2 min read

At the ongoing Amazon re:Invent 2018, Amazon announced that AWS Key Management Service (KMS) has integrated with AWS CloudHSM. Users now have the option to create their own KMS custom key store. They can generate, store, and use their KMS keys in hardware security modules (HSMs) through the KSM. The KMS customer key store satisfies compliance obligations that would otherwise require the use of on-premises hardware security modules (HSMs). It supports AWS services and encryption toolkits that are integrated with KMS.

Previously, AWS CloudHSM was not widely integrated with other AWS managed services. So, if someone required direct control of their HSMs but still wanted to use and store regulated data in AWS managed services, they had to choose between changing those requirements, not using a given AWS service, or building their own solution.

With custom key store, users can configure their own CloudHSM cluster and authorize KMS to use it as a dedicated key store for keys rather than the default KMS key store.

On using a KMS CMK in a custom key store, the cryptographic operations under that key are performed exclusively in the developer’s own CloudHSM cluster. Master keys that are stored in a custom key store are managed in the same way as any other master key in KMS and can be used by any AWS service that encrypts data and that supports KMS customer managed CMKs.


The use of a custom key store does not affect KMS charges for storing and using a CMK. However, it does come with an increased cost and potential impact on performance and availability.

Things to consider before using a custom key store

  • Each custom key store requires the CloudHSM cluster to contain at least two HSMs. CloudHSM charges vary by region and the pricing comes to at least $1,000 per month, per HSM, if each device is permanently provisioned.
  • The number of HSMs determines the rate at which keys can be used. Users should keep in mind the intended usage patterns for their keys and ensure appropriate provisioning of HSM resources.
  • The number of HSMs and the use of availability zones (AZs) impacts the availability of a cluster. Configuration errors may result in a custom key store being disconnected, or key material being deleted.
  • Users need to manually setup HSM clusters, configure HSM users, and potentially restore HSMs from backup. These are security-sensitive tasks for which users should have the appropriate resources and organizational controls in place.

Read more about the KMS custom key stores on Amazon.

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