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Making life with AWS IAM Identity Center (formerly AWS SSO) a little easier

IAM Identity Center (formerly AWS SSO) has some rough edges, and aws-sso-util is here to smooth them out, hopefully temporarily until AWS makes it better.

You can read a primer on IAM Identity Center here. Note that because it was originally called AWS SSO, field names in configuration and APIs will continue to have "SSO" in them, rather than Identity Center.

aws-sso-util contains utilities for the following:

  • Configuring .aws/config
  • Logging in/out
  • AWS SDK support
  • Looking up identifiers
  • CloudFormation

aws-sso-util supersedes aws-sso-credential-process, which is still available in its original form here. Read the updated docs for aws-sso-util credential-process here.

Programmatic interaction with Identity Center

aws-sso-util provides command-line utilities. The underlying Python library for Identity Center authentication is aws-sso-lib, which has useful functions like interactive login, creating a boto3 session for specific a account and role, and the programmatic versions of the lookup functions in aws-sso-util. See the documentation here.


  1. It's a good idea to install the AWS CLI v2 (which has Identity Center support).

  2. I recommend you install pipx, which installs the tool in an isolated virtualenv while linking the script you need.

Mac and Linux:

brew install pipx
pipx ensurepath


python3 -m pip install --user pipx
python3 -m pipx ensurepath
  1. Install
pipx install aws-sso-util
  1. Learn
aws-sso-util --help
  1. Autocomplete

aws-sso-util uses click, which supports autocompletion. The details of enabling shell completion with click vary by shell (instructions here), but here is an example for .bashrc that updates the completion script in the background.

if which aws-sso-util > /dev/null; then
  ({ _AWS_SSO_UTIL_COMPLETE=source_bash aws-sso-util > $_AWS_SSO_UTIL_COMPLETE_SCRIPT.tmp ;
  if [ -f $_AWS_SSO_UTIL_COMPLETE_SCRIPT ]; then

Configuring .aws/config

Read the full docs for aws-sso-util configure and aws-sso-util roles here.

The AWS CLI and most AWS SDKs support Identity Center configuration in ~/.aws/config; each profile specifies the account and role (the Identity Center role, also known as a Permission Set, which is distinct from the corresponding IAM role within the given account) to use. A profile configured for Identity Center looks like this:

[profile my-sso-profile]
sso_start_url =
sso_region = us-east-1 # the region Identity Center is configured in
sso_account_id = 123456789012
sso_role_name = MyRoleName
region = us-east-2 # the region to use for AWS API calls

You can view the roles you have available to you with aws-sso-util roles, which you can use to configure your profiles in ~/.aws/config, or you can use aws configure sso in the AWS CLI v2, but aws-sso-util also provides functionality to directly configure profiles for you.

aws-sso-util configure has two subcommands, aws-sso-util configure profile for configuring a single profile, and aws-sso-util configure populate to add all your permissions as profiles, in whatever region(s) you want (with highly configurable profile names).

You probably want to set the environment variables AWS_DEFAULT_SSO_START_URL and AWS_DEFAULT_SSO_REGION, which will inform these commands of your Identity Center start url and region (that is, the region that you've configured Identity Center in), so that you don't have to pass them in as parameters every time.

aws-sso-util configure profile takes a profile name and prompts you with the accounts and roles you have access to, to configure that profile.

aws-sso-util configure populate takes one or more regions, and generates a profile for each account+role+region combination. The profile names are completely customizable.

Logging in and out

Read the full docs for aws-sso-util login and aws-sso-util logout here.

A problem with aws sso login is that it's required to operate on a profile, that is, you have to tell it to log in to Identity Center plus some account and role. But the whole point of Identity Center is that you log in once for many accounts and roles. You could have a particular account and role set up in your default profile, but I prefer not to have a default profile so that I'm always explicitly selecting a profile and never accidentally end up in the default by mistake. aws-sso-util login solves this problem by letting you just log in without having to think about where you'll be using those credentials.

Running one-off commands as a specific account and role

Read the full docs for aws-sso-util run-as here.

In general, in the Identity Center world, you shouldn't be trying to manually set credentials in an environment, nor thinking about "logging in" to a particular account and role. You log in to Identity Center once, and then use accounts and roles with that session. You should orient yourself around configuration profiles—use aws-sso-util configure populate to set up profiles for every account and role you have access to, and then use either the --profile argument to tell a command to use a specific profile, or set the AWS_PROFILE environment variable to have all commands your shell use a particular profile unless they are told otherwise (here's a shell function to help manage that env var).

However, there are times when it's useful to be able to run a command as a specific account and role, without needing a profile configured for it—or without knowing the profile name corresponding to the account and role. For this purpose, there's aws-sso-util run-as. Think of it as the shell equivalent to aws_sso_lib.get_boto3_session().

Opening the AWS console in a browser

⚠️ This feature is in beta and is subject to change without a compatibility version bump.

Read the full docs for aws-sso-util console here.

You can open the AWS console in the browser for a given account and role with aws-sso-util console, including going to a specific page in the console. This uses the federated sign-in process. It also allows for the launch configuration to be packaged up as a token, which makes it easier to share between users.

Debugging issues

Read the full docs for aws-sso-util check here.

aws-sso-util check helps diagnose configuration and access issues. It can be used to help administrators debug user issues, or as validation in shell scripting. It validates that aws-sso-util can find an Identity Center instance configuration, and additionally whether the user has access to a particular account and/or role.

Adding Identity Center support to AWS SDKs

The credential process is added automatically (by default) by the aws-sso-util configure commands; you only need to read this section if you're not using that or want to understand it more fully. Read the full docs for aws-sso-util credential-process here.

Not all AWS SDKs have support for Identity Center (which will change eventually). However, they all have support for credential_process, which allows an external process to provide credentials. aws-sso-util credential-process uses this to allow these SDKs to get credentials from Identity Center.

NOTE: if you test it out with your favorite script or application and get something like NoCredentialProviders: no valid providers in chain., you may need to set the environment variable AWS_SDK_LOAD_CONFIG=1

Administrators: Looking up identifiers and assignments

Read the full docs for aws-sso-util admin lookup and aws-sso-util admin assignments here.

When you're creating assignments through the API or CloudFormation, you're required to use identifiers like the instance ARN, the principal ID, etc. These identifiers aren't readily available through the console, and the principal IDs are not the IDs you're familiar with. aws-sso-util admin lookup allows you to get these identifers, even en masse.

There is no simple API for retrieving all assignments or even a decent subset. The current best you can do is list all the users with a particular PermissionSet on a particular account. aws-sso-util admin assignments takes the effort out of looping over the necessary APIs.

Administrators: CloudFormation support

You'll want to read the full docs here.

Identity Center's CloudFormation support currently only includes AWS::SSO::Assignment, which means for every combination of principal (group or user), permission set, and target (AWS account), you need a separate CloudFormation resource. Additionally, Identity Center does not support OUs as targets, so you need to specify every account separately.

Obviously, this gets verbose, and even an organization of moderate size is likely to have tens of thousands of assignments. aws-sso-util admin cfn provides two mechanisms to make this concise.

I look forward to discarding this part of the tool once there are two prerequisites:

  1. OUs as targets for assignments
  2. An AWS::SSO::AssignmentGroup resource that allows specifications of multiple principals, permission sets, and targets, and performs the combinatorics directly.

CloudFormation Macro

aws-sso-util defines a resource format for an AssignmentGroup that is a combination of multiple principals, permission sets, and targets, and provides a CloudFormation Macro you can deploy that lets you use this resource in your templates.

Client-side generation

I am against client-side generation of CloudFormation templates, but if you don't want to trust this 3rd party macro, you can generate the CloudFormation templates directly.

aws-sso-util admin cfn takes one or more input files, and for each input file, generates a CloudFormation template and potentially one or more child templates. These templates can then be packaged and uploaded using aws cloudformation package or the SAM CLI, for example.

The input files can either be templates using the Macro (using the --macro flag), or somewhat simpler configuration files using a different syntax. These configuration files can define permission sets inline, have references that turn into template parameters, and you can provide a base template that the resulting resources are layered on top of.