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Cloud Services / Operations / Security

Open Sourcing AWS Cedar Is a Game Changer for IAM

The launch of Cedar is a tectonic shift in the IAM space, making it clear that the problem of in-app permissions has grown too big to ignore.
Jun 12th, 2023 10:00am by
Featued image for: Open Sourcing AWS Cedar Is a Game Changer for IAM
Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay.

In today’s cloud native world, managing permissions and access control has become a critical challenge for many organizations. As applications and microservices become more distributed, it’s essential to ensure that only the right people and systems have access to the right resources.

However, managing this complexity can be difficult, especially as teams and organizations grow. That’s why the launch of Cedar, a new open source project from Amazon Web Services, is a tectonic shift in the identity and resource management (IAM) space, making it clear that the problem of in-app permissions has grown too big to ignore.

Traditionally, organizations have relied on access control lists (ACLs) and role-based access control (RBAC) to manage permissions. However, as the number of resources and users grows, it becomes difficult to manage and scale these policies. This is where policy as code emerges as a de facto standard. It enables developers to write policies as code, which can be versioned, tested and deployed like any other code. This approach is more scalable, flexible and auditable than traditional approaches.

The Advantages of Cedar

Aside from impressive performance, one of the most significant advantages of Cedar is its readability. The language is designed to be extremely readable, empowering even nontechnical stakeholders to read it (if not write it) for auditing purposes. This is critical in today’s world, where security and compliance are top priorities.

Cedar policies are written in a declarative language, which means they can be easily understood and audited. Cedar also offers features like policy testing and simulation, which make it easier to ensure that policies are enforced correctly.

Unlike some other policy languages, Cedar adheres to a more strict and structured syntax, which provides its aforementioned readability, emphasis on safety by default (i.e., deny by default), and more assurances on correctness/security thanks to verification-guided development.

Open Source Supporting Open Source

AWS has recognized the huge challenge that is application-level access control and strives to make Cedar easily consumed within its cloud via Amazon Verified Permissions (AVP). But what about on-premises deployments or other clouds? This is where other open source projects come into play.

With Cedar-Agent, developers can easily run Cedar as a standalone agent (just like Open Policy Agent) wherever they need it. And with OPAL, developers can manage Cedar-Agent at scale, from a unified event-driven control plane. OPAL makes sure that agents like OPA, AVP (Amazon Verified Permissions) and Cedar-Agent are loaded with the policy and data they need in real time.

Permit’s Unified Platform for Policy as Code

As developers, being polyglot and avoiding lock-in enables us to choose the right tool for the right job. With Permit’s SaaS platform, developers can choose between OPA’s Rego, AWS Cedar or any other tool as their policy engine of choice. And by leveraging Permit’s low code/no-code interfaces, RBAC and ABAC policy as code will be automatically generated so that users can take full advantage of policy as code without having to learn a new language.

Conclusion

The launch of AWS’ Cedar is a tectonic shift in the IAM space. It’s clear that the problem of in-app permissions has grown too big to ignore. Policy as code has emerged as a de facto standard, and tools like OPAL and Permit.io are making it easier for developers to write and manage policies at scale. Cedar’s readability and testing features make it an attractive choice for many organizations looking to manage permissions in a scalable, auditable and flexible way.

As the ecosystem continues to expand, we’ll likely see more tools and systems adopting policy as code as the preferred approach to managing permissions and access control in the cloud.

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