:

  • An Azure DevOps project set up with appropriate permissions.
  • An Azure Key Vault with secrets you want to access in your pipelines.
  • Basic knowledge of YAML and Azure DevOps pipelines.

Using Variable Groups with Azure Key Vault

Variable groups in Azure DevOps allow you to define a set of variables that can be reused across multiple pipelines. When combined with Azure Key Vault, you can securely store and reference sensitive information.

Creating a Variable Group

  1. Navigate to your Azure DevOps project.
  2. Go to Pipelines > Library > Variable groups.
  3. Click on + Variable group to create a new group.
  4. Add variables and their values, leaving the sensitive ones empty.

Linking Variable Groups to Key Vault

To access secrets from Azure Key Vault in your pipelines, you’ll need to link your variable groups:

  1. In the Azure DevOps project, go to Pipelines > Library > Variable groups.
  2. Select the variable group you created earlier.
  3. Click on Link secrets from an Azure key vault as variables.
  4. Choose your Azure subscription and Key Vault.

Now, your variable group is linked to the Key Vault, allowing you to reference secrets in your pipeline.

For more detailed information, refer to the official documentation on Variable Groups.

Integrating Azure Key Vault with Pipelines

Azure Key Vault integration with Azure DevOps pipelines allows you to securely store and use sensitive information in your CI/CD process. To learn more about this integration, refer to the official documentation on Azure Key Vault integration in Release pipelines.

Using Templates for Code Reusability

Azure DevOps templates provide a way to define reusable, parameterized pipeline configurations. When combined with variable groups and Key Vault, you can streamline your CI/CD process.

Creating a Template

Create a new YAML file in your repository (e.g., azure-pipeline-template.yml). This template will define the structure of your pipeline and accept parameters for customization.

  - name: environment
    displayName: 'Environment'
    type: string
    default: 'dev'

  - name: buildConfiguration
    displayName: 'Build Configuration'
    type: string
    default: 'Release'

- job: BuildAndDeploy
  displayName: 'Build and Deploy Job'
    vmImage: 'windows-latest'

  - script: |
      echo "Building for $ environment with configuration: $"
      # Add your build and deployment steps here

In this template, we define two parameters: environment and buildConfiguration. These parameters allow for customization when the template is used in a pipeline. Note how we reference the parameters using $ and $.

Using the Template in a Pipeline

In your pipeline YAML file (e.g., main-pipeline.yml), reference the template and pass the desired values for the parameters. Additionally, declare your regular variables using name/value pairs.

  - name: regularVariable
    value: 'This is a regular variable'

  - name: MyRegularVariable
    value: 'This is another regular variable'

  - group: 'MyVariableGroup'  # Reference to your variable group

      - '*'

      - '*'

- template: azure-pipeline-template.yml
    environment: '

    buildConfiguration: 'Debug'

In the above example, the template is referenced, and the environment parameter is set to 'prod' and buildConfiguration is set to 'Debug'. Note how we have defined our Variables and Variable Group references, when including both in your Variable block you must reference un-grouped variables using name/value syntax, as defined in the documentation.

Handling Issues with Variable Groups and Key Vaults

If you encounter any challenges while working with variable groups and Azure Key Vault integration, you’re not alone. Here are some Stack Overflow threads where developers have discussed and resolved similar issues:

  1. Storing and Retrieving Secrets in Azure Key Vault with Variable Groups in Azure DevOps

  2. Azure Release Pipeline: Azure Key Vault Task vs Variable Groups

  3. Authorize Button when Linking Variable Group to Azure Key Vault in Azure DevOps

These threads cover a range of issues and solutions related to integrating variable groups with Azure Key Vault. Feel free to explore them for additional insights and solutions to potential challenges you may encounter.


Integrating Azure DevOps pipelines with templates and variable groups linked to Azure Key Vault provides a robust solution for managing sensitive information in your CI/CD process. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can enhance the security and efficiency of your deployment pipeline.

For more detailed information, refer to the official documentation on Variable Groups and Azure Key Vault integration in Release pipelines.