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Choosing the Right Tool: Azure CLI vs Azure PowerShell for Managing Azure Resources

Managing Azure resources efficiently is crucial for any organization leveraging the power of Microsoft Azure. When it comes to command-line tools, two popular options stand out: Azure CLI and Azure PowerShell. In this article, we will explore the differences and help you choose the right tool for managing your Azure resources. Whether you are familiar with Azure CLI or Azure PowerShell, understanding their strengths and capabilities will empower you to make informed decisions. So, let's dive into the world of Azure CLI vs PowerShell and find the perfect fit for your Azure resource management needs.


What is Azure CLI?

The Azure Command-Line Interface (CLI) is a versatile tool that lets you manage and administer Azure resources using a command-line interface. It works on multiple platforms, including Windows, Linux, and macOS.


With Azure CLI, you can execute administrative commands on Azure resources through a terminal. Whether you prefer interactive usage or automation, Azure CLI has got you covered.


For interactive usage, you simply launch a shell, like cmd.exe on Windows or Bash on Linux/macOS, and enter commands at the shell prompt. This allows you to interactively manage your Azure resources using the CLI's command-line prompts.


To automate repetitive tasks, you can assemble Azure CLI commands into a script using the scripting syntax of your chosen shell. This way, you can create a shell script that contains a series of CLI commands and execute the script whenever needed, automating the execution of these commands and streamlining your workflows.


Some common Azure CLI commands are:

  1. az group for managing resource groups and template deployments.

  2. az vm for managing Linux or Windows virtual machines.

  3. az storage for managing storage accounts, blobs, files, and containers.

  4. az keyvault for managing Key Vault keys, secrets, and certificates.

  5. az sql for managing SQL servers and databases.

  6. az aks for managing Azure Kubernetes Service clusters.

  7. az container for managing Azure Container Instances.

  8. az cosmosdb for managing Cosmos DB servers and databases.

  9. az cdn for managing Content Delivery Network profiles and endpoints.

  10. az policy for managing Azure Policy definitions and assignments.

Advantages:

  • It has a simple and consistent syntax that follows the pattern of az resource command

  • It works across Azure services and is designed for automation

  • It runs in Windows PowerShell, Cmd, Bash, and other Unix shells

  • It is open-source and can be extended with custom commands

Disadvantages:

  • It does not support some advanced features of PowerShell, such as pipelines, variables, and loops

  • It does not have native support for JSON manipulation or formatting

  • It may have some compatibility issues with older versions of Azure resources or APIs


What is Azure PowerShell?

Azure PowerShell is a collection of commands, known as cmdlets, that help you manage and control Azure resources using the command line. It follows the Azure Resource Manager model and supports scripting across different platforms.


With Azure PowerShell, you can automate tasks, create custom tools, and perform operations on your Azure resources. It provides a powerful way to interact with and manage your Azure environment efficiently.


You have two options to use Azure PowerShell. You can run it directly in your browser using Azure Cloud Shell, or you can install it on your local machine. Both options give you the ability to utilize Azure PowerShell's capabilities for managing your Azure resources.


The recommended PowerShell module for managing Azure resources on all platforms is the Az PowerShell module. It provides the latest features and updates, ensuring a seamless experience when working with Azure resources.


Some common Azure PowerShell cmdlets are:

  1. Connect-AzAccount for signing in to Azure.

  2. Get-AzSubscription and Set-AzContext for managing Azure subscriptions.

  3. New-AzVM, Get-AzVM, Start-AzVM, Stop-AzVM, and Remove-AzVM for managing virtual machines.

  4. New-AzResourceGroup, Get-AzResourceGroup, Set-AzResourceGroup, and Remove-AzResourceGroup for managing resource groups.

  5. New-AzStorageAccount, Get-AzStorageAccount, Set-AzStorageAccount, and Remove-AzStorageAccount for managing storage accounts.

  6. New-AzKeyVault, Get-AzKeyVault, Set-AzKeyVault, and Remove-AzKeyVault for managing Key Vault instances.

  7. New-AzSqlDatabaseServer, Get-AzSqlDatabaseServer, Set-AzSqlDatabaseServer, and Remove-AzSqlDatabaseServer for managing SQL Database servers.

Advantages:

  • It leverages the powerful scripting language of PowerShell that can handle complex tasks and scenarios

  • It supports pipelines, variables, loops, and other features that can enhance the command-line experience

  • It has native support for JSON manipulation and formatting

  • It can integrate with other PowerShell modules and tools

Disadvantages:

  • It has a more verbose and complex syntax that follows the pattern of Verb-AzResource

  • It requires Windows PowerShell or PowerShell to run

  • It may have some performance issues or memory leaks when running large scripts or commands


The Difference: Azure CLI vs PowerShell

Factors

Azure CLI

Azure PowerShell

Cross-platform

Words on Windows, MacOS, and Linux.

Native support for Windows.

Syntax

Bash-like Syntax

PowerShell scripting syntax

Language support

Azure CLI is primarily written in Python

Azure PowerShell is based on Windows PowerShell, which is built on the .NET framework.

Command-line syntax

It follows a consistent pattern of command-line syntax across different Azure services

It uses a verb-noun format for its cmdlets, which aligns with the Windows PowerShell convention.

Output Data

It outputs data in JSON format by default, allowing for easy parsing and integration with other tools and scripts.

It provides more flexibility in terms of output formats, including tabular, JSON, and XML, with better control over the output layout.

Backward compatibility

Azure CLI is backward-compatible with older versions, ensuring that scripts written for older versions continue to work with newer versions.

Azure PowerShell, being based on Windows PowerShell, has dependencies on specific versions of Windows and the .NET framework, which can limit its compatibility with certain environments.

Configuration Management

It uses the Azure Configuration Management (AzConfig) library to manage configuration settings, making it easier to configure and manage settings across different environments.

Azure PowerShell relies on the ConfigurationManager module, which is specific to Windows PowerShell.

SDK Integration

It uses the Azure SDKs under the hood to interact with Azure services. This means that new Azure features and updates are typically made available in the SDKs first before being incorporated into Azure CLI.

It directly integrates with the Azure modules and cmdlets, offering more comprehensive coverage of Azure services.

Error Handling

It handles errors by returning structured error messages that can be easily parsed and processed programmatically.

Being based on Windows PowerShell uses the common exception-handling mechanism provided by PowerShell, which allows for more fine-grained control over error handling and exception types.

Asynchronous Operation

It primarily uses synchronous operations, where the command execution blocks until the operation completes.

It supports both synchronous and asynchronous operations, giving developers more flexibility when working with long-running or time-consuming tasks.

Scripting flexibility

Azure CLI is well-suited for simple scripting tasks and command execution. It excels in scenarios where quick and concise commands are required.

Azure PowerShell, with its powerful scripting language, offers more advanced capabilities, making it suitable for complex automation scenarios. It provides flexibility in managing and manipulating data, as well as interacting with external systems.

Community Support

It has a large community with extensive documentation.

It has an active community and comprehensive documentation.

Integration with Azure Services

Azure CLI provides comprehensive coverage of Azure services, allowing you to manage and configure resources using CLI commands. It offers a wide range of commands and options for interacting with Azure resources.

Azure PowerShell has extensive coverage of Azure services as well, with a vast collection of PowerShell modules specifically designed for Azure. These modules provide cmdlets tailored for managing Azure resources.

When to Choose?

Both Azure CLI and Azure PowerShell are powerful tools for managing Azure resources, but there are some scenarios where one might be more suitable than the other. Here are some considerations:


Use Azure CLI when:

  1. It is a good choice if you work in a multi-platform environment or if you prefer using non-Windows operating systems.

  2. It is well-suited for quickly executing commands and performing ad-hoc tasks. It provides a streamlined command-line interface that can be effective for one-time operations.

  3. If you are comfortable working with command-line interfaces and prefer a lightweight tool, Azure CLI might be the better option. Its commands are designed to be short and intuitive, enabling efficient interaction with Azure resources.

  4. Azure CLI offers strong scripting capabilities and supports popular scripting languages like Bash and PowerShell. If you want to automate Azure operations and integrate them into your scripts or CI/CD pipelines, Azure CLI can be a good fit.

Use Azure PowerShell when:

  1. If you work predominantly in a Windows environment or require deep integration with Windows-specific functionalities, Azure PowerShell is a natural choice.

  2. If you or your team already have experience with PowerShell, leveraging that knowledge can make it easier to work with Azure resources using Azure PowerShell. PowerShell provides a consistent scripting experience across various Microsoft products, making it beneficial for those already proficient in the language.

  3. If you require features that are only available through Azure PowerShell cmdlets or need to work with specific Azure modules, Azure PowerShell might be the better choice.

In some cases, you can use a combination of Azure CLI and Azure PowerShell depending on your specific needs and preferences. It's worth experimenting with both tools and evaluating which one aligns best with your workflow and requirements.


Conclusion

Both Azure CLI and Azure PowerShell offer similar functionality for managing Azure resources. The decision ultimately depends on your specific needs, your preferred scripting language, and your familiarity with the tools. In some cases, using both tools together might be beneficial, allowing you to leverage the strengths of each tool for different tasks. Ultimately, it's recommended to experiment with both Azure CLI and Azure PowerShell to determine which tool aligns best with your workflow and requirements.

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