Victor Sanner

Microsoft Customer Engineer.

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How to expose your MSSQL Database Views as an API, and take advantage of Row Level Security by using the identity of the API caller to connect to the database.

For a customer I was tasked with figuring out an easy way of exposing some database views as an API. Aside of the usual functionality such as limiting and filtering using parameters, the API should also use the identity of the caller to connect to the database. By doing this, the API can make use of the database row level security functionality, which is a method of keeping track who can access which rows in the database. For example, you can ensure that workers access only those data rows that are pertinent to their department. Another example is to restrict customers’ data access to only the data relevant to their company.

You can find the code for this proof of concept in my github repository:


The solution I came up with consists of two components:

  • A Azure Function, for translating HTTP requests into SQL queries, and for managing access to the database. This function app can be addressed like this:{'column':'name','operator':'=','value':'rsid'}" where a user can select a specific schema, database view. The user can also filter on column values, and use offset / limit to do pagination.

  • A Azure Static Web App, which hosts a website where a user can login to AAD and send a request to the Azure Function.

Furthermore, three entities were created in AAD to facilitate authentication:

  • Azure Active Directory Single Page Application app registration
  • Azure Active Directory API Caller app registration.
  • Azure Active Directory API Provider app registration.

These app registrations allow both users and applications to sign in and get access to the database. Basically, when the user or application signs in, a token is generated. This token is then sent to the API and there it is used to setup a connection to the database.

Connection uses the accesstoken received from Azure Active Directory to setup a connection the database as illustrated below:

SqlConnection connection = new SqlConnection(builder.ConnectionString);
connection.AccessToken = _databaseAccessToken;
return connection;

Architecture/Token Flow

Token flow

User flow:

  1. User opens Single Page Application hosted in Azure Static Web App
  2. User logs in to Azure Active Directory
  3. Token is stored in browser session
  4. User makes call to function app with token
  5. Function App verifies token
  6. Function App exchanges token for token with DB access
  7. Function App translates request to SQL query, using querystring
  8. Function App executes query on SQL db using access token
  9. Function App converts results into JSON
  10. Function app returns data

Application flow (green):

  1. App gets access token from Azure Active Directory, using its credentials
  2. App makes call to function app with token
  3. Function App verifies token
  4. Function App translates request to SQL query, using querystring
  5. Function App executes query on SQL db using access token
  6. Function App converts results into JSON
  7. Function app returns data

Azure Function

The Azure Function is written in .NET Framework 5.0 and runs in isolated mode

For local development, credentials and other configuration are stored in local.settings.json (not commited in this repository see example.local.settings.json for an example) and config.json.

In the Azure environment, credentials are managed using Azure Keyvault. The Azure Function is configured to have access to this keyvault.


The auth process for a service principal is different from a normal AD user. To solve this problem, the caller of the API must provide the “iuser” header. This can contain a value of either “true” if its a service principal calling the api, or “false”, if its a normal user making the call. The function then decides the appropriate flow for logging in to the database.

The function also supports a traditional database connection (for debug purposes), this can be initialized using the DatabaseConnector class.


As mentioned before, the identity of user/service principal is used to connect to database

Learn how to add a service principal to DB here:

foreach(string key in queryDictionary.Keys)
                    case "limit":
                    case "offset":
                    case "where":
                        JObject json = JObject.Parse(queryDictionary[key].ToString());
                        queryBase.Where(json["column"].ToString(), json["operator"].ToString(), json["value"].ToString());
                    case "orderBy":
                        JObject jsonOrderBy = JObject.Parse(queryDictionary[key].ToString());
                        queryBase.OrderBy(jsonOrderBy["column"].ToString(), jsonOrderBy["order"].ToString());

This piece of code is responsible for translating the querystring into a SQL query. As you can see its concise and easy to read. Using SQLKata it is trivial to add more filtering options.

Azure Active Directory

The Azure Active Directory configuration for this POC consists of three parts, an app registration for the SPA, an app registration for the service principal (application calling the api) and an app registration for the backend (the azure function which is being called).

WebApi is the app registration for the backend. Its permissions look as following:

Azure Backend Registration

If you have trouble finding the SQL permissions, you can add them to the backend using this command:

az ad app permission add --id 4c3c636b-1115-4c79-b1f6-d75aba9ba88f --api 022907d3-0f1b-48f7-badc-1ba6abab6d66 --api-permissions c39ef2d1-04ce-46dc-8b5f-e9a5c60f0fc9=Scope

Be sure to replace the first id 4c3c636b-1115-4c79-b1f6-d75aba9ba88f with your own client id. You may be prompted to perform a second command to activate the permissions, do so.

After adding these permissions, expose the api:

Azure SQL Permissions

Now the permissions of the app registration for the service principal and the SPA look like this:

Caller App Registration

Github structure

You can find the code used to build this application in my Github repository. This is just a proof of concept, no production grade code. But I think if you want to build something similar it might be useful!

SqlRestFunction This folder contains the code of the Azure function. Example config is in example.local.settings.json. As mentioned before it’s built using .NET Framework 5.

SPA The single page application is a simple HTML/Javascript page. It is currently hosted using Azure Static Web Apps. It allows the user to sign in to Azure Active Directory, it stores this token and uses it when sending requests to the azure function.

Application API Caller This is a small demonstration of how a service principal could call the Azure Function. It is written in NodeJS.

Possible improvements/todos before taking this to production

  • Add proper pagination defaults (e.g. dont allow user to get over 100 rows at once)
  • Allow end user to discover API options through Azure API Management
  • Store connection objects so you can reuse the same connection instead of opening/closing the db connection for every request
  • Cache requests
  • Fix “getallviews” route, maybe we dont need a stored procedure for this
  • Consider refactoring query builder to get rid of switch statement
  • SqlKata says that it protects against SQL injection, verify this using automated testing on the azure function.
  • CI/CD setup
  • Error handling

I am a Microsoft Customer Engineer focusing on application innovation. You can find me on LinkedIn or YouTube