IAM Roles for Service Accounts


Amazon EKS supports IAM Roles for Service Accounts (IRSA) that allows cluster operators to map AWS IAM Roles to Kubernetes Service Accounts.

This provides fine-grained permission management for apps that run on EKS and use other AWS services. These could be apps that use S3, any other data services (RDS, MQ, STS, DynamoDB), or Kubernetes components like AWS ALB Ingress controller or ExternalDNS.

You can easily create IAM Role and Service Account pairs with eksctl.

NOTE: if you used instance roles, and are considering to use IRSA instead, you shouldn’t mix the two.

How it works

It works via IAM OpenID Connect Provider (OIDC) that EKS exposes, and IAM Roles must be constructed with reference to the IAM OIDC Provider (specific to a given EKS cluster), and a reference to the Kubernetes Service Account it will be bound to. Once an IAM Role is created, a service account should include the ARN of that role as an annotation (eks.amazonaws.com/role-arn).

Inside EKS, there is an admission controller that injects AWS session credentials into pods respectively of the roles based on the annotation on the Service Account used by the pod. The credentials will get exposed by AWS_ROLE_ARN & AWS_WEB_IDENTITY_TOKEN_FILE environment variables. Given a recent version of AWS SDK is used (see AWS documentation for details of exact version), the application will use these credentials.

In eksctl the name of the resource is iamserviceaccount, which represents an IAM Role and Service Account pair.

Usage without config files

NOTE: IAM Roles for Service Accounts require Kubernetes version 1.13 or above.

The IAM OIDC Provider is not enabled by default, you can use the following command to enable it, or use config file (see below):

eksctl utils associate-iam-oidc-provider --cluster=<clusterName>

Once you have the IAM OIDC Provider associated with the cluster, to create a IAM role bound to a service account, run:

eksctl create iamserviceaccount --cluster=<clusterName> --name=<serviceAccountName> --namespace=<serviceAccountNamespace> --attach-policy-arn=<policyARN>

NOTE: you can specify --attach-policy-arn multiple times to use more then one policy.

More specifically, you can create a service account with read-only access to S3 by running:

eksctl create iamserviceaccount --cluster=<clusterName> --name=s3-read-only --attach-policy-arn=arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/AmazonS3ReadOnlyAccess

By default, it will be created in default namespace, but you can specify any other namespace, e.g.:

eksctl create iamserviceaccount --cluster=<clusterName> --name=s3-read-only --namespace=s3-app --attach-policy-arn=arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/AmazonS3ReadOnlyAccess

NOTE: If the namespace doesn’t exist already, it will be created.

If you have service account already created in the cluster (without an IAM Role), you will need to use --override-existing-serviceaccounts flag.

Currently, to update a role you will need to re-create, run eksctl delete iamserviceaccount followed by eksctl create iamserviceaccount to achieve that.

Usage with config files

To manage iamserviceaccounts using config file, you will be looking to set iam.withOIDC: true and list account you want under iam.serviceAccount.

All of the commands support --config-file, you can manage iamserviceaccounts the same way as nodegroups. The eksctl create iamserviceaccount command supports --include and --exclude flags. And the eksctl delete iamserviceaccount command supports --only-missing as well, so you can perform deletions the same way as nodegroups.

You use the following config example with eksctl create cluster:

# An example of ClusterConfig with IAMServiceAccounts:
apiVersion: eksctl.io/v1alpha5
kind: ClusterConfig

  name: cluster-13
  region: us-west-2

  withOIDC: true
  - metadata:
      name: s3-reader
      # if no namespace is set, "default" will be used;
      # the namespace will be created if it doesn't exist already
      namespace: backend-apps
      labels: {aws-usage: "application"}
    - "arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/AmazonS3ReadOnlyAccess"
  - metadata:
      name: cache-access
      namespace: backend-apps
      labels: {aws-usage: "application"}
    - "arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/AmazonDynamoDBReadOnlyAccess"
    - "arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/AmazonElastiCacheFullAccess"
  - metadata:
      name: cluster-autoscaler
      namespace: kube-system
      labels: {aws-usage: "cluster-ops"}
    attachPolicy: # inline policy can be defined along with `attachPolicyARNs`
      Version: "2012-10-17"
      - Effect: Allow
        - "autoscaling:DescribeAutoScalingGroups"
        - "autoscaling:DescribeAutoScalingInstances"
        - "autoscaling:DescribeLaunchConfigurations"
        - "autoscaling:DescribeTags"
        - "autoscaling:SetDesiredCapacity"
        - "autoscaling:TerminateInstanceInAutoScalingGroup"
        Resource: '*'

  - name: "ng-1"
      # EC2 tags required for cluster-autoscaler auto-discovery
      k8s.io/cluster-autoscaler/enabled: "true"
      k8s.io/cluster-autoscaler/cluster-13: "owned"
    desiredCapacity: 1

If you create a cluster without these fields set, you can use the following commands to enable all you need:

eksctl utils associate-iam-oidc-provider --config-file=<path>
eksctl create iamserviceaccount --config-file=<path>

Further information