Configuration and Secret management

Choosing the Right Tool for Secret Management: AWS Secrets Manager vs. AWS Systems Manager Parameter Store

In the world of cloud security, managing secrets such as API keys, passwords, and tokens is a critical task. AWS offers two powerful tools for this purpose: AWS Secrets Manager and AWS Systems Manager Parameter Store. This blog dives into the features, use cases, costs, limitations, and integration strategies for these services, helping you choose the best one for your needs. Additionally, we will explore how to integrate various AWS security services to secure your applications comprehensively.

AWS Secrets Manager

AWS Secrets Manager is a service designed to store, manage, and rotate secrets securely. It provides automatic secret rotation with built-in integrations for Amazon RDS, Amazon Redshift, and Amazon DocumentDB.

Key Features of AWS Secrets Manager

  • Automatic Rotation: Seamlessly rotate secrets at a specified interval without disrupting applications.
  • Cross-Account Access: Share secrets securely across AWS accounts.
  • Audit and Compliance: Detailed audit logs via AWS CloudTrail for compliance and auditing purposes.
  • Integrated with AWS Services: Native support for Amazon RDS, Amazon Redshift, and Amazon DocumentDB.

Use Cases for AWS Secrets Manager

  • Dynamic Secret Management: Applications requiring frequent updates to secrets, such as rotating database credentials every 30 days.
  • Cross-Account Access: Sharing secrets securely across multiple AWS accounts.
  • Compliance and Audit: Environments needing detailed audit trails for security and compliance.

Cost and Limitations

  • Cost: Charged per secret stored and API call.
  • Limitations: Primarily designed for secret management; higher costs compared to Parameter Store for simple configurations.

AWS Systems Manager Parameter Store

AWS Systems Manager Parameter Store provides secure, hierarchical storage for configuration data management and secrets management. It offers the flexibility to store plaintext or encrypted data.

Key Features of AWS Systems Manager Parameter Store

  • Hierarchical Storage: Organize parameters by hierarchy for easier management and retrieval.
  • Secure Storage: Encrypt sensitive data using AWS KMS.
  • Parameter Versioning: Keep track of parameter versions and roll back if necessary.
  • Cost-Effective: No additional cost for basic parameter storage; advanced features may incur charges.

Use Cases for AWS Systems Manager Parameter Store

  • Configuration Management: Storing configuration values and non-rotating secrets.
  • Less Dynamic Secrets: Secrets that do not require frequent rotation.
  • Cost-Conscious Environments: Scenarios where budget constraints necessitate a cost-effective solution.

Cost and Limitations

  • Cost: Free for basic usage; advanced features like higher throughput may incur charges.
  • Limitations: Does not support automatic secret rotation; limited cross-account access capabilities.

Comparing AWS Secrets Manager and AWS Systems Manager Parameter Store

Feature AWS Secrets Manager AWS Systems Manager Parameter Store
Automatic Secret Rotation Yes No
Hierarchical Storage No Yes
Cross-Account Access Yes Limited
Parameter Versioning Limited Yes
Audit and Compliance Detailed logs with CloudTrail Basic logging
Cost Charged per secret stored and API call Free for basic usage; advanced features may incur charges

Recommendation: Choose AWS Secrets Manager for dynamic, frequently rotated secrets requiring cross-account access and detailed auditing. Opt for AWS Systems Manager Parameter Store for less dynamic secrets and configuration management with hierarchical storage needs.

Examples of Configuration Data

Database connection strings, API endpoints, application settings, secrets and tokens, network configurations, user preferences, service endpoints, cache configuration, email server settings, third-party service configurations.