Chamber is a CRUD tool for managing secrets stored in AWS Systems Manager Parameter Store and exposing those secrets as Environment Variables to processes.

Chamber is a CLI for managing secrets stored in AWS Systems Manager Parameter Store.

In the article The Right Way to Store Secrets using Parameter Store, AWS recommends using chamber for secrets management.



This assumes you’ve followed the AWS KMS guide which describes using Terraform to easily provision KMS+SSM resources for chamber.

Chamber with Geodesic

From the Terraform outputs AWS KMS copy the chamber_kms_key_alias_name into the ENV var CHAMBER_KMS_KEY_ALIAS in the geodesic module`s Dockerfile.

Configure ENV variables for chamber

# chamber KMS config
ENV CHAMBER_KMS_KEY_ALIAS="alias/example-staging-chamber"

Update the variable with the value to reflect your specific project.


Using chamber you can perform all standard CRUD operations on secrets stored in AWS SSM and execute commands with environment variables populated from the secrets. For a complete description, check out the official documentation.

Create or Update a Secret

To create or update a secret, execute the command chamber write $service $key $value. Think of the $service as the namespace for storing the secrets. For example, you might have one $service which is called global that contains defaults for all services and then another one called api, which specifically sets the secrets for accessing the API.

Chamber write secret

✅   (example-staging-admin) ~ ➤  chamber write kops IMAGE_PULL_SECRET_PASSWORD test123

In this example, we write to the kops namespace a secret called IMAGE_PULL_SECRET_PASSWORD for accessing a Docker registry.

View Secrets

To read a secret run the command chamber read $service $key:

Chamber read secret

✅   (example-staging-admin) ~ ➤  chamber read kops IMAGE_PULL_SECRET_PASSWORD
Key                             Value           Version         LastModified    User
image_pull_secret_password      test123         1               05-21 16:43:54  arn:aws:sts::XXXXXXXXXXXX:assumed-role/OrganizationAccountAccessRole/XXXXXXXXXXXX

It’s also possible to list all secrets and their corresponding values by running the following command:

Chamber list secrets

chamber list $service -e

Delete Secrets

To delete a secret execute the command chamber delete $service $key:

Chamber delete secret

✅   (example-staging-admin) ~ ➤  chamber delete kops IMAGE_PULL_SECRET_PASSWORD

Execute Commands with Secrets

Using chamber, you can execute any command that requires ENV variables by running chamber exec $service -- $command.

For example, the following will run the env command in the context of kops namespace:

Chamber with env command

chamber exec kops -- env

Using Chamber with Multiple Namespaces

Using chamber with multiple namespaces allows hierarchy of secrets and provides better structure and security.

Currently, in our Terraform root modules for provisioning reference architectures on AWS, we use two namespaces, backing-services and kops, each corresponding to a Terraform project:

  • backing-services is used for all AWS services that we provision with Terraform (e.g. databases, caches, VPCs).
  • kops is used for all kubernetes system services (not application-related) that we provision using Helmfiles.

For applications deployed on kubernetes, we can use a namespace per application to store secrets, for example:

  • app_server namespace to store secrets for the server app
  • app_ui namespace to store secrets for the UI app

This way, different apps would be able to see only their own secrets, providing better separation and security.

The command chamber write $service $key $value will write a secret (key-value pair) into the $service (which is another name for namespace).

For the app_server app, run this command from the geodesic shell to store a secret in the app_server namespace:

Chamber write secret

chamber write app_server $key $value

To read the secrets from the app_server namespace, populate ENV vars from the secrets and execute $command, run:

Chamber execute command with secrets

chamber exec app_server -- $command

To read the secrets from two namespaces, run:

Chamber execute command with secrets from multiple namespaces

chamber exec kops app_server -- $command

If we have secrets with the same name in both kops and app_server namespaces, the second one (from app_server) will override the first one. This feature could be useful if we wanted to have a default value in kops, and then override it per app if a new (app-specific) value is required.

Using Chamber with Multiple Namespaces for Unlimited Staging Environments

In some cases, using a namespace per app is not only useful/convenient, but is necessary.

For example, for Unlimited Staging Environments (where we deploy different versions of an app into many kubernetes namespaces with different external URLs), if the app implements OAuth login, then the OAuth tokens and callback URLs will differ for each namespace. In this case, storing the OAuth tokens and callback URLs in one application namespace will not work.

A chamber namespace per kubernetes namespace is required.