AWS Big Data Blog

Connect Kafka client applications securely to your Amazon MSK cluster from different VPCs and AWS accounts

You can now use Amazon Managed Streaming for Apache Kafka (Amazon MSK) multi-VPC private connectivity (powered by AWS PrivateLink) and cluster policy support for MSK clusters to simplify connectivity of your Kafka clients to your brokers. Amazon MSK is a fully managed service that makes it easy for you to build and run applications that use Kafka to process streaming data. When you create an MSK cluster, the cluster resources are available to clients within the same Amazon VPC. This allows you to launch the cluster within specific subnets of the VPC, associate it with security groups, and attach IP addresses from your VPC’s address space through elastic network interfaces (ENIs). Network traffic between clients and the cluster stays within the AWS network, with internet access to the cluster not possible by default.

If you have workloads segmented across several VPCs and AWS accounts, there may be scenarios in which you need to make your MSK brokers accessible to Kafka clients across VPCs. With the launch of Amazon MSK multi-VPC private connectivity, you can now privately access your MSK brokers from your client applications in another VPC within the same AWS account or another AWS account without enabling public access or creating and managing your own networking infrastructure for private connectivity. A cluster policy is an AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) resource-based policy, which is defined for your MSK cluster to provide cross-account IAM principals permissions to set up private connectivity to the cluster.

This post introduces Amazon MSK multi-VPC connectivity and how you can privately access your MSK clusters from your clients in other VPCs. It also shows how to define a cluster policy for your MSK clusters. These new two capabilities simplify configuring cross-VPC network access and setting up permissions needed for Kafka clients to privately connect to MSK brokers in a different account.

Before Amazon MSK multi-VPC connectivity

Before Amazon MSK multi-VPC connectivity, the network admin needed to choose one of the following secure connectivity patterns. Admins had to repeat certain steps for each broker in the cluster.

  • Amazon VPC peering is the simplest networking construct that enables bidirectional connectivity between two VPCs. In this approach, the network admin had to update each VPC with the IP addresses of each broker in the routing tables of all subnets. You can’t use this connectivity pattern when there are overlapping IPv4 or IPv6 CIDR blocks in the VPCs.
  • AWS Transit Gateway provides a highly available and scalable design for connecting VPCs. In this approach, the network admin constantly had to update the routing tables attached to each transit gateway. Unlike VPC peering that can go cross-Region, AWS Transit Gateway is a regional service, but you can use inter-Region peering between transit gateways to route traffic across regions. AWS Transit Gateway has the maximum bandwidth (burst) per Availability Zone per VPC connection (50 Gbps). This could become a challenge for some workloads.
  • AWS PrivateLink is an AWS networking service that provides private access to a specific service instead of all resources within a VPC and without traversing the public internet. It also eliminates the need to expose the entire VPC or subnet, and prevents issues like having to deal with overlapping CIDR blocks between the VPC that hosts the MSK cluster ENIs and the Kafka client VPC. AWS PrivateLink can scale to an unlimited number of VPCs and unlike the other options, traffic here is unidirectional. Because of these benefits, AWS PrivateLink is a popular choice to manage private connectivity. However, this connectivity pattern comes with additional complexity. It requires creating multiple Network Load Balancers (NLBs) per cluster and creating private service endpoints per NLB in the service account. Furthermore, admins had to create private endpoints per private service endpoint, and an Amazon Route 53 alias record per private endpoint in every client account.

The following diagram illustrates the architecture of customer-managed VPC endpoints between different VPCs in different AWS accounts with IAM authentication.

Before multi-vpc connectivity

After Amazon MSK multi-VPC connectivity and cluster policy

You can now enable multi-VPC and cross-account connectivity for your MSK clusters in a few simple steps and pay for what you use. This eliminates the overhead of creating and managing AWS PrivateLink infrastructure. When new brokers are added to a cluster, private connectivity is maintained without the need to make configuration changes, saving you from the overhead and complexity of managing the underlying network infrastructure.

The following diagram illustrates this updated architecture of using Amazon MSK multi-VPC connectivity to connect a client from a different AWS account.

after multi-vpc connectivity

Solution overview

Establishing multi-VPC private connectivity involves turning on this feature for the cluster and configuring the Kafka clients to connect privately to the cluster.

The following are the high-level steps to configure the cluster:

  1. Enable the multi-VPC private connectivity feature for a subset of authentication schemes that are enabled for your MSK cluster.
  2. If a Kafka client is in an AWS account that is different than the cluster, attach a resource-based policy to the MSK cluster to authorize IAM principals for creating cross-account connectivity.
  3. Share the cluster ARN with the IAM principal associated with the Kafka client that needs to create the cross-account access to MSK cluster.

The following are the high-level steps to configure the clients:

  1. Create a managed VPC endpoint for the client VPC that needs to connect privately to the MSK cluster.
  2. Update the VPC endpoint’s security group settings to enable outbound connectivity to the MSK cluster.
  3. Set up the client to use the cluster’s connection string to connect privately to the cluster.

Cluster setup

In this post, we only show the steps for enabling Amazon MSK multi-VPC connectivity for a provisioned cluster.

  1. To enable Amazon MSK multi-VPC connectivity on your existing cluster, choose Turn on multi-VPC connectivity on the Amazon MSK console.
    turn on multi-vpc connectivity
    Note that multi-VPC connectivity cannot be turned on with a cluster that allows unauthenticated access. This is to prevent unauthenticated access from different VPCs.
  2. Select the authentication methods that you allow clients in other VPCs to use.
    The list of authentication methods is populated based on your cluster’s security configuration.
  3. Review the settings and choose Turn on selection. After the multi-VPC connectivity is enabled on your cluster, Amazon MSK will create the NLB and VPC endpoint service infrastructure required for private connectivity. Amazon MSK will vend a new set of bootstrap broker strings that can be used for private connectivity. These can be accessed using the View client info option on the Amazon MSK console. The next step is to provide the IAM principals associated with your clients the permissions to connect privately to your cluster. To do this, you need to attach a cluster policy to the cluster. Turn on selection
  4. Choose Edit cluster policy in the Security section of the cluster details page on the Amazon MSK console.
    The new cluster policy allows for defining a Basic or Advanced cluster policy. With the Basic option, you can simply enter AWS account IDs of your client’s VPCs. This policy allows all allowed principals in those AWS accounts to perform CreateVPCConnection, GetBootstrapBrokers, DescribeCluster, and DescribeClusterV2 actions that are required for creating the cross-VPC connectivity to your cluster. However, in other cases, you may need a more complex policy that allows for additional actions, or principals other than AWS accounts, such as IAM roles, role sessions, IAM users, and more. You can author a cluster policy according to IAM JSON policy guidance and provide that to the cluster in Advanced mode.
  5. Define your cluster policy and choose Save changes.cluster policy

Client setup

On the client side, first you need to attach an identity policy to the IAM principal who wants to create a managed VPC connection. The identity policy must provide permission for creating a managed VPC connection. The necessary permissions are part of the AWS managed policy AmazonMSKFullAccess.

  1. In the other AWS account with the IAM principal you configured, use the new Managed VPC connection page on the Amazon MSK console to create Amazon MSK managed VPC connections.
    A managed VPC connection maps to an AWS PrivateLink endpoint under the hood, and Amazon MSK uses the managed VPC connection to orchestrate private connectivity to the cluster. You simply need to create the managed VPC connection and pay standard AWS PrivateLink charges for the underlying endpoint.Create a connection
  2. Enter the AWS Resource Name (ARN) of the cluster that you want to connect to.
  3. Choose Verify to verify the cluster information and its minimum requirements for cross-connectivity.
  4. Select an authentication method from the provided values.
  5. Choose the VPC ID where your Kafka clients are located, and choose their subnet IDs. You can add more subnets using the Add subnet option.
    The specified client subnet must have Availability Zone IDs that match the cluster’s Availability Zone IDs. This makes sure the clients are located in a same physical Availability Zone as the cluster brokers. Amazon MSK uses the port range 14001:14100 for all authentication methods. You need to select a security group that allows outbound traffic to this port. The following screenshot shows an example.
  6. Review the settings and choose Create connection.Review and create a connection
    The process will take a few minutes.
  7. When it’s complete, you can obtain the clients’ connection string from the details page of your connection.
  8. The next step is to update the outbound rules for the VPC endpoint security group to allow communication to the port range 14001:14100.client setup review

Use the Amazon MSK-managed VPC connection

After you create the managed VPC connection, connecting privately to the cluster is easy. Simply use the new connection string to connect to the cluster. For example, you may connect from an Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instance on your client VPC. Then run the following command to verify if you can connect and perform actions against the topics in the MSK cluster:

bin/ --bootstrap-server $MSK_VPC -command-config /home/ec2-user/kafka/config/ –list

console results

IAM authentication

Before the launch of Amazon MSK multi-VPC connectivity, Kafka clients in other AWS accounts who opted in IAM authentication, needed to assume another IAM role in the cluster’s account. To facilitate this, admins had to create multiple IAM roles and write a trust policy that allows authenticated principals from the client’s accounts to assume corresponding roles through the sts:AssumeRole API call. This approach was challenging to scale when the number of VPCs or AWS accounts grew. With the launch of this cluster policy, cross-account access control is now simplified because you can attach a cluster policy to your clusters to specify which cross-account clients have what permissions on resources within the cluster.

This capability allows you to manage all access to the cluster and topics in one place. For example, you can control which IAM principals have write access to certain topics, and which principals can only read from them. Users who are using IAM client authentication can also add permissions for required kafka-cluster actions in the cluster resource policy.

Availability and pricing

You can now use Amazon MSK multi-VPC connectivity in all commercial Regions where Amazon MSK is offered, including China and GovCloud (US) Regions.

You pay $0.006 per GB data processed for private connectivity and $0.0225 per private connectivity hour per authentication scheme in US East (Ohio). Refer to our Pricing page for more details.


With Amazon MSK multi-VPC private connectivity, you can now privately access your MSK brokers from your client applications in another VPC within the same AWS account or another AWS account, with minimal configuration. You no longer have to create, manage, and update multiple networking resources in multiple VPCs, or make Amazon MSK configuration changes to connect your Kafka clients across VPCs and accounts. Amazon MSK creates and manages the resources for you. With Cluster policy support, you can easily provide your cross-account client principals permissions to connect privately to your MSK cluster. Further, if you are using IAM client authentication, you can also leverage the cluster policy to centrally control clients’ permissions to perform operations on the cluster. Use the Amazon MSK multi-VPC connectivity and the cluster policy feature today to simplify your secure connectivity infrastructure.

For further reading on Amazon MSK, visit the official product page and our AWS Documentation.

About the authors

Ali Alemi is a Streaming Specialist Solutions Architect at AWS. Ali advises AWS customers with architectural best practices and helps them design real-time analytics data systems that are reliable, secure, efficient, and cost-effective. He works backward from customers’ use cases and designs data solutions to solve their business problems. Prior to joining AWS, Ali supported several public sector customers and AWS consulting partners in their application modernization journey and migration to the cloud.