AWS Big Data Blog

Secure connectivity patterns for Amazon MSK Serverless cross-account access

Amazon MSK Serverless is a cluster type of Amazon Managed Streaming for Apache Kafka (Amazon MSK) that makes it straightforward for you to run Apache Kafka without having to manage and scale cluster capacity. MSK Serverless automatically provisions and scales compute and storage resources. With MSK Serverless, you can use Apache Kafka on demand and pay for the data you stream and retain on a usage basis.

Deploying infrastructure across multiple VPCs and multiple accounts is considered best practice, facilitating scalability while maintaining isolation boundaries. In a multi-account environment, Kafka producers and consumers can exist within the same VPC—however, they are often located in different VPCs, sometimes within the same account, in a different account, or even in multiple different accounts. There is a need for a solution that can extend access to MSK Serverless clusters to producers and consumers from multiple VPCs within the same AWS account and across multiple AWS accounts. The solution needs to be scalable and straightforward to maintain.

In this post, we walk you through multiple solution approaches that address the MSK Serverless cross-VPC and cross-account access connectivity options, and we discuss the advantages and limitations of each approach.

MSK Serverless connectivity and authentication

When an MSK Serverless cluster is created, AWS manages the cluster infrastructure on your behalf and extends private connectivity back to your VPCs through VPC endpoints powered by AWS PrivateLink. You bootstrap your connection to the cluster through a bootstrap server that holds a record of all your underlying brokers.

At creation, a fully qualified domain name (FQDN) is assigned to your cluster bootstrap server. The bootstrap server FQDN has the general format of, and your cluster brokers follow the format of, where ClusterUniqueID.xx is unique to your cluster and bxxxx is a dynamic broker range (b0001, b0037, and b0523 can be some of your assigned brokers at a point of time). It’s worth noting that the brokers assigned to your cluster are dynamic and change over time, but your bootstrap address remains the same for the cluster. All your communication with the cluster starts with the bootstrap server that can respond with the list of active brokers when required. For proper Kafka communication, your MSK client needs to be able to resolve the domain names of your bootstrap server as well as all your brokers.

At cluster creation, you specify the VPCs that you would like the cluster to communicate with (up to five VPCs in the same account as your cluster). For each VPC specified during cluster creation, cluster VPC endpoints are created along with a private hosted zone that includes a list of your bootstrap server and all dynamic brokers kept up to date. The private hosted zones facilitate resolving the FQDNs of your bootstrap server and brokers, from within the associated VPCs defined during cluster creation, to the respective VPC endpoints for each.

Cross-account access

To be able to extend private connectivity of your Kafka producers and consumers to your MSK Serverless cluster, you need to consider three main aspects: private connectivity, authentication and authorization, and DNS resolution.

The following diagram highlights the possible connectivity options. Although the diagram shows them all here for demonstration purposes, in most cases, you would use one or more of these options depending on your architecture, not necessary all in the same setup.

MSK cross account connectivity options

In this section, we discuss the different connectivity options along with their pros and cons. We also cover the authentication and DNS resolution aspects associated with the relevant connectivity options.

Private connectivity layer

This is the underlying private network connectivity. You can achieve this connectivity using VPC peering, AWS Transit Gateway, or PrivateLink, as indicated in the preceding diagram. VPC peering simplifies the setup, but it lacks the support for transitive routing. In most cases, peering is used when you have a limited number of VPCs or if your VPCs generally communicate with some limited number of core services VPCs without the need of lateral connectivity or transitive routing. On the other hand, AWS Transit Gateway facilitates transitive routing and can simplify the architecture when you have a large number of VPCs, and especially when lateral connectivity is required. PrivateLink is more suited for extending connectivity to a specific resource unidirectionally across VPCs or accounts without exposing full VPC-to-VPC connectivity, thereby adding a layer of isolation. PrivateLink is useful if you have overlapping CIDRs, which is a case that is not supported by Transit Gateway or VPC peering. PrivateLink is also useful when your connected parties are administrated separately, and when one-way connectivity and isolation are required.

If you choose PrivateLink as a connectivity option, you need to use a Network Load Balancer (NLB) with an IP type target group with its registered targets set as the IP addresses of the zonal endpoints of your MSK Serverless cluster.

Cluster authentication and authorization

In addition to having private connectivity and being able to resolve the bootstrap server and brokers domain names, for your producers and consumers to have access to your cluster, you need to configure your clients with proper credentials. MSK Serverless supports AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) authentication and authorization. For cross-account access, your MSK client needs to assume a role that has proper credentials to access the cluster. This post focuses mainly on the cross-account connectivity and name resolution aspects. For more details on cross-account authentication and authorization, refer to the following GitHub repo.

DNS resolution

For Kafka producers and consumers located in accounts across the organization to be able to produce and consume to and from the centralized MSK Serverless cluster, they need to be able to resolve the FQDNs of the cluster bootstrap server as well as each of the cluster brokers. Understanding the dynamic nature of broker allocation, the solution will have to accommodate such a requirement. In the next section, we address how we can satisfy this part of the requirements.

Cluster cross-account DNS resolution

Now that we have discussed how MSK Serverless works, how private connectivity is extended, and the authentication and authorization requirements, let’s discuss how DNS resolution works for your cluster.

For every VPC associated with your cluster during cluster creation, a VPC endpoint is created along with a private hosted zone. Private hosted zones enable name resolve of the FQDNs of the cluster bootstrap server and the dynamically allocated brokers, from within each respective VPC. This works well when requests come from within any of the VPCs that were added during cluster creation because they already have the required VPC endpoints and relevant private hosted zones.

Let’s discuss how you can extend name resolution to other VPCs within the same account that were not included during cluster creation, and to others that may be located in other accounts.

You’ve already made your choice of the private connectivity option that best fits your architecture requirements, be it VPC peering, PrivateLink, or Transit Gateway. Assuming that you have also configured your MSK clients to assume roles that have the right IAM credentials in order to facilitate cluster access, you now need to address the name resolution aspect of connectivity. It’s worth noting that, although we list different connectivity options using VPC peering, Transit Gateway, and PrivateLink, in most cases only one or two of these connectivity options are present. You don’t necessarily need to have them all; they are listed here to demonstrate your options, and you are free to choose the ones that best fit your architecture and requirements.

In the following sections, we describe two different methods to address DNS resolution. For each method, there are advantages and limitations.

Private hosted zones

The following diagram highlights the solution architecture and its components. Note that, to simplify the diagram, and to make room for more relevant details required in this section, we have eliminated some of the connectivity options.

Cross-account access using Private Hosted Zones

The solution starts with creating a private hosted zone, followed by creating a VPC association.

Create a private hosted zone

We start by creating a private hosted zone for name resolution. To make the solution scalable and straightforward to maintain, you can choose to create this private hosted zone in the same MSK Serverless cluster account; in some cases, creating the private hosted zone in a centralized networking account is preferred. Having the private hosted zone created in the MSK Serverless cluster account facilitates centralized management of the private hosted zone alongside the MSK cluster. We can then associate the centralized private hosted zone with VPCs within the same account, or in different other accounts. Choosing to centralize your private hosted zones in a networking account can also be a viable solution to consider.

The purpose of the private hosted zone is to be able to resolve the FQDNs of the bootstrap server as well as all the dynamically assigned cluster-associated brokers. As discussed earlier, the bootstrap server FQDN format is, and the cluster brokers use the format, with bxxxx being the broker ID. You need to create the new private hosted zone with the primary domain set as, with an A-Alias record called * pointing to the Regional VPC endpoint of the MSK Serverless cluster in the MSK cluster VPC. This should be sufficient to direct all traffic targeting your cluster to the primary cluster VPC endpoints that you specified in your private hosted zone.

Now that you have created the private hosted zone, for name resolution to work, you need to associate the private hosted zone with every VPC where you have clients for the MSK cluster (producer or consumer).

Associate a private hosted zone with VPCs in the same account

For VPCs that are in the same account as the MSK cluster and weren’t included in the configuration during cluster creation, you can associate them to the private hosted zone created using the AWS Management Console by editing the private hosted zone settings and adding the respective VPCs. For more information, refer to Associating more VPCs with a private hosted zone.

Associate a private hosted zone in cross-account VPCs

For VPCs that are in a different account other than the MSK cluster account, refer to Associating an Amazon VPC and a private hosted zone that you created with different AWS accounts. The key steps are as follows:

  1. Create a VPC association authorization in the account where the private hosted zone is created (in this case, it’s the same account as the MSK Serverless cluster account) to authorize the remote VPCs to be associated with the hosted zone:
aws route53 create-vpc-association-authorization --hosted-zone-id HostedZoneID --vpc VPCRegion=Region,VPCId=vpc-ID
  1. Associate the VPC with the private hosted zone in the account where you have the VPCs with the MSK clients (remote account), referencing the association authorization you created earlier:
aws route53 list-vpc-association-authorizations --hosted-zone-id HostedZoneID
aws route53 associate-vpc-with-hosted-zone --hosted-zone-id HostedZoneID --VPC VPCRegion=Region,VPCId=vpc-ID
  1. Delete the VPC authorization to associate the VPC with the hosted zone:
aws route53 delete-vpc-association-authorization --hosted-zone-id HostedZoneID --vpc VPCRegion=Region,VPCId=vpc-ID

Deleting the authorization doesn’t affect the association, it just prevents you from re-associating the VPC with the hosted zone in the future. If you want to re-associate the VPC with the hosted zone, you’ll need to repeat steps 1 and 2 of this procedure.

Note that your VPC needs to have the enableDnsSupport and enableDnsHostnames DNS attributes enabled for this to work. These two settings can be configured under the VPC DNS settings. For more information, refer to DNS attributes in your VPC.

These procedures work well for all remote accounts when connectivity is extended using VPC peering or Transit Gateway. If your connectivity option uses PrivateLink, the private hosted zone needs to be created in the remote account instead (the account where the PrivateLink VPC endpoints are). In addition, an A-Alias record that resolves to the PrivateLink endpoint instead of the MSK cluster endpoint needs to be created as indicated in the earlier diagram. This will facilitate name resolution to the PrivateLink endpoint. If other VPCs need access to the cluster through that same PrivateLink setup, you need to follow the same private hosted zone association procedure as described earlier and associate your other VPCs with the private hosted zone created for your PrivateLink VPC.


The private hosted zones solution has some key limitations.

Firstly, because you’re using as the primary domain for our private hosted zone, and your A-Alias record uses *, all traffic to the MSK Serverless service originating from any VPC associated with this private hosted zone will be directed to the one specific cluster VPC Regional endpoint that you specified in the hosted zone A-Alias record.

This solution is valid if you have one MSK Serverless cluster in your centralized service VPC. If you need to provide access to multiple MSK Serverless clusters, you can use the same solution but adapt a distributed private hosted zone approach as opposed to a centralized approach. In a distributed private hosted zone approach, each private hosted zone can point to a specific cluster. The VPCs associated with that specific private hosted zone will communicate only to the respective cluster listed under the specific private hosted zone.

In addition, after you establish a VPC association with a private hosted zone resolving *, the respective VPC will only be able to communicate with the cluster defined in that specific private hosted zone and no other cluster. An exception to this rule is if a local cluster is created within the same client VPC, in which case the clients within the VPC will only be able to communicate with only the local cluster.

You can also use PrivateLink to accommodate multiple clusters by creating a PrivateLink plus private hosted zone per cluster, replicating the configuration steps described earlier.

Both solutions, using distributed private hosted zones or PrivateLink, are still subject to the limitation that for each client VPC, you can only communicate with the one MSK Serverless cluster that your associated private hosted zone is configured for.

In the next section, we discuss another possible solution.

Resolver rules and AWS Resource Access Manager

The following diagram shows a high-level overview of the solution using Amazon Route 53 resolver rules and AWS Resource Access Manager.

Cross-account access using Resolver Rules and Resolver Endpoints

The solution starts with creating Route 53 inbound and outbound resolver endpoints, which are associated with the MSK cluster VPC. Then you create a resolver forwarding rule in the MSK account that is not associated with any VPC. Next, you share the resolver rule across accounts using Resource Access Manager. At the remote account where you need to extend name resolution to, you need to accept the resource share and associate the resolver rules with your target VPCs located in the remote account (the account where the MSK clients are located).

For more information about this approach, refer to the third use case in Simplify DNS management in a multi-account environment with Route 53 Resolver.

This solution accommodates multiple centralized MSK serverless clusters in a more scalable and flexible approach. Therefore, the solution counts on directing DNS requests to be resolved by the VPC where the MSK clusters are. Multiple MSK Serverless clusters can coexist, where clients in a particular VPC can communicate with one or more of them at the same time. This option is not supported with the private hosted zone solution approach.


Although this solution has its advantages, it also has a few limitations.

Firstly, for a particular target consumer or producer account, all your MSK Serverless clusters need to be in the same core service VPC in the MSK account. This is due to the fact that the resolver rule is set on an account level and as the primary domain, directing its resolution to one specific VPC resolver endpoint inbound/outbound pair within that service VPC. If you need to have separate clusters in different VPCs, consider creating separate accounts.

The second limitation is that all your client VPCs need to be in the same Region as your core MSK Serverless VPC. The reason behind this limitation is that resolver rules pointing to a resolver endpoint pair (in reality, they point to the outbound endpoint that loops into the inbound endpoints) need to be in the same Region as the resolver rules, and Resource Access Manager will extend the share only within the same Region. However, this solution is good when you have multiple MSK clusters in the same core VPC, and although your remote clients are in different VPCs and accounts, they are still within the same Region. A workaround for this limitation is to duplicate the creation of resolver rules and outbound resolver endpoint in a second Region, where the outbound endpoint loops back through the original first Region inbound resolver endpoint associated with the MSK Serverless cluster VPC (assuming IP connectivity is facilitated). This second Region resolver rule can then be shared using Resource Access Manager within the second Region.


You can configure MSK Serverless cross-VPC and cross-account access in multi-account environments using private hosted zones or Route 53 resolver rules. The solution discussed in this post allows you to centralize your configuration while extending cross-account access, making it a scalable and straightforward-to-maintain solution. You can create your MSK Serverless clusters with cross-account access for producers and consumers, keep your focus on your business outcomes, and gain insights from sources of data across your organization without having to right-size and manage a Kafka infrastructure.

About the Author

Tamer Soliman is a Senior Solutions Architect at AWS. He helps Independent Software Vendor (ISV) customers innovate, build, and scale on AWS. He has over two decades of industry experience, and is an inventor with three granted patents. His experience spans multiple technology domains including telecom, networking, application integration, data analytics, AI/ML, and cloud deployments. He specializes in AWS Networking and has a profound passion for machine leaning, AI, and Generative AI.