An Azure AD OAuth 2 helper microservice

One of the biggest trends in systems architecture these days is the use of "serverless" functions like Azure Functions, Amazon Lambda and OpenFaas. Because these functions are stateless, if you want to use a purely serverless approach to work with resources secured using Azure Active Directory like Dynamics 365 online, a new token will have to be requested every time a function executes. This is inefficient, and it requires the function to fully understand OAuth 2 authentication, which could be handled better elsewhere.

To address this problem, I've written a microservice in Python that can be used to request OAuth 2 tokens from Azure Active Directory, and it also handles refreshing them as needed. I've containerized it as Docker image so you can easily run it without needing to build anything.

How it works

When a request containing a username and password arrives for the first time, the microservice retrieves an OAuth2 access token from Azure AD and returns it to the requester. The microservice also caches an object that contains the access token, refresh token, username, password and expiration time.

When subsequent requests arrive, the microservice checks its cache for an existing token that matches the username and password. If it finds one, it checks if the token has expired or needs to be refreshed.

If the existing token has expired, a new one is requested. If the existing token has not expired, but it will expire within a specified period of time (10 minutes is the default value), the microservice will execute a refresh request to Azure AD, cache the updated token and return it to the requester. If there's an unexpired existing token that doesn't need to be refreshed, the cached access token will be returned to the requester.

Here's what a raw token request to and response from the microservice looks like in Postman:
A token request

Back in 2016 I shared some sample Python code that showed how to authenticate to Azure AD and query the Dynamics 365 (then called Dynamics CRM) Web API. Here is an updated version of that sample code that uses this new microservice to acquire access tokens:

import requests
import json

#set these values to retrieve the oauth token
username = ''
userpassword = 'xxxxxx'
tokenendpoint = 'http://localhost:5000/requesttoken'

#set these values to query your crm data
crmwebapi = ''
crmwebapiquery = '/contacts?$select=fullname,contactid'

#build the authorization request
tokenpost = {

#make the token request
print('requesting token . . .')
tokenres =, json=tokenpost)
print('token response received. . .')

accesstoken = ''

#extract the access token
    print('parsing token response . . .')
    accesstoken = tokenres.json()['accesstoken']

    print('Could not get access token')

    crmrequestheaders = {
        'Authorization': 'Bearer ' + accesstoken,
        'OData-MaxVersion': '4.0',
        'OData-Version': '4.0',
        'Accept': 'application/json',
        'Content-Type': 'application/json; charset=utf-8',
        'Prefer': 'odata.maxpagesize=500',
        'Prefer': 'odata.include-annotations=OData.Community.Display.V1.FormattedValue'

    print('making crm request . . .')
    crmres = requests.get(crmwebapi+crmwebapiquery, headers=crmrequestheaders)
    print('crm response received . . .')
        print('parsing crm response . . .')
        crmresults = crmres.json()
        for x in crmresults['value']:
            print (x['fullname'] + ' - ' + x['contactid'])
    except KeyError:
        print('Could not parse CRM results')

Here's the output when I run the sample against my demo environment:
Sample Python output

Running the microservice

Pull the image from Docker Hub: docker pull lucasalexander/azuread-oauth2-helper:latest

Required environment variables

  1. RESOURCE - The URL of the service that is going to be accessed
  2. CLIENTID - The Azure AD application client ID
  3. TOKEN_ENDPOINT - The OAuth2 token endpoint from the Azure AD application

Run the image with the following command (replacing the environment variables with your own).

docker run -d -p 5000:5000 -e RESOURCE= -e CLIENTID=XXXXXX -e TOKEN_ENDPOINT= --name oauthhelper lucasalexander/azuread-oauth2-helper:latest

You can also optionally supply an additional "REFRESH_THRESHOLD" environment variable that sets the time remaining (in seconds) before a token's expiration time when it will be refreshed. The default value is 600 seconds.

A note on security

Because the microservice is caching usernames, passwords and access tokens in memory, this approach is vulnerable to heap inspection attacks, so you'll want to make sure your environment is appropriately locked down. Also you'll want to make sure any communication between your code that requests tokens and the microservice is encrypted.

Wrapping up

Although I wrote this with Dynamics 365 in mind, it should work for any resource that is secured by Azure AD. If you'd like to take a closer look at the code, it's available on GitHub here.

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