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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 Load Balancer controller or ExternalDNS.

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


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 ( By default the service account will be created or updated to include the role annotation, this can be disabled using the flag --role-only.

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


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>

You can specify --attach-policy-arn multiple times to use more than 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


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.

Custom tagging may also be applied to the IAM Role by specifying --tags:

eksctl create iamserviceaccount --cluster=<clusterName> --name=<serviceAccountName> --tags "Owner=John Doe,Team=Some Team"

CloudFormation will generate a role name that includes a random string. If you prefer a predetermined role name you can specify --role-name:

eksctl create iamserviceaccount --cluster=<clusterName> --name=<serviceAccountName> --role-name "custom-role-name"

When the service account is created and managed by some other tool, such as helm, use --role-only to prevent conflicts. The other tool is then responsible for maintaining the role ARN annotation. Note that --override-existing-serviceaccounts has no effect on roleOnly/--role-only service accounts, the role will always be created.

eksctl create iamserviceaccount --cluster=<clusterName> --name=<serviceAccountName> --role-only --role-name=<customRoleName>

When you have an existing role which you want to use with a service account, you can provide the --attach-role-arn flag instead of providing the policies. To ensure the role can only be assumed by the specified service account, you should set a trust relationship policy document.

eksctl create iamserviceaccount --cluster=<clusterName> --name=<serviceAccountName> --attach-role-arn=<customRoleARN>

To update a service accounts roles permissions you can run eksctl update iamserviceaccount.


eksctl delete iamserviceaccount deletes Kubernetes ServiceAccounts even if they were not created by eksctl.

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 (see this section for more details about how these work). And the eksctl delete iamserviceaccount command supports --only-missing as well, so you can perform deletions the same way as nodegroups.


IAM service accounts are scoped within a namespace, i.e. two service accounts with the same name may exist in different namespaces. Thus, to uniquely define a service account as part of --include, --exclude flags, you will need to pass the name string in the namespace/name format. E.g.

eksctl create iamserviceaccount --config-file=<path> --include backend-apps/s3-reader

The option to enable wellKnownPolicies is included for using IRSA with well-known use cases like cluster-autoscaler and cert-manager, as a shorthand for lists of policies.

Supported well-known policies and other properties of serviceAccounts are documented at the config schema.

You use the following config example with eksctl create cluster:

# An example of ClusterConfig with IAMServiceAccounts:
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"
      Owner: "John Doe"
      Team: "Some Team"
  - 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"}
      autoScaler: true
    roleName: eksctl-cluster-autoscaler-role
    roleOnly: true
  - metadata:
      name: some-app
      namespace: default
    attachRoleARN: arn:aws:iam::123:role/already-created-role-for-app
  - name: "ng-1"
      # EC2 tags required for cluster-autoscaler auto-discovery "true" "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