Multiple AWS Account Management using AWS Organizations

As businesses expand their footprint on AWS and utilize more services to build and deploy their applications, it becomes apparent that multiple AWS accounts are required to manage the environment and infrastructure.  

A multi-account strategy is beneficial for a number of reasons as your organization scales.  Some examples of why people use multi-account strategies include:

  • Cost optimization and billing
  • Security and governance
  • Controlling workloads
  • Resource grouping
  • Defining business units

As you begin to expand with multiple accounts, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage them as separate entities.  The more accounts you have, the more distributed your environment becomes and the associated risks multiply.

AWS Organizations provides a means of centrally managing and categorizing multiple AWS accounts that you own.  This helps maintain your AWS environment from a security, compliance, and account management perspective.

To understand how AWS organizations works to simplify things, we first need to be aware of the hierarchy of service’s components.

AWS Organizations Components

AWS Organizations uses the following components:

  • Organizations
  • Root
  • Organizational Units
  • Accounts
  • Service Control Policies

Organizations

An Organization is an element that serves to form a hierarchical structure of multiple AWS accounts.  You could think of it as a family tree which provides a graphical view of your entire AWS account structure.  At the very top of this Organization, there will be a Root container.

Root

The Root object is simply a container that resides at the top of your Organization. All of your AWS accounts and Organizational units will sit underneath this Root.  Within any Organization, there will only be one single Root object.

Organizational Units

Organizational Units (OUs) provide a means of categorizing your AWS Accounts. Again, like the Root, these are simply containers that allow you to group together specific AWS accounts.  An OU can connect directly below the Root or even below another OU (which can be nested up to 5 times). This allows you to create a hierarchical structure as I mentioned previously.  

Accounts

These are simply your AWS accounts that you use and create to be able to configure and provision AWS resources.  Each AWS account has a 12 digit account number. 

A logical graphical view of the Root, Organizational Units and AWS Accounts
A logical graphical view of the Root, Organizational Units and AWS Accounts

Service Control Policies

Service control policies (SCPs) allow you to control what services and features are accessible from within an AWS account.  These SCPs can either be associated with the Root, Organizational Units, or individual accounts. When an SCP is applied to any of these objects, its associated controls are fed down to all child objects. Think of it as a permission boundary that sets the maximum permission level for the objects that it is applied to.

SCPs are different from both identity-based and resource-based policies as they grant permissions to users, groups, and roles. However, SCPs do not actually grant permissions themselves. Restrictions made within an SCP set a boundary of permissions within an AWS account.  For example, let’s say a user within an AWS account had full access to S3, RDS, and EC2 via an identity-based policy. If the SCP associated with that AWS account denied access to the S3 service, then that user would only be able to access RDS and EC2, despite having full access to S3. The SCP would serve to prevent that service from being used within the AWS account.

How to set up AWS Organizations

Setting up an Organization is a very simple process that starts from a master AWS account.  This is just a standard AWS account that you have chosen to create the AWS Organization. It’s best practice to use this AWS account solely as a master account, and not to use it to provision resources such as EC2 instances.  This allows you to restrict access to the master account at a greater level. Due to its ability to manage and control other AWS accounts, the fewer users who need to access it, the better.

Once you have selected your AWS account to be used as a master account, you can create an AWS Organization.  From here, you have two choices for an organization type:

  1. Enable all features
  2. Enable only consolidated billing

If you want to set up the types of Service Control Policies like those mentioned above, you will need to select ‘Enable all features’.  The second option allows you to control payment and manage costs centrally from that master account across all associated AWS accounts within the Organization.

When the Organization is created, the master account can create Organizational Units for AWS account management as required.  The master account can also invite other ‘member’ AWS accounts to join the Organization. The account owner of these invited AWS accounts will then receive an email requesting that their AWS account join the Organization.  

Once the accounts have joined the Organization, the master account can then move these accounts into the corresponding OUs that have been created and associate relevant SCPs with them.

Key Benefits and features of AWS Organizations

Now we have an understanding of what AWS Organizations is exactly, what benefits can this bring to your AWS environment?

Account Management

The primary benefit that this service brings is its ability to centrally manage multiple Accounts from a single AWS account, known as the master account.  You can start today by joining your existing accounts to an Organization and on a move-forward basis, by creating new accounts directly from the service.

Greater control of your AWS environment

Through the use of Service Control Policies attached to the Root, Organizational Units or individual accounts, administrators of the master account gain powerful control over which services and features—even down to specific API calls—that an IAM user within those accounts can use, regardless of the user’s identity-based or resource-based permissions.

Consolidated Billing

The master account of your AWS Organization can be used to consolidate the billing and costs from all member AWS accounts. This allows for greater overall cost management across your individual AWS accounts.

Categorization and grouping of accounts

By leveraging Organizational Units, you can segregate and group specific AWS accounts together, applying different SCPs to associated to each OU.  For example, you may have a number of AWS accounts who must not have the ability to access any Analytical services. In this case, you could place these accounts into a single OU and assign an SCP that denies this functionality.

If you enjoyed this blog post you can learn more about Security and Governance in this dedicated Learning Path.

Avatar

Written by

Stuart Scott

Stuart is the AWS content lead at Cloud Academy where he has created over 40 courses reaching tens of thousands of students. His content focuses heavily on cloud security and compliance, specifically on how to implement and configure AWS services to protect, monitor and secure customer data and their AWS environment.


Related Posts

Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— January 6, 2020

New on Cloud Academy: Red Hat, Agile, OWASP Labs, Amazon SageMaker Lab, Linux Command Line Lab, SQL, Git Labs, Scrum Master, Azure Architects Lab, and Much More

Happy New Year! We hope you're ready to kick your training in overdrive in 2020 because we have a ton of new content for you. Not only do we have a bunch of new courses, hands-on labs, and lab challenges on AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, but we also have three new courses on Red Hat, th...

Read more
  • agile
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Linux
  • OWASP
  • programming
  • red hat
  • scrum
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— December 24, 2019

Cloud Academy’s Blog Digest: Azure Best Practices, 6 Reasons You Should Get AWS Certified, Google Cloud Certification Prep, and more

Happy Holidays from Cloud Academy We hope you have a wonderful holiday season filled with family, friends, and plenty of food. Here at Cloud Academy, we are thankful for our amazing customer like you.  Since this time of year can be stressful, we’re sharing a few of our latest article...

Read more
  • AWS
  • azure best practices
  • blog digest
  • Cloud Academy
  • Google Cloud
Avatar
Guy Hummel
— December 12, 2019

Google Cloud Platform Certification: Preparation and Prerequisites

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) has evolved from being a niche player to a serious competitor to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. In 2019, research firm Gartner placed Google in the Leaders quadrant in its Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service for the second consecuti...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— December 10, 2019

New Lab Challenges: Push Your Skills to the Next Level

Build hands-on experience using real accounts on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and more Meaningful cloud skills require more than book knowledge. Hands-on experience is required to translate knowledge into real-world results. We see this time and time again in studies about how pe...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud
  • hands-on
  • labs
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— December 5, 2019

New on Cloud Academy: AWS Solution Architect Lab Challenge, Azure Hands-on Labs, Foundation Certificate in Cyber Security, and Much More

Now that Thanksgiving is over and the craziness of Black Friday has died down, it's now time for the busiest season of the year. Whether you're a last-minute shopper or you already have your shopping done, the holidays bring so much more excitement than any other time of year. Since our...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS solution architect
  • AZ-203
  • Azure
  • cyber security
  • FCCS
  • Foundation Certificate in Cyber Security
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Kubernetes
Avatar
Cloud Academy Team
— December 4, 2019

Understanding Enterprise Cloud Migration

What is enterprise cloud migration? Cloud migration is about moving your data, applications, and even infrastructure from your on-premises computers or infrastructure to a virtual pool of on-demand, shared resources that offer compute, storage, and network services at scale. Why d...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Data Migration
Wendy Dessler
Wendy Dessler
— November 27, 2019

6 Reasons Why You Should Get an AWS Certification This Year

In the past decade, the rise of cloud computing has been undeniable. Businesses of all sizes are moving their infrastructure and applications to the cloud. This is partly because the cloud allows businesses and their employees to access important information from just about anywhere. ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Certifications
  • certified
Avatar
Andrea Colangelo
— November 26, 2019

AWS Regions and Availability Zones: The Simplest Explanation You Will Ever Find Around

The basics of AWS Regions and Availability Zones We’re going to treat this article as a sort of AWS 101 — it’ll be a quick primer on AWS Regions and Availability Zones that will be useful for understanding the basics of how AWS infrastructure is organized. We’ll define each section,...

Read more
  • AWS
Avatar
Dzenan Dzevlan
— November 20, 2019

Application Load Balancer vs. Classic Load Balancer

What is an Elastic Load Balancer? This post covers basics of what an Elastic Load Balancer is, and two of its examples: Application Load Balancers and Classic Load Balancers. For additional information — including a comparison that explains Network Load Balancers — check out our post o...

Read more
  • ALB
  • Application Load Balancer
  • AWS
  • Elastic Load Balancer
  • ELB
Albert Qian
Albert Qian
— November 13, 2019

Advantages and Disadvantages of Microservices Architecture

What are microservices? Let's start our discussion by setting a foundation of what microservices are. Microservices are a way of breaking large software projects into loosely coupled modules, which communicate with each other through simple Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Docker
  • Kubernetes
  • Microservices
Nisar Ahmad
Nisar Ahmad
— November 12, 2019

Kubernetes Services: AWS vs. Azure vs. Google Cloud

Kubernetes is a popular open-source container orchestration platform that allows us to deploy and manage multi-container applications at scale. Businesses are rapidly adopting this revolutionary technology to modernize their applications. Cloud service providers — such as Amazon Web Ser...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud
  • Kubernetes
Avatar
Stuart Scott
— October 31, 2019

AWS Internet of Things (IoT): The 3 Services You Need to Know

The Internet of Things (IoT) embeds technology into any physical thing to enable never-before-seen levels of connectivity. IoT is revolutionizing industries and creating many new market opportunities. Cloud services play an important role in enabling deployment of IoT solutions that min...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS IoT Events
  • AWS IoT SiteWise
  • AWS IoT Things Graph
  • IoT