Q: What is AWS Directory Service?

AWS Directory Service is a managed service offering, providing directories that contain information about your organization, including users, groups, computers, and other resources. As a managed offering, AWS Directory Service is designed to reduce management tasks, thereby allowing you to focus more of your time and resources on your business. There is no need to build out your own complex, highly-available directory topology because each directory is deployed across multiple Availability Zones, and monitoring automatically detects and replaces domain controllers that fail. In addition, data replication and automated daily snapshots are configured for you. There is no software to install and AWS handles all of the patching and software updates.

Q: What can I do with AWS Directory Service?

AWS Directory Service makes it easy for you to setup and run directories in the AWS cloud, or connect your AWS resources with an existing on-premises Microsoft Active Directory. Once your directory is created, you can use it to manage users and groups, provide single sign-on to applications and services, create and apply group policy, join Amazon EC2 instances to a domain, as well as simplify the deployment and management of cloud-based Linux and Microsoft Windows workloads. AWS Directory Service enables your end users to use their existing corporate credentials when accessing AWS applications, such as Amazon WorkSpaces, Amazon WorkDocs and Amazon WorkMail, as well as directory-aware Microsoft workloads, including custom .NET and SQL Server-based applications. Finally, you can use your existing corporate credentials to administer AWS resources via AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) role-based access to the AWS Management Console, so you do not need to build out more identity federation infrastructure.

Q: How do I create a directory?

You can use the AWS Management Console or the API to create a directory. All you need to provide is some basic information such as a fully qualified domain name (FQDN) for your directory, Administrator account name and password, and the VPC you want the directory to be attached to.

Q: Can I join an existing Amazon EC2 instance to an AWS Directory Service directory?

Yes, you can use the AWS Management Console or the API to add existing EC2 instances running Linux or Windows to a Microsoft AD.

Q: Are APIs supported for AWS Directory Service?

Public APIs are supported for creating and managing directories. You can now programmatically manage directories using public APIs. The APIs are available via the AWS CLI and SDK. Learn more about the APIs in the AWS Directory Service documentation.

Q: Does AWS Directory Service support CloudTrail logging?

Yes. Actions performed via the AWS Directory Service APIs or management console will be included in your CloudTrail audit logs.

Q: Can I receive notifications when the status of my directory changes?

Yes. You can configure Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS) to receive email and text messages when the status of your AWS Directory Service changes. Amazon SNS uses topics to collect and distribute messages to subscribers. When AWS Directory Service detects a change in your directory’s status, it will publish a message to the associated topic, which is then sent to topic subscribers. Visit the documentation to learn more.

Q: How much does AWS Directory Service cost?

Please see our pricing page for more information.

Q. Can I tag my directory?

Yes. AWS Directory Service supports cost allocation tagging. Tags make it easier for you to allocate costs and optimize spending by categorizing and grouping AWS resources. For example, you can use tags to group resources by administrator, application name, cost center, or a specific project. 

Q. In which AWS regions is AWS Directory Service available?

Please refer to Regional Products and Services for details of AWS Directory Service availability by region

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Q: How do I create a Microsoft AD directory?

You can launch the AWS Directory Service console from the AWS Management Console to create a Microsoft AD directory. Alternatively, you can use the AWS SDK or AWS CLI.

Q: How are Microsoft AD directories deployed?

Microsoft AD directories are deployed across two Availability Zones in a region by default and connected to your Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC). Backups are automatically taken once per day, and the Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes are encrypted to ensure that data is secured at rest. Domain controllers that fail are automatically replaced in the same Availability Zone using the same IP address, and a full disaster recovery can be performed using the latest backup.

Q: How many users, groups, computers, and total objects does Microsoft AD support?

Microsoft AD currently supports up to 50,000 users or approximately 200,000 objects, including user, groups, and computers.

Q: Can I configure the storage, CPU, or memory parameters of my Microsoft AD directory?

No. This functionality is not supported at this time.

Q: How do I manage users and groups for Microsoft AD?

You can use your existing Active Directory tools—running on Windows computers that are joined to the Microsoft AD domain—to manage users and groups in Microsoft AD directories. No special tools, policies, or behavior changes are required.

Q. How are my administrative permissions different between Microsoft AD and running Active Directory in my own Amazon EC2 Windows instances?

In order to deliver a managed-service experience, Microsoft AD must disallow operations by customers that would interfere with managing the service. Therefore, AWS does not provide Windows PowerShell access to directory instances, and it restricts access to directory objects, roles, and groups that require elevated privileges. Microsoft AD does not allow direct host access to domain controllers via Telnet, Secure Shell (SSH), or Windows Remote Desktop Connection. When you create a Microsoft AD directory, you are assigned an organizational unit (OU) and an administrative account with delegated administrative rights for the OU. You can create user accounts, groups, and policies within the OU by using standard Remote Server Administration Tools such as Active Directory Users and Groups.

Q: Can I use Microsoft Network Policy Server (NPS) with Microsoft AD?

Yes. The administrative account created for you when Microsoft AD is set up has delegated management rights over the Remote Access Service (RAS) and Internet Authentication Service (IAS) security group. This enables you to register NPS with Microsoft AD and manage network access policies for accounts in your domain.

Q: Does Microsoft AD support schema extensions?

Yes. Microsoft AD supports schema extensions that you submit to the service in the form of a LDAP Data Interchange Format (LDIF) file. You may extend but not modify the core Active Directory schema.

Q: Which applications are supported on Microsoft AD?

Microsoft AD supports a broad range of Active Directory–aware applications such as .NET applications, providing the application does not require elevated permissions that could interfere with managing the service. AWS regularly evaluates requests to support applications and enables the applications based on customer demand and security evaluations, as we have done with Microsoft Network Policy Server. Applications that require access to containers or security groups outside of the customer’s delegated OU or that require creation of managed service accounts are currently unsupported. Examples include more advanced services such as Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and Microsoft Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS). You should consider configuring and using Active Directory on EC2 instances for unsupported applications. To learn more, see AWS Quick Starts.

Q: Does Microsoft AD integrate with existing AWS Enterprise IT applications and services?

Yes, Microsoft AD integrates seamlessly with AWS Enterprise IT applications and services including Amazon WorkSpaces, Amazon WorkDocs, Amazon WorkMail, and the AWS Management Console to allow access to all AWS services. For example, users in Microsoft AD can be mapped to AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) roles and gain a single sign-on (SSO) experience when signing in to the AWS Management Console, without the complexity of setting up SAML assertions.

Q: Can I migrate my existing, on-premises Microsoft Active Directory to Microsoft AD?

AWS does not provide any migration tools to migrate a self-managed Active Directory to Microsoft AD. You must establish a strategy for performing migration including password resets, and implement the plans using Remote Server Administration Tools.

Q: Can I configure conditional forwarders and trusts in the Directory Service console?

Yes. You can configure conditional forwarders and trusts for Microsoft AD using the Directory Service console as well as the API.

Q: Can I add additional domain controllers manually to my  Microsoft AD?

No. Microsoft AD is preconfigured with 2 domain controllers in separate availability zones. It is not possible to add domain controllers to the directory.


Q: What is seamless domain join?

Seamless domain join is a feature that allows you to join your Amazon EC2 for Windows Server instances seamlessly to a domain, at the time of launch and from the AWS Management Console. You can join instances to Microsoft AD that you launch in the AWS Cloud.

Q: How do I join an instance seamlessly to a domain?

When you create and launch an EC2 for Windows instance from the AWS Management Console, you have the option to select which domain your instance will join. To learn more, see the documentation.

Q: Can I join existing EC2 for Windows Server instances seamlessly to a domain?

You cannot use the seamless domain join feature from the AWS Management Console for existing EC2 for Windows Server instances, but you can join existing instances to a domain using the EC2 API or by using PowerShell on the instance. To learn more, see the documentation.


Q: How does AWS Directory Service enable single sign-on (SSO) to the AWS Management Console?

AWS Directory Service allows you to assign IAM roles to Microsoft AD or Simple AD users and groups in the AWS cloud, as well as an existing, on-premises Microsoft Active Directory users and groups using AD Connector. These roles will control users’ access to AWS services based on IAM policies assigned to the roles. AWS Directory Service will provide a customer-specific URL for the AWS Management Console which users can use to sign in with their existing corporate credentials. Please see our documentation for more information on this feature.


For questions about AD Connector or Simple AD, please see AWS Directory Service, Other Directory Options.