AWS DevOps Blog

Building a Secure Cross-Account Continuous Delivery Pipeline

Most organizations create multiple AWS accounts because they provide the highest level of resource and security isolation. In this blog post, I will discuss how to use cross account AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) access to orchestrate continuous integration and continuous deployment.

Do I need multiple accounts?

If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions you should consider creating more AWS accounts:

  • Does your business require administrative isolation between workloads? Administrative isolation by account is the most straightforward way to grant independent administrative groups different levels of administrative control over AWS resources based on workload, development lifecycle, business unit (BU), or data sensitivity.
  • Does your business require limited visibility and discoverability of workloads? Accounts provide a natural boundary for visibility and discoverability. Workloads cannot be accessed or viewed unless an administrator of the account enables access to users managed in another account.
  • Does your business require isolation to minimize blast radius? Separate accounts help define boundaries and provide natural blast-radius isolation to limit the impact of a critical event such as a security breach, an unavailable AWS Region or Availability Zone, account suspensions, and so on.
  • Does your business require a particular workload to operate within AWS service limits without impacting the limits of another workload? You can use AWS account service limits to impose restrictions on a business unit, development team, or project. For example, if you create an AWS account for a project group, you can limit the number of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) or high performance computing (HPC) instances that can be launched by the account.
  • Does your business require strong isolation of recovery or auditing data? If regulatory requirements require you to control access and visibility to auditing data, you can isolate the data in an account separate from the one where you run your workloads (for example, by writing AWS CloudTrail logs to a different account).
  • Do your workloads depend on specific instance reservations to support high availability (HA) or disaster recovery (DR) capacity requirements? Reserved Instances (RIs) ensure reserved capacity for services such as Amazon EC2 and Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) at the individual account level.

Use case

The identities in this use case are set up as follows:

  • DevAccount

Developers check the code into an AWS CodeCommit repository. It stores all the repositories as a single source of truth for application code. Developers have full control over this account. This account is usually used as a sandbox for developers.

  • ToolsAccount

A central location for all the tools related to the organization, including continuous delivery/deployment services such as AWS CodePipeline and AWS CodeBuild. Developers have limited/read-only access in this account. The Operations team has more control.

  • TestAccount

Applications using the CI/CD orchestration for test purposes are deployed from this account. Developers and the Operations team have limited/read-only access in this account.

  • ProdAccount

Applications using the CI/CD orchestration tested in the ToolsAccount are deployed to production from this account. Developers and the Operations team have limited/read-only access in this account.

Solution

In this solution, we will check in sample code for an AWS Lambda function in the Dev account. This will trigger the pipeline (created in AWS CodePipeline) and run the build using AWS CodeBuild in the Tools account. The pipeline will then deploy the Lambda function to the Test and Prod accounts.

 

Setup

  1. Clone this repository. It contains the AWS CloudFormation templates that we will use in this walkthrough.
git clone https://github.com/awslabs/aws-refarch-cross-account-pipeline.git
  1. Follow the instructions in the repository README to push the sample AWS Lambda application to an AWS CodeCommit repository in the Dev account.
  2. Install the AWS Command Line Interface as described here. To prepare your access keys or assume-role to make calls to AWS, configure the AWS CLI as described here.

Walkthrough

Note: Follow the steps in the order they’re written. Otherwise, the resources might not be created correctly.

  1. In the Tools account, deploy this CloudFormation template. It will create the customer master keys (CMK) in AWS Key Management Service (AWS KMS), grant access to Dev, Test, and Prod accounts to use these keys, and create an Amazon S3 bucket to hold artifacts from AWS CodePipeline.
aws cloudformation deploy --stack-name pre-reqs \
--template-file ToolsAcct/pre-reqs.yaml --parameter-overrides \
DevAccount=ENTER_DEV_ACCT TestAccount=ENTER_TEST_ACCT \
ProductionAccount=ENTER_PROD_ACCT

In the output section of the CloudFormation console, make a note of the Amazon Resource Number (ARN) of the CMK and the S3 bucket name. You will need them in the next step.

  1. In the Dev account, which hosts the AWS CodeCommit repository, deploy this CloudFormation template. This template will create the IAM roles, which will later be assumed by the pipeline running in the Tools account. Enter the AWS account number for the Tools account and the CMK ARN.
aws cloudformation deploy --stack-name toolsacct-codepipeline-role \
--template-file DevAccount/toolsacct-codepipeline-codecommit.yaml \
--capabilities CAPABILITY_NAMED_IAM \
--parameter-overrides ToolsAccount=ENTER_TOOLS_ACCT CMKARN=FROM_1st_Step
  1. In the Test and Prod accounts where you will deploy the Lambda code, execute this CloudFormation template. This template creates IAM roles, which will later be assumed by the pipeline to create, deploy, and update the sample AWS Lambda function through CloudFormation.
aws cloudformation deploy --stack-name toolsacct-codepipeline-cloudformation-role \
--template-file TestAccount/toolsacct-codepipeline-cloudformation-deployer.yaml \
--capabilities CAPABILITY_NAMED_IAM \
--parameter-overrides ToolsAccount=ENTER_TOOLS_ACCT CMKARN=FROM_1st_STEP  \
S3Bucket=FROM_1st_STEP
  1. In the Tools account, which hosts AWS CodePipeline, execute this CloudFormation template. This creates a pipeline, but does not add permissions for the cross accounts (Dev, Test, and Prod).
aws cloudformation deploy --stack-name sample-lambda-pipeline \
--template-file ToolsAcct/code-pipeline.yaml \
--parameter-overrides DevAccount=ENTER_DEV_ACCT TestAccount=ENTER_TEST_ACCT \
ProductionAccount=ENTER_PROD_ACCT CMKARN=FROM_1st_STEP \
S3Bucket=FROM_1st_STEP--capabilities CAPABILITY_NAMED_IAM
  1. In the Tools account, execute this CloudFormation template, which give access to the role created in step 4. This role will be assumed by AWS CodeBuild to decrypt artifacts in the S3 bucket. This is the same template that was used in step 1, but with different parameters.
aws cloudformation deploy --stack-name pre-reqs \
--template-file ToolsAcct/pre-reqs.yaml \
--parameter-overrides CodeBuildCondition=true
  1. In the Tools account, execute this CloudFormation template, which will do the following:
    1. Add the IAM role created in step 2. This role is used by AWS CodePipeline in the Tools account for checking out code from the AWS CodeCommit repository in the Dev account.
    2. Add the IAM role created in step 3. This role is used by AWS CodePipeline in the Tools account for deploying the code package to the Test and Prod accounts.
aws cloudformation deploy --stack-name sample-lambda-pipeline \
--template-file ToolsAcct/code-pipeline.yaml \
--parameter-overrides CrossAccountCondition=true \
--capabilities CAPABILITY_NAMED_IAM

What did we just do?

  1. The pipeline created in step 4 and updated in step 6 checks out code from the AWS CodeCommit repository. It uses the IAM role created in step 2. The IAM role created in step 4 has permissions to assume the role created in step 2. This role will be assumed by AWS CodeBuild to decrypt artifacts in the S3 bucket, as described in step 5.
  2. The IAM role created in step 2 has permission to check out code. See here.
  3. The IAM role created in step 2 also has permission to upload the checked-out code to the S3 bucket created in step 1. It uses the KMS keys created in step 1 for server-side encryption.
  4. Upon successfully checking out the code, AWS CodePipeline triggers AWS CodeBuild. The AWS CodeBuild project created in step 4 is configured to use the CMK created in step 1 for cryptography operations. See here. The AWS CodeBuild role is created later in step 4. In step 5, access is granted to the AWS CodeBuild role to allow the use of the CMK for cryptography.
  5. AWS CodeBuild uses pip to install any libraries for the sample Lambda function. It also executes the aws cloudformation package command to create a Lambda function deployment package, uploads the package to the specified S3 bucket, and adds a reference to the uploaded package to the CloudFormation template. See here.
  6. Using the role created in step 3, AWS CodePipeline executes the transformed CloudFormation template (received as an output from AWS CodeBuild) in the Test account. The AWS CodePipeline role created in step 4 has permissions to assume the IAM role created in step 3, as described in step 5.
  7. The IAM role assumed by AWS CodePipeline passes the role to an IAM role that can be assumed by CloudFormation. AWS CloudFormation creates and updates the Lambda function using the code that was built and uploaded by AWS CodeBuild.

This is what the pipeline looks like using the sample code:

Conclusion

Creating multiple AWS accounts provides the highest degree of isolation and is appropriate for a number of use cases. However, keeping a centralized account to orchestrate continuous delivery and deployment using AWS CodePipeline and AWS CodeBuild eliminates the need to duplicate the delivery pipeline. You can secure the pipeline through the use of cross account IAM roles and the encryption of artifacts using AWS KMS. For more information, see Providing Access to an IAM User in Another AWS Account That You Own in the IAM User Guide.

References