AWSGitHub | 6 Min Read

Automate Your AWS CDK Stack Deployment with GitHub Actions

To ensure security and maintain consistency while deploying AWS CDK stacks, it's best to deploy them using a CI environment like GitHub Actions. Learn how to configure GitHub Actions for deploying CDK stacks in this tutorial.

When we’re deploying our AWS CDK stacks we have a few options available to us, the easiest and where most people start is deploying them via the terminal on your local machine with a command like `cdk deploy`. For development, this method is more than adequate as it allows quick and easy deployment but for staging and production environments we should avoid deploying from our local terminal and instead use a CI environment like GitHub Actions.

There are many reasons for this but some of the more important ones are.

  • Distributing keys and secrets with access to production to multiple developers and allowing access from local machines isn’t good for security
  • Deployment to production should happen from a single source that is controlled and maintained to ensure there aren’t accidental differences and regressions.

So, in this post, I’m going to walk through how we can configure GitHub Actions to deploy an AWS stack for us.

Configuring IAM

To get started with deploying a CDK stack from GitHub Actions we first need to create a new IAM user using a custom policy. To do this head over to IAM in your AWS Dashboard and then click on “Policies” on the left-hand sidebar, followed by “Create Policy” and then switch to the JSON editor and paste in the below policy statement.

2 "Version": "2012-10-17",
3 "Statement": [
4 {
5 "Effect": "Allow",
6 "Action": ["sts:AssumeRole"],
7 "Resource": ["arn:aws:iam::*:role/cdk-*"]
8 }
9 ]

Then click on the “Next” button a couple of times before naming your new policy “CDK_Deploy” and creating it. This custom IAM policy will allow the user deploying our CDK stack to assume the roles needed to deploy the stack successfully.

Now, we’ve created the policy needed to deploy our CDK stack, let’s create a new IAM User Group to attach the user and policy to. (You could skip this step and attach the policy directly to the user but the best practice is to attach policies to a group and add users to that group).

To create a new group head over to “User groups” on the left-hand sidebar, then click on “Create Group”. Name your group “CDK-Deploy” and then attach the policy that we created a moment ago before clicking “Create group” to finish the group creation process.

Finally with our policy and group created we can now create our new IAM user so go to the Users page by clicking on “Users” on the left-hand sidebar and then “Add Users”, name your new user “cdk-deploy” and then press “next” followed by selecting the group you just created. Then push “next” again to review the options you’ve selected before clicking “Create user” to finish the process.

With our new user created, the last step we need to perform in AWS is to create a new access key for the user so we can authenticate with AWS when running our GitHub Action. To create a new access key for our user, click on the username we just created from the “Users” page.

Then when inside the user's settings page, click on “Security credentials” and then “Create access key”; you’ll then want to select the “Command Line Interface (CLI)” option for the use case the keys will be used for. Then tick the “I understand…” statement before pressing “Next”; you can then add an optional description before pressing “Create access key”. Make sure to copy both the “Access key” and Secret access key” that is displayed to you as this is the only time the secret key is shown.

With the keys generated and copied, all of the AWS steps for this tutorial are complete and we’re ready to head over to GitHub and create our GitHub Action.

Configuring our GitHub Action

The first thing you’ll want to do inside the GitHub repository with the CDK stack you’d like to deploy; is create two GitHub Action secrets. To do this, head over to the “Settings” page for your repository and then click on “Secrets and variables” under “Security” and then “Actions”. Now you’ll want to create two secrets, one called `AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID` with the value being the access key you got from AWS and then a second called `AWS_SECRET_KEY` with the value being the secret key you copied from AWS.

With the secrets and settings all configured, we can now write our GitHub Action so if you don’t already have the folders in your project, create a `.github` folder in the root of your repository with a `workflows` folder inside that. Then create a new file called `cdk-deploy.yml` and paste into it the below code.

1name: CDK Deploy
4 push:
5 branches: ["main"]
8 aws_cdk:
9 runs-on: ubuntu-latest
10 steps:
11 - name: Check out code
12 uses: actions/checkout@v2
13 with:
14 fetch-depth: 2
16 - name: Setup Node.js environment
17 uses: actions/setup-node@v2
18 with:
19 node-version: 16
20 cache: "npm"
22 - name: Install dependencies
23 run: npm install
25 - name: Install AWS CDK
26 run: npm i -g aws-cdk
28 - name: Configure aws credentials
29 uses: aws-actions/configure-aws-credentials@master
30 with:
31 aws-access-key-id: ${{ secrets.AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID }}
32 aws-secret-access-key: ${{ secrets.AWS_SECRET_KEY }}
33 aws-region: "YOUR_AWS_REGION"
35 - name: Synth stack
36 run: cdk synth
38 - name: Deploy stack
39 run: cdk deploy --all --require-approval never

In this workflow, we install the AWS CDK along with the dependencies of our repository before using the `[aws-actions/configure-aws-credentials](` action to configure our AWS credentials and region using the secrets we just created.

Note: make sure to update `“YOUR_AWS_REGION”` to the AWS region you’d like to deploy to such as `"eu-west-1"`

We then run `cdk synth` to make sure the stack synthesizes correctly before then running `cdk deploy --all --require-approval never` to deploy all of the stacks defined in our repository while also skipping any approval requests as we won’t be able to input any approval on the CI environment.

With our GitHub Action written, commit the new workflow file and then push it to GitHub and watch your new CDK stack deployment workflow run for the first time where your CDK stack will hopefully be deployed using the new IAM user you created!

Closing Thoughts

With the push of our new workflow, we’ve come to the end of the tutorial. In this post, we’ve covered everything you need to know when it comes to deploying an AWS CDK stack using GitHub Actions. We’ve created a new IAM policy, group, and user and then generated keys for that user to allow GitHub to authenticate with AWS and deploy our CDK stack using a GitHub Action.

I hope you found this tutorial helpful and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out and ask me, I’ll be more than happy to help.

And, until next time, thank you for reading!


Latest Blog Posts

Below is my latest blog post and a link to all of my posts.

View All Posts


Latest Video

Here is my YouTube Channel and latest video for your enjoyment.

View All Videos
AWS Bedrock Text and Image Generation Tutorial (AWS SDK)

AWS Bedrock Text and Image Generation Tutorial (AWS SDK)


Join My Newsletter

Subscribe to my weekly newsletter by filling in the form.

Get my latest content every week and 0 spam!