So many subscriptions in your Azure cloud environment; why is that?

February 15, 2023 - 3 minutes reading time
Article by Ilco Zeggelaar & Eelco Labordus

When subscriptions are aligned with the needs and priorities of your organization, you can accelerate your application migrations and application development (lifecycle management). Subscriptions support your application teams as they design, develop and test new and/or existing solutions. To fine-tune those applications, you use the cloud design principle Subscription Democratization as a unit of management and scale. In doing so, you offer application teams flexibility and freedom, but stay in control.

Solution-based approach

Subscriptions provide a management boundary for governance: they are the boundaries you assign with Azure policies. This is necessary because solution lifecycle management and authorization can vary. By using subscriptions, you can group solutions together and subscript them with appropriate security configurations.

But the Subscription Democratization design principle does more than just align subscriptions. For example, the principle also raises awareness about cost management. It is possible to group solutions based on costs. For each subscript you then have control over the costs with budgets. Because the standard Microsoft account is also grouped by subscription, complex calculations for more insight and/or charging are unnecessary. Application teams can assess their usage and take proactive action to reduce unnecessary consumption of Azure Services.



Outbound traffic (egress) from a subscript has a cost associated with it. This also applies to traffic between two subscriptions residing in Azure.

Various forms

There are several contractual forms of using subscripts:

  • Traditional contract: monthly, automatic payment by credit card from your organization directly to Microsoft.
  • Microsoft Customer Agreement (MCA): contract from your organization directly with Microsoft for x number of resources. You don't pay by credit card, but receive a monthly bill.
  • Cloud Solution Provider (CSP): a cloud solution provider (such as Centric) completes the subscription for you as the client organization. They then switch with Microsoft for you and send you the bill. This allows additional services to be combined on one invoice.

Often organizations start with the traditional contract form, then move to MCA. With CSP, subscription management is also assigned to the provider. This form is often used when applications are developed by the cloud solution provider. Then that subscription becomes CSP.

Tip: You are not tied to one form of contract; you can also combine them as you choose.

Requirements for new subscriptions

The following principles provide guidance in determining the requirements for new subscriptions:

Management boundary

Subscriptions provide a management boundary for RBAC (Role Based Access Control), which allows for clear separation. For example, different environments for development, test and production are often isolated from a management perspective. In a development environment, a broad group of users may make changes, where in a production environment this is more restricted.

Policy boundary

Subscriptions serve as a boundary for governance allocation. For example, secure solutions often require additional policies to meet requirements. Consider requiring encryption in production environments. You can apply these additional policies on a per-subscription basis. For example, development environments may have more lenient policies than production environments because of data guidelines.

Scaling limit

Azure resources are limited on a per-subscription basis. Using subscriptions as a scaling limit prevents running into limits when new applications are brought into Azure.


Subscription Democratization

In the CAF, Microsoft calls the architecture of separating applications (or solutions, as Microsoft calls them) using subscripts "landing zones"

Related articles
Five key workplace developments in the SaaS era
The five key workplace developments we face in the current SaaS era.
Get the most out of cloud with Microsoft Cloud Adoption Framework
The right cloud strategy and implementation using a set of tools, guidelines and manuals that help you ge ...
How sustainable are data centers?
Because of increasing Internet use and the growing hunger for data, more data centers are needed. But how ...