Organizing parameters into hierarchies - AWS Systems Manager

Organizing parameters into hierarchies

Managing dozens or hundreds of parameters as a flat list is time consuming and prone to errors. It can also be difficult to identify the correct parameter for a task. This means you might accidentally use the wrong parameter, or you might create multiple parameters that use the same configuration data.

You can use parameter hierarchies to help you organize and manage parameters. A hierarchy is a parameter name that includes a path that you define by using forward slashes (/).

Parameter hierarchy examples

The following example uses three hierarchy levels in the name to identify the following:

/Environment/Type of computer/Application/Data


You can create a hierarchy with a maximum of 15 levels. We suggest that you create hierarchies that reflect an existing hierarchical structure in your environment, as shown in the following examples:

  • Your Continuous integration and Continuous delivery environment (CI/CD workflows)




  • Your applications that use containers

  • Your business organization




Parameter hierarchies standardize the way you create parameters and make it easier to manage parameters over time. A parameter hierarchy can also help you identify the correct parameter for a configuration task. This helps you to avoid creating multiple parameters with the same configuration data.

You can create a hierarchy that allows you to share parameters across different environments, as shown in the following examples that use passwords in development and staging environment.


You could then create a unique password for your production environment, as shown in the following example:


You are not required to specify a parameter hierarchy. You can create parameters at level one. These are called root parameters. For backward compatibility, all parameters created in Parameter Store before hierarchies were released are root parameters. The systems treats both of the following parameters as root parameters.



For an example of how to work with parameter hierarchies, see Walkthrough: Manage parameters using hierarchies (AWS CLI).

Querying parameters in a hierarchy

Another benefit of using hierarchies is the ability to query for all parameters within a hierarchy by using the GetParametersByPath API action. For example, if you run the following command from the AWS CLI, the system returns all parameters in the IIS level.

aws ssm get-parameters-by-path --path /Dev/Web/IIS

To view decrypted SecureString parameters in a hierarchy, you specify the path and the --with-decryption parameter, as shown in the following example.

aws ssm get-parameters-by-path --path /Prod/ERP/SAP --with-decryption

Restricting access to Parameter Store API actions

Using AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) policies, you can provide or restrict user access to Parameter Store API actions and content.

In the following sample policy, users are first granted access to run the PutParameter API action on all parameters in the AWS account 123456789012 in the US East (Ohio) Region (us-east-2). But then users are restricted from changing values of existing parameters because the Overwrite option is explicitly denied for the PutParameter action. In other words, users who are assigned this policy can create parameters, but not make changes to existing parameters.

{ "Version": "2012-10-17", "Statement": [ { "Effect": "Allow", "Action": [ "ssm:PutParameter" ], "Resource": "arn:aws:ssm:us-east-2:123456789012:parameter/*" }, { "Effect": "Deny", "Action": [ "ssm:PutParameter" ], "Condition": { "StringEquals": { "ssm:Overwrite": [ "true" ] } }, "Resource": "arn:aws:ssm:us-east-2:123456789012:parameter/*" } ] }