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Integrating AWS SSO with Managed Active Directory: A Comprehensive Guide

Managing user access and permissions across multiple AWS accounts can be a challenging task, especially when dealing with a large number of users and groups. Additionally, having separate identities for AWS and Active Directory can create operational burdens. To address these challenges, integrating Microsoft Active Directory with AWS Single Sign-On (SSO) offers a seamless solution for centralized user management and navigation between accounts.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the concepts of Active Directory and AWS SSO (now known as AWS IAM Identity Center) and how they can be integrated to streamline user access and permissions across AWS accounts.

What is Active Directory?

Active Directory is a hierarchical directory service that stores information about objects on a network. It provides methods for storing and making directory data available to network users and administrators. Active Directory includes a set of rules called the schema, which defines object classes, attributes, and their constraints. It also includes a global catalog that contains information about every object in the directory, allowing users to find directory information regardless of the domain.

What is AWS SSO?

AWS SSO, now known as AWS IAM Identity Center, is a single sign-on service that enables users to access multiple applications or services using a single set of login credentials. With IAM Identity Center, you can create and manage user identities centrally across AWS accounts and applications. It supports various identity sources, including Microsoft Active Directory, Google Workspace, and Azure Active Directory.

Integrating Microsoft Active Directory with IAM Identity Center

To integrate Microsoft Active Directory with the IAM Identity Center, we need to follow a series of steps. Before we begin, there are a few prerequisites to consider:

  1. VPC with two subnets in different availability zones (AZ)
  2. VPC and firewall connectivity to the on-premises environment where the customer’s Active Directory resides
  3. VPC must have default hardware tenancy
  4. Service account with permission to read users and groups in Active Directory
  5. Active Directory user permissions to read their attributes

Let’s now go through the integration process step by step:

Step 1: Create an AD Connector

To establish the connection between Microsoft Active Directory and IAM Identity Center, we first need to create an AD Connector. Follow these steps:

  1. Navigate to the Directory Services page on the AWS console.
  2. Choose “Setup Directory.”
  3. Select “AD Connector” as the directory type and specify the AD connector size, VPC, and subnets.
  4. On the “Connect to AD” page, provide the DNS name, NetBIOS name, DNS IP address, and service account credentials.

Step 2: Set Up the IAM Identity Center

Once the AD Connector is in place, we can proceed with setting up the IAM Identity Center. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the IAM Identity Center console.
  2. Enable the service if it’s not already enabled.
  3. Choose the self-managed Active Directory created earlier as the identity source.
  4. Create an administrative permission set to define the level of access for administrators.
  5. Set up AWS account access for an IAM Identity Center administrative user.
  6. Sign in to the AWS access portal using the IAM Identity Center administrative user credentials.
  7. Create a permission set with least-privilege permissions for users.
  8. Synchronize users from the self-managed Active Directory to the IAM Identity Center.
  9. Assign the required permissions to the new users.

Benefits of Integrating AWS SSO with Managed Active Directory

Integrating AWS SSO with Managed Active Directory offers several benefits for end users and IT administrators:

  1. Centralized User Management: With the integration, users can use their existing corporate credentials to log in to AWS applications, reducing the need for separate identities.
  2. Streamlined Access and Permissions: IAM Identity Center allows for the central management of user access and permissions across multiple AWS accounts, reducing operational overhead.
  3. Consistent Security Policies: Existing security policies, such as password expiration and account lockouts, can be consistently enforced for both on-premises infrastructure and the AWS Cloud.


Integrating AWS SSO with Managed Active Directory provides a seamless solution for managing user access and permissions across AWS accounts. By leveraging the power of the IAM Identity Center and Microsoft Active Directory, organizations can simplify user management, enhance security, and streamline access to AWS applications. Follow the steps outlined in this guide to integrate these services and unlock the benefits of centralized user management in your AWS environment.

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