Hands on with EKS Pod Identity


Recently AWS released EKS Pod Identity which simplifies how cluster administrators can configure Kubernetes applications to obtain AWS IAM permissions. With Pod Identity you can assign an IAM role to a K8s service account using the new AWS API create-pod-identity-association and the EKS pod identity agent. When a pod starts with the associated service account, the identity agent will inject credentials so the pod can call AWS services.

Here we will create a simple demo allowing a pod to access S3 using EKS Pod Identity. Let’s get started!

EKS Pod Identity Restrictions

  • Since we will be using new APIs, you will need to update aws-cli to the latest version.
  • These are the compatible EKS Pod Identity cluster versions.
  • Worker nodes in the cluster have to be Linux Amazon EC2 instances. Fargate and pods that run on Windows Amazon EC2 instances aren’t supported.

Install an EKS Cluster

Install EKS using whatever method you choose. I am using GitOps Playground to quickly spin up an EKS cluster for testing and then tear it down when done. I will name the cluster my-cluster.

Create a Test S3 Bucket

Create a simple, non-public bucket. Here I’m using the name lets-test-aws-pod-identity, but since bucket names must be unique, you’ll need to pick something else. Upload a text file to the root directory called test.txt.

Create Pod IAM Role

Create a new role called pod-idenity-s3-example with the new trust principal pods.eks.amazonaws.com:

    "Version": "2012-10-17",
    "Statement": [
            "Effect": "Allow",
            "Principal": {
                "Service": "pods.eks.amazonaws.com"
            "Action": [

Attach an inline policy for read-only access to our bucket:

    "Version": "2012-10-17",
    "Statement": [
            "Action": "s3:GetObject",
            "Effect": "Allow",
            "Resource": "arn:aws:s3:::lets-test-aws-pod-identity/*",
            "Sid": "PodIdentity"

Install the EKS Pod Identity Agent

Use AWS create-addon to install the pod identity agent:

aws eks create-addon \
  --cluster-name my-cluster \
  --addon-name eks-pod-identity-agent \
  --addon-version v1.0.0-eksbuild.1

Once the addon is installed, you can see the new DaemonSet running in EKS:

$ kubectl get pods -l app.kubernetes.io/instance=eks-pod-identity-agent -n kube-system
NAME                           READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
eks-pod-identity-agent-k469t   1/1     Running   0          3h58m
eks-pod-identity-agent-lvw6h   1/1     Running   0          3h58m
eks-pod-identity-agent-pzjgl   1/1     Running   0          3h58m

Pod Identity Associations

Use the new AWS API create-pod-identity-association to attach our IAM role to an EKS service account and namespace:

aws eks create-pod-identity-association \
  --cluster-name my-cluster \
  --service-account pod-identity \
  --role-arn arn:aws:iam:::role/pod-idenity-s3-example \
  --namespace default

Now we are ready for testing!

Spin up a Test Pod

Create a pod with the service account pod-identity that will not run anything so we can access the pod’s shell for testing:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
  name: pod-identity
    app: pod-identity
  replicas: 1
      app: pod-identity
        app: pod-identity
      serviceAccountName: pod-identity
      - name: pod-identity
        image: makoreactor/debug:latest
apiVersion: v1
kind: ServiceAccount
  name: pod-identity
    app: pod-identity

Once the test pod spawns, let’s jump into it using kubectl exec:

$ kubectl get pods
NAME                            READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
pod-identity-6798cdbd9d-drswx   1/1     Running   0          39s

$ kubectl exec -ti pod-identity-6798cdbd9d-drswx -- bash

The eks-pod-identity-agent injected environment variables and a volume containing a service token into our test pod:

$ env | sort


Here the aws-cli will contact using the token and grab the credentials to assume the IAM role. However the current version of aws-cli doesn’t support the new metadata endpoint, so we will have to do it ourselves for now.

$ SERVICE_TOKEN=`cat /var/run/secrets/pods.eks.amazonaws.com/serviceaccount/eks-pod-identity-token` 
$ curl -H "Authorization: $SERVICE_TOKEN" | jq .
  "AccessKeyId": "ASI...",
  "SecretAccessKey": "Kmfg...",
  "Token": "IQoJb3...",
  "AccountId": "111111111111111",
  "Expiration": "2023-12-01T03:41:43Z"

Now let’s export these credentials and check our caller-identity:

$ export AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY=Kmfg...
$ export AWS_SESSION_TOKEN="IQoJb3..."

$ aws sts get-caller-identity
  "UserId": "AROA24SMTVXLXTKHVJCJU:my-cluster-act-pod-identity-06feb0a1-a0f3-4555-b509-6f14f1b59d05",
  "Account": "111111111111111",
  "Arn": "arn:aws:sts::111111111111111:assumed-role/pod-identity-s3-example/my-cluster-act-pod-identity-053..."

Now we should be good to go testing S3 access! Let’s try and pull the test.txt file to our pod:

$ aws s3 cp s3://lets-test-aws-pod-idenity/test.txt .
download: s3://lets-test-aws-pod-idenity-j20a/test.txt to ./test.txt 

$ touch put.txt
$ aws s3 cp put.txt s3://lets-test-aws-pod-idenity-j20a/          
upload failed: ./put.txt to s3://lets-test-aws-pod-idenity-j20a/put.txt An error occurred (AccessDenied) when calling the PutObject operation: Access Denied

Our IAM role worked as intended; we can only pull objects from S3, but cannot put objects.


EKS Pod Identity makes it much easier for EKS administrators to manage IAM roles within their clusters using an easy, straightforward method. As AWS updates the addon agent, I’ll make updates to this blog.

Don’t forget to tear down any resources you created for testing.