What is a “Dev Tenant” and why would you want one?

Published Jan 11 2021 06:31 AM 26.5K Views

When someone says to you, they are using their “dev tenant” what they’re probably referring to is their personal development “sandbox” they received as part of joining the Microsoft 365 developer program.





By visiting Developer Program - Microsoft 365 and selecting “Join Now” you’ll be walked through a wizard that will help you provision your very own Microsoft 365 tenant. You can see the details here, but the general idea is that you’ll have a tenant, where you get to be the omnipotent global admin, with 25 E5 Microsoft 365 licenses available to you that allow you to build out and test various scenarios within the ecosystem.


25 E5 licenses is a lot of horsepower to begin building out scenarios that mix the various tools of Microsoft 365 tenant (SharePoint, Teams, OneDrive, PowerApps, PowerAutomate, etc) into solutions for your “customers”. Although I know many people who advocate and joke about “build it in production”, the reality is that doing so is invasive and can have catastrophic consequences. As with many things you need to weigh the pros and the cons but the ability to fully realize and test your solutions in a “safe space” is powerful and can make you try things you might not if you’re worried about bringing down production.


Better yet, if you continue to use the tenant, every 90 days it will auto renew so that you never have to worry about losing your work in progress. In addition, for those that work with Microsoft 365 every day the ability to keep up with what’s going on, what’s changing, and how to best implement your ideas is priceless. You can keep up with the status of your subscription by visiting the Dashboard - Microsoft 365 Dev Center page.


Understanding the relationship between Azure and a “Tenant”

When building in the cloud we developers no longer have the same access to the “server” as we may be used to. The way we architect solutions for SaaS solutions has changed significantly and many people are aware that Azure provides various cloud-based resources to help with the automation scenarios that were lost when we left “on-prem”. 


It’s important to understand that each Microsoft 365 tenant has an equivalent Azure Active Directory (AAD) associated with it, including your brand-new shiny dev tenant. So, when you log into Azure the first time you need to be logging in with a global administrator account for your dev tenant. Once you are in Azure you then need to make sure you have a Subscription set up that is associated with that Azure Active Directory instance that is related to your dev tenant. By doing so you are effectively simulating what most production scenarios look like.* 


If you already have an Azure subscription you use for development purposes, but it’s not associated with your dev tenant, you can change it. The ever-talented Laura Kokkarinen has a wonderful blog post (How to use the complimentary Azure credits in a Microsoft 365 dev tenant — step by step (laurakokkar... that covers all the ways you might have azure credits and how to get them associated with your dev tenant.


*It should be said that many ISVs and other 3rd party software providers might be looking to build solutions that target multiple tenants and thereby their Azure subscription, although tied to AAD is not targeted for a single AAD.


Sample Data

Another awesome feature of these developer subscriptions is the ability to seed the tenant with sample data packs. To do this all you have to do is go to your Dashboard - Microsoft 365 Dev Center page and click on the kind of data pack you would like to add. You must have the “Users” sample data pack first but then you can also add Mail and Events as well as SharePoint data.




By having these data packs, it can make testing various scenarios with your application significantly simpler as you can have up to twenty-five accounts playing distinct roles in your scenario.


Dev Tenant vs “Customer Digital Transform” Tenants

Something that may be confusing to some is the difference between the dev tenants and “Customer Digital Transform” tenants. The latter are Microsoft 365 tenants that you can provision if you are someone providing sales or guidance to customers using Microsoft 365. They are extremely useful as these tenants are fully scaled out demo environments that can help you quickly and effectively communicate how Microsoft 365 can benefit a customer and their specific needs. These tenants however have a limited lifespan (between 3 months and 1 year) and after that time the tenant is decommissioned and there is no way to get them back.  So, although once you have one of these demo tenants you can deploy and develop inside them, as they are fully functional, just like Cinderella when times up, time is up! As we said earlier, if you’re actively using dev tenants, they will auto renew every 90 days.


So, now that you're all up to speed, what are you waiting for?! Get your dev tenant now and get on your way to building some awesome solutions!


This article was cross posted on my blog Veni Vidi Vici 

Senior Member

Thanks for the great article Julie.

I have one question. I am an IT pro specializing in Microsoft 365, and not a developer.

As per the FAQ , Microsoft will track our usage to make sure we are "actively developing" or have "development activity". When asking what defines "developing", they refer to the legal document, which does not truly define "development activity".


So as someone using Microsoft 365 for learning new tech for admin purposes and not programming, am I even eligible for renewal after 90 days?

Hi @Kasper Jensen, my understanding and experience is, that you may use the developer tenant for learning purposes, regardless, if you write code or not, which means that your subscription will be auto renewed after 90 days. 

Agree with @Luise Freese as I know of several people who are not actually writing code who are maintaining their dev tenant... that said in all those cases they have at least one solution in the tenant app catalog... in their case Microsoft 365 learning pathways

Regular Visitor

Been using the Dev Tenants for a long time here to test new features and upcoming functionalities however it has its limitation sadly in the perspective trying to do/show newer stuff like SharePoint Syntex and Viva Topics. I had multiple conversation deadlock with business leaders trying to introduce those without the ability to show the potentials in the dev tenants.


As this is the perfect possibility to test new features and as it comes with Microsoft 365 E5 licenses - would it by any chance be possible to add Microsoft Defender for Endpoint to this? Trying to activate it via endpoint.microsoft.com or securitycenter.microsoft.com just brings an error message stating that this is not licensed. The E5 license contains a Microsoft Defender license but not Defender for Endpoint. Being integral to a lot of new features it would be great to have it added.

kind regards chris

Frequent Visitor

@Julie Turner as @mailmonster has pointed out a full E5 covers Microsoft defender.  I intend to use this development tenant to automate configuration of Intune policies - including Defender for Endpoint.  This not being available is limiting my ability to script policies outside of a live tenant.


@gavinwickens @Julie Turner is there anybody through any channel who we can contact to have defender for endpoint added to the e5 license?


@mailmonster this dev tenant restriction is very annoying. What did you decide to do, use a trial tenant instead?


Found a way around this potentially.


So I started a trial tenant, navigated to purchase services area and went to the page to sign up to 'Microsoft Defender for Endpoint' trial and copied that URL e.g.



I then copied that into my Dev tenant browser session, which enabled me to sign up to 25 trial licenses in my dev tenant :) 

Hope that helps

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