Are Azure "tenant" and "directory" different things, or different names for the same thing?

According to the documentation, a tenant is a container within Azure associated with a company or group of people, and a directory is a container; all directories are mutually exclusive, i.e. what you do in one directory does not affect any other.

So is there any difference or are they the same thing?

I look forward to some clarification.

Thanks in advance!


4 Answers 4



How to create a new directory and tenant:

  1. To create a new directory in your tennant, go to "Create a resource" -> "Azure Active Directory".
  2. Next fill out the form to create the new directory and press the create button.
    This will create a new directory and a new tenant.
  3. Switch to the new directory by using the switch directory link in the directory switcher: How to switch directories

Term Clarification:

  • Multi-Tenant: A resource configuration where resources can access multiple tenants. E.g. users can exist in multiple tenants
  • Single tenant: A resource configuration where the operation is isolated to the current tenant and has no external dependencies.
  • Customer: A customer is a single entity that pays for one or more subscriptions/Enterprise Agreements. They can control more than one tenant/directory. E.G. Contoso Ltd., Fabrikam, Inc., WingDing Toys, etc.
  • What do you mean by a customer? Everything seems to be defined in terms of everything else. Point 2 implies I can create a tenant within a tenant.
    – Kirsten
    Sep 23, 2019 at 21:27
  • The docs link shows that a tenant can either be a single or multi tenant. So confusing!
    – Kirsten
    Sep 23, 2019 at 21:30
  • I updated my answer, does that clear things up? Sep 23, 2019 at 21:40
  • No. You are defining customer in terms of tenants and directories. That doesn't help. Do you mean the entity that pays for the subscription?
    – Kirsten
    Sep 23, 2019 at 22:15
  • 1
    Yes, I have updated my clarification. Sorry about the ambiguity. Sep 23, 2019 at 22:20

This quick start says

A tenant is a representation of an organization. It's a dedicated instance of Azure AD that an organization or app developer receives when the organization or app developer creates a relationship with Microsoft-- like signing up for Azure, Microsoft Intune, or Microsoft 365.

The docs here say

An Azure subscription has a trust relationship with Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), which means that the subscription trusts Azure AD to authenticate users, services, and devices. Multiple subscriptions can trust the same Azure AD directory, but each subscription can only trust a single directory.

The terminology link in Elliot's answer explains

Azure tenant
A dedicated and trusted instance of Azure AD that's automatically created when your organization signs up for a Microsoft cloud service subscription, such as Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Intune, or Office 365. An Azure tenant represents a single organization.


Azure AD directory
Each Azure tenant has a dedicated and trusted Azure AD directory. The Azure AD directory includes the tenant's users, groups, and apps and is used to perform identity and access management functions for tenant resources.

  • 1
    A subscription is something that can be available for more than one account since you can have an IT department running under a single subscription. Check out RBAC for more information: docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/role-based-access-control/… Sep 23, 2019 at 22:24
  • It seems like you are starting to get stuck in the RBAC hole. Without a proper understanding of how RBAC works, it can get confusing how everything relates to each other. There is a separation between Azure and Azure AD. Sep 23, 2019 at 22:26
  • 1
    That is true, the picture you put on this answer is starting to go into RBAC with the subscription relationships to accounts. If you open a new question, I can draw the relationships for you and give you an overview on RBAC. Sep 23, 2019 at 22:40
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. Sep 23, 2019 at 22:46
  • I deleted my comments as they were just confusing things.
    – Kirsten
    Sep 24, 2019 at 1:22

A tenant is a dedicated instance of an Azure AD directory that your organization receives when it signs up for a Microsoft cloud service such as Azure or Office 365. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/active-directory/fundamentals/active-directory-whatis

Some people think it's the samt thing and others don't. I think that the tenant is a digital identity provided by the service Azure AD, basically your company.onmicrosoft.com .

The directory is the component which stores all you users, groups, apps and so on.

But they are either the same thing or extremely closely connected depending on how you wanna see it.


Those can be used interchangeably.

  • In some cases they can, but it is technically not correct. see my answer for more details. Sep 30, 2020 at 16:49
  • i dont see how your answer clarifies that, a tenant and azure ad directory is a 1 to 1 mapping, so they can be used interchangeably
    – 4c74356b41
    Sep 30, 2020 at 17:10
  • They are a 1 to 1 map. So is the Tenant Root Management Group, the Office 365 tenant substrate, AIP RMS instance and many other things but you do not call those the tenant. You call them other things. Azure AD is an identity provider in a tenant. Sep 30, 2020 at 18:47
  • exactly, thats why they can be used interchangeably, you cant have 2 azure ad in a single tenant
    – 4c74356b41
    Oct 1, 2020 at 4:06
  • 1
    Correlation is not causation. You can also have AAD B2C and B2B instances in your tenant but don't say that you have more tenants. Using your logic, the MG TRG in the tenant is also called the tenant, which it is not. AAD is just an identity service. Just like you can only provision one Bastion service on a vnet, you don't call the bastion a vnet. You call it a bastion. Kristen's answer has the definitions. Oct 1, 2020 at 12:56

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