Moving between AWS accounts

There isn’t usually much to do in your Substrate account. Instead, you’ll be assuming roles in other accounts where your real work happens. There are three ways this happens:

substrate assume-role

Ad-hoc movement throughout your organization is made easy by the substrate assume-role command. It understands the layout and can convert domains, environments, and qualities into the appropriate AWS account numbers for you.

To get temporary credentials in your example development default account (once you’ve created such an account), you’d run substrate assume-role --domain example --environment development --quality default. Without any additional arguments, substrate assume-role prints shell environment variables so you should wrap it in eval. It will also feed the shell an unassume-role alias you can use to pop back into your Substrate account:

eval $(substrate assume-role --domain example --environment development --quality default)
# do whatever you like

If you have a specific command you need to run, tack it onto the end thus:

substrate assume-role --domain example --environment development --quality default aws ec2 describe-security-groups

In addition to the forms above that allow specifying a domain, environment, and quality, substrate assume-role can select your management account with --management, your audit, deploy, or network account with --special audit, --special deploy, or --special network, and your Substrate account with --substrate. Or you can go completely off-road and specify any arbitrary AWS account with --number <number>.

By default, substrate assume-role will carry on with the same role name — Administrator (or OrganizationAdministrator, etc. as appropriate) when you’re Administrator, Auditor when you’re Auditor, and so on. You can specify a different role name using --role <role>.


A lot of work in your AWS organization might happen in Terraform and not ad-hoc shell sessions. substrate account adopt|create creates a root Terraform module for you with providers configured to assume the appropriate role so you don’t have to think about matching credentials in your environment with directories in which you invoke terraform apply. There are a few ways you can invoke Terraform, depending on what you’re after:

AWS Console

The AWS Console includes a “switch role” feature that you’re welcome to use but accessing the AWS Console shows that you probably won’t need it. In your Substrate-managed AWS organization, access to the AWS Console feels less like switching roles and more like going straight into the account you need to access.