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AWS KMS vs Thales CCKM – Which Key Management System is Right for You?

As organizations increasingly rely on encryption to protect their sensitive data, effective key management becomes paramount. With the increasing adoption of cloud services and the expansion of digital presence, organizations frequently face the dilemma of choosing an appropriate key management solution that aligns with their evolving requirements.

In this blog, we comprehensively compare two prominent key management solutions: AWS Key Management Service (KMS) and Thales CipherTrust Cloud Key Manager (CCKM). We will explore key aspects such as multi-cloud key management capabilities, HSM integration options, backup, etc.

What’s new with AWS KMS?

AWS KMS has achieved FIPS 140-2 Security Level 3 certification for its hardware security modules (HSMs). This certification, awarded by NIST, ensures the secure design and implementation of cryptographic modules, providing customers with an elevated level of assurance for cryptographic operations involving their keys in AWS KMS. This upgrade strengthens the security measures and trustworthiness of AWS KMS, reinforcing its commitment to maintaining the highest standards of security and regulatory compliance in the industry.

AWS KMS vs. Thales CipherTrust Cloud Key Manager (CCKM)

When it comes to cloud key management solutions, organizations have a range of options to choose from. Two popular choices in the market are AWS KMS and Thales CCKM. The following table highlights the key differences and capabilities of the solutions, providing a side-by-side evaluation to assist in selecting the most suitable option for your cloud key management needs.

Category Thales CCKM AWS KMS
Multi-Cloud Key ManagementEnables centralized management of keys across multiple cloud environments, including AWS, Azure, and Salesforce, providing a unified key management solution.Primarily designed for key management within the AWS ecosystem. No support for managing keys in other cloud platforms.
Hardware Security Module (HSM) IntegrationOffers integration with third-party Hardware Security Modules (HSMs) such as Luna Network HSM, DPoD, Azure dedicated HSM, nShield Connect HSM, etc. providing enhanced security for key storage and cryptographic operations.Offers integration only with AWS CloudHSM, which provides dedicated HSM instances within the AWS environment.
Fine-Grained Access ControlProvides fine-grained access control capabilities where a user can be associated with 43 different groups such as key admin, key user, CCKM admin, HSM admin, etc., allowing organizations to define granular access policies and permissions for key management operations, ensuring controlled and secure access to keys.Offers access control mechanisms limited only to key admin and key user groups.
BackupCipherTrust Manager supports backup mechanisms at the system and domain level, ensuring that keys are automatically and securely backed up to prevent data loss or key corruption. Customers can download the backup along with the backup key and store it at a secure location.AWS KMS provides automated key backup features, but the specific implementation and management vary from Thales CCKM since the customer has no control or visibility over it.
Multi-tenancyHelps in storing keys securely from one another by maintaining strict separation, enforcing access controls, implementing robust data protection measures, and ensuring comprehensive auditing and monitoring within each tenant’s domain.In AWS KMS, keys are managed at the AWS account level, and there is no built-in capability to segregate keys or enforce separate storage and access controls for different tenants within a single AWS account.
Key Generation LimitIt has been tested to efficiently generate up to 1 million keys, with the potential for higher numbers in appropriately sized virtual environments.In AWS, each AWS account can create up to 100,000 KMS keys per region.
Geographically Distributed Key ManagementSupports geographically distributed key management, allowing organizations to manage keys across multiple locations, data centers, or regions, providing flexibility and compliance with data sovereignty requirements.AWS KMS restricts key storage to AWS data centers and regions, limiting flexibility in geographic distribution and management capabilities.
Key Management for On-Premises EnvironmentsExtends key management capabilities to on-premises environments, allowing organizations to manage keys across hybrid cloud architectures through clustering and maintain consistent key management practices.AWS KMS primarily focuses on key management within the AWS ecosystem and cannot manage keys in on-premises environments.
Advanced Key RotationOffers flexibility in key rotation scheduling by allowing organizations to define the duration and frequency according to their needs.AWS KMS provides key rotation options; however, the automatic key rotation interval is fixed at one year, and there is no option to extend it beyond that period.
Extensive Key Management APIsOffers a comprehensive and customized set of APIs for key management and report generation for various cloud platforms such as AWS, Azure, and Salesforce.AWS KMS provides a wide range of key management APIs; however, the specific API capabilities are limited to the AWS ecosystem.
Cost-effectivenessOrganizations can benefit from a time-limited rental license that facilitates onboarding accounts (such as AWS, Salesforce, and Azure) based on the number of units purchased. Importantly, CCKM imposes no restrictions on the number of keys that can be generated, stored, and audited on the appliance, providing cost-effective scalability and flexibility for comprehensive cloud key management operations.AWS KMS incurs various charges for key storage, key usage, logging, and monitoring, which can accumulate expenses, unlike Thales CCKM.


In conclusion, Thales CCKM stands out as the superior choice over AWS KMS due to its multi-cloud key management capabilities, seamless integration with third-party HSMs, fine-grained access control, etc.

These advantages position CCKM as a reliable and feature-rich solution for organizations seeking advanced cloud key management capabilities.

Want to know how we can assist you?

At Encryption Consulting, we specialize in successfully implementing Thales CipherTrust Manager and AWS KMS to enhance data security for our clients. Our approach begins with a comprehensive assessment of the customer’s existing environment, allowing us to understand their unique requirements and identify areas where improvements can be achieved. Based on this assessment, we develop a customized and phased approach for efficiently deploying a robust key management system.

Additionally, our expertise extends to seamlessly migrating clients from SafeNet KeySecure and Vormetric Data Security Manager to Thales CipherTrust Manager. We understand the intricacies involved in such migrations and provide expert guidance, ensuring a successful transition while maintaining the highest levels of data security.

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About the Author

Yathaarth Swaroop is a Consultant at Encryption Consulting, working with PKIs, HSMs and working as a consultant with high-profile clients.

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