AWS IAM vs. AWS IAM Identity Center: Choosing the Right Service

AWS (Amazon Web Services) stands as the dominant force in the cloud computing landscape, with a significant market share of the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) industry. For organizations navigating user permissions, account access, and resource management within AWS, two primary services are available: AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) and AWS IAM Identity Center.

Overview of AWS IAM and AWS IAM Identity Center:

Both AWS IAM and AWS IAM Identity Center serve as access management solutions within the AWS ecosystem. They offer similar functionalities, such as overseeing access to resources and enabling centralized management through external identity providers (IdPs). However, they differ in their scope and capabilities, catering to distinct use cases within organizations.

Understanding AWS Terminology:

Before delving into the comparison between AWS IAM and AWS IAM Identity Center, it’s essential to clarify key AWS terminology. This includes defining concepts such as permission sets, which determine the level of access a user has to AWS resources within an AWS account.

Exploring AWS IAM:

AWS IAM enables administrators to manage access to AWS services and resources securely. It allows for the creation and management of IAM users and groups, along with the assignment of permissions to control access to AWS resources. Additionally, administrators can create roles to manage access for other entities, ensuring granular control over resource access.

Introducing AWS IAM Identity Center:

AWS IAM Identity Center extends access management capabilities beyond individual AWS accounts to encompass an entire AWS Organization. It offers centralized management of access for all AWS accounts within the organization, as well as access to other cloud applications, such as Salesforce. With a user portal, AWS IAM Identity Center provides end users with a unified interface to access their assigned AWS accounts and other cloud applications.

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Comparing AWS IAM and AWS IAM Identity Center:

To illustrate the differences between AWS IAM and AWS IAM Identity Center, consider a scenario where an administrator, Bob, must decide between the two services to manage access to AWS resources for a group of engineers accessing multiple AWS accounts.

Adding Accounts: When adding new AWS accounts, AWS IAM requires administrators to create accounts individually through the signup process. In contrast, AWS IAM Identity Center allows administrators to add new accounts centrally through the AWS Organizations service.

Configuring Identity Providers: For organizations using external identity providers, such as JumpCloud, AWS IAM supports multiple identity providers per account. Administrators must configure each AWS account individually. However, AWS IAM Identity Center only supports a single identity provider, simplifying the configuration process by applying it organization-wide.

Defining Permissions and Roles: In AWS IAM, administrators must define permissions and roles for each AWS account separately, either by creating roles or policies within each account. In contrast, AWS IAM Identity Center offers centralized policy management at the organization level, allowing administrators to define policies and permission sets applied to groups or users across multiple accounts.

User and Group Provisioning: While AWS IAM relies on federated users and does not require the creation of users or groups, AWS IAM Identity Center offers seamless integration with identity providers for automated user provisioning. Administrators can configure SCIM integration to automate user creation within AWS IAM Identity Center.

Assigning Access: Roles are assigned differently in AWS IAM and AWS IAM Identity Center. In AWS IAM, roles are assigned to federated users through SAML assertions, requiring manual configuration for each role and account. AWS IAM Identity Center simplifies role assignment by enabling group-based access control, where permissions are inherited by users within the group.

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Decision Making:

After evaluating the differences between AWS IAM and AWS IAM Identity Center, Bob decides to choose AWS IAM Identity Center for managing access to AWS resources. The centralized management and streamlined user provisioning offered by AWS IAM Identity Center align with TechVerse’s requirements for managing multiple AWS accounts efficiently.

Leveraging JumpCloud Integration:

To further streamline access management, TechVerse leverages JumpCloud’s integration with AWS IAM and AWS IAM Identity Center. By declaring JumpCloud as the identity provider, administrators can manage users and groups seamlessly across both AWS services, simplifying user provisioning and access control.


In conclusion, the choice between AWS IAM and AWS IAM Identity Center depends on the organization’s specific requirements and use cases. While AWS IAM provides granular control over access within individual AWS accounts, AWS IAM Identity Center offers centralized management for organizations managing multiple AWS accounts. By understanding the distinctions between these services and leveraging integration solutions like JumpCloud, organizations can optimize access management and security within their AWS environments.

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