Chapter 8
12 min read

AWS Secrets Manager Alternatives: A Comprehensive Analysis

Learn how to select an alternative to AWS Secrets Manager, considering key business, operations, technology, risk, and compliance factors.

Jan 01, 2024
AWS Secrets Manager Alternatives: A Comprehensive Analysis

AWS Secrets Manager Alternatives: A Comprehensive Analysis

Selecting an alternative to AWS Secrets Manager involves considering various factors to ensure that the chosen solution can fully replace its capabilities while augmenting it to address shortcomings.

Open-source secrets management tools such as Square’s KeyWhiz, Lyft’s Confidant, Bitwarden’s Secrets Manager SDK, and Infiscal are meant for those ready to self-support, implement, extend, secure, scale, and maintain their own stacks.

SaaS platforms like Doppler offer a free-forever tier for the same basic functionality but additionally offer support services and advanced features missing in open-source alternatives.

This article offers a comprehensive insight into the factors that should be considered when selecting an alternative to AWS Secrets Manager. Our objective is to assist you in navigating key business, operations, technology, risk, and compliance considerations when comparing alternative options.

Summary of key considerations for selecting an AWS Secrets Manager alternative

Selecting an alternative to AWS Secrets Manager involves evaluating key factors to ensure that the choice complements AWS Secrets Manager while addressing gaps. The table below outlines key features, aiding readers in making an informed decision tailored to their specific needs. These points are explored in more detail in the sections that follow.

Native integration with AWS services

AWS Secrets Manager provides support for a broad spectrum of AWS services, such as ECS, EKS, RDS, Lambda, and CodeBuild. It is also intricately linked to AWS CloudFormation and AWS CDK, both of which play a role in facilitating IaC deployments. It is essential to verify that your chosen solution for managing secrets aligns with your current and future requirements for cloud-managed services.

Doppler goes above and beyond where AWS Secrets Manager leaves off by providing a central management platform for additional clouds, including GCP and Azure. In addition to cloud service providers, Dopper comes with integrations for many of the top platform-as-a-service providers, such as Heroku, Netlify, Vercel, Laravel Forge, and Render, to name just a few.

For those with requirements beyond Doppler’s vast native integrations, the Doppler platform offers the robust Doppler CLI. This command-line interface provides multiple methods for supplying secrets to your application. For more in-depth information, refer to our Secrets Access Guide.

Infrastructure as code integration

IaC streamlines the deployment and management of infrastructure through declarative configuration programming. When selecting a secrets manager, it’s vital to ensure compatibility with your organization’s chosen IAC languages. AWS Secrets Manager, for instance, seamlessly integrates with AWS CloudFormation, AWS CDK, and HashiCorp Terraform. The integration of a secrets manager with IaC language and processes is critical, as it guarantees a unified, secure, and compliant method for managing secrets across the infrastructure management lifecycle.

Multi-cloud, enterprise IT, and managed devices integration

Depending on your organization’s requirements, it may be important to consider seamless integration across multiple cloud platforms, enterprise IT services, and even managed devices.

Modern organizations often operate within multi-cloud or hybrid environments, utilizing services from clouds such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. An effective secrets management solution should seamlessly connect with a diverse set of cloud providers, enterprise IT infrastructure types, and even managed devices.

The platform’s adaptability to different cloud providers and Enterprise IT services provides the flexibility required for your organization’s future growth. This adaptability not only prevents vendor lock-in but also facilitates a smooth transition between different cloud service providers as needs change.

Security stands as a top priority in the management of secrets across cloud service providers. The chosen platform should employ robust encryption, access control, and auditing features to safeguard secrets from unauthorized access during storage, transmission, or utilization. Integration with enterprise key management (EKM) systems and adherence to industry-standard security best practices further enhance the platform’s ability to secure sensitive data.

Role-based access control (RBAC) for managing access to secrets

RBAC in a secrets manager restricts access to the retrieval and management of secrets, allowing only authorized users and services to perform these actions based on their roles or service requirements within an organization. In RBAC, permissions are linked to specific roles, and users are assigned to roles based on their responsibilities within the organization. For applications and services, their access to other resources or services is also determined by their assigned roles. This structured approach simplifies access management, offering a scalable method to control access to resources and perform defined actions within a system or application.

Audit logs to improve compliance and security

The use of audit logs in secrets management helps ensure the appropriate and secure use of sensitive information. By monitoring every interaction involving credentials, organizations can continue to ensure that access is restricted to authorized personnel and that secrets are utilized exclusively for their intended purposes. This not only aligns with compliance standards but also establishes a strong foundation for upholding the confidentiality and integrity of critical assets.

Audit logs serve as a valuable tool for supporting compliance programs by acting as comprehensive documentation. They serve as evidence of adherence to security policies, regulatory requirements, and industry standards. This documentation streamlines the audit process and fosters confidence among stakeholders, customers, and regulatory bodies, demonstrating that the organization is actively managing and safeguarding its sensitive information.

Scalability and performance

As organizations grow, the need for secret management services also increases. Scalability guarantees the efficient handling of the rising volume of secrets and requests, enabling the dynamic adjustment of resources according to demand. Nevertheless, scalability must be paired with strong performance to uphold quick response times, especially during periods of heightened usage. Sluggish responses when injecting secrets into code may result in application downtime, performance challenges, or security vulnerabilities.

Compliance certifications

Choosing a provider with compliance certifications is a critical consideration for organizations seeking reliable and secure solutions for their operations. Compliance certifications, such as SOC 2 and other industry-specific standards, serve as indicators that a service provider adheres to rigorous security and operational controls.

Embedded key rotation and key escrow functionality

Key rotation and escrow activities involve regularly updating cryptographic keys to prevent compromises and maintain the security of sensitive data. Automated key rotation is crucial for maintaining service availability, especially since manual rotations can introduce errors and lead to downtime. Key escrow, acting as a secure backup with access control, serves as a safety net in situations like key loss or hardware failure.

Key recovery from escrow is essential for the recovery of data encrypted under a key that was rotated before retrieval. Challenges in key escrow include selecting a trustworthy service to prevent unauthorized access and carefully managing key escrow information. Automation streamlines the process by synchronizing with the escrow service and conducting regular tests to ensure key accessibility.

Secret management by project

Organizing and managing secrets by project, application, or workload minimizes the impact of security incidents. Containing breaches within specific project boundaries reduces the risk of widespread compromises across the entire infrastructure. Note that AWS does not natively support secret management by project.

With AWS Secrets Manager, secrets permissions are managed by the creation of individual, bespoke AWS identity and access management (IAM) policies. These policies define the necessary “Secrets Manager actions” and are then associated with user groups or roles. Consequently, these roles or user groups are linked to an application service account, instance profile, or specific users. Due to the nature of how AWS Secrets manager controls access to secrets, teams need to have some experience with AWS IAM permissions, policies, and conditions. As AWS IAM is specific to AWS, bespoke policies must be created for each cloud.

Doppler’s support for secrets management by project provides a centralized, consistent approach to securing access to collections of secrets. Secrets grouped by project limit the impact radius of a breach on an individual secret or application. Doppler allows for secret management by project regardless of the cloud provider or Enterprise IT component.

Cross-platform and multiple-language support‍

It’s important to consider cross-platform support because the same tooling should be used to manage secrets across different types of infrastructure, such as virtual machines, containers, and serverless functions. This makes it easier to maintain consistency in how secrets are managed across your entire organization, regardless of where they are used.

Multiple language support is also important for cloud secrets management. Many organizations use a variety of programming languages to build their applications, and each language may have its own unique way of handling sensitive data. By supporting multiple languages, a cloud secrets management solution can help ensure that all your applications securely manage their secrets regardless of the language they were written in.

Enterprise key management (EKM)

Enterprise key management (EKM) is a process for managing and securing the cryptographic keys used to protect sensitive data stored in the cloud. EKM allows organizations to retain ownership and control over their encryption keys, ensuring that only authorized personnel have access to them. This helps prevent unauthorized access to confidential information and ensures compliance with regulatory requirements related to data security. With EKM, organizations can manage key lifecycles in a centralized manner, including creation, distribution, revocation, and archiving, thus reducing the risk of errors or misconfigurations that could compromise the security of their cloud-based systems.

Service tokens

Service tokens are a type of secret used to authenticate and authorize access to cloud services. Grouping service tokens by application, service, or workload lets you easily see which tokens are associated with each specific service and manage them accordingly. This can help ensure that only authorized applications, services, and users have access to sensitive data and resources.

For example, if your organization has multiple applications that require access to the same database, you might group the corresponding database credentials together in a single secret. This allows you to easily manage these credentials as a group alongside the service tokens associated with that application rather than having to update them individually for each application.

Overall, the key is to find a system that works well for your organization and helps you effectively manage cloud secrets. By grouping secrets by service or use case, you can make it easier to identify which secrets are associated with specific applications or processes, making it easier to manage and update them as needed.

Single source of truth

Establishing a single source of truth for secrets in the cloud enables organizations to enhance their security posture, streamline operations, and promote consistency in secrets management practices and compliance with regulations across diverse teams, cloud providers, and technology stacks. This centralized approach to managing secrets contributes to an overall reduction of risk and promotes more efficient and secure cloud infrastructure.

Final thoughts on AWS Secrets Manager alternatives

The choice between open-source tools and expertly managed services depends on factors such as return on investment (ROI), technical proficiency, and organizational needs. While open-source solutions provide flexibility, hosted secrets management services stand out for their user-friendliness, scalability, support, and ecosystem of integrated features.

Doppler serves as a robust alternative to AWS Secrets Manager, providing a comprehensive solution for managing secrets in the cloud. Its native integrations, centralized management, and commitment to security best practices make it a valuable option for organizations seeking an efficient and secure approach to secrets management within the cloud ecosystem and across your organization. This applies regardless of hosting provider, technology stack, languages, frameworks, and organizational culture. Sign up for a free-forever account to evaluate it for yourself.