HashiCorp Vault vs Akeyless SaaS secrets management

Itzik Alvas. Co-founder & CEO, Entro
May 6, 2024
hashicorp vs akeyeless blg

As is typical for many modern organizations, every company’s applications have become increasingly distributed and reliant on a broad and continually growing array of credentials, API keys, and certificates. The old-school tactics of embedding secrets directly in source code or tucking them away in config files have become woefully inadequate. The fallout from mishandling these secrets is nothing short of catastrophic, potentially leading to severe reputational and financial ruin.

The need to manage all these secrets and non-human identities has never been more pressing, and this situation has led to a solidifying belief among organizations that they need a more secure and centralized approach toward non-human identities management (which they are right to think).

This blog pits two frontrunners in the secrets management arena against each other: HashiCorp Vault, the veteran secrets manager, and Akeyless, a modern cloud-native SaaS offering. We’ll explore their architectures, features, and everything else it takes for you to make an informed decision for the pick.

HashiCorp Vault

When we think of a secrets vault, Hashicorp is the first one to come to our mind just as it’s the first result on a web search. And there’s good reason for it. HashiCorp Vault has set the benchmark for what’s expected of a comprehensive secrets vault solution by securely storing access tokens, certificates, encryption keys, and other sensitive data. Gone are the days when we would worry about scattered and unmanaged non-human identities. With a unified UI, Hashicorp has given us a centralized platform to store our secrets, and view audit logs for secrets. So, yes, you can rest easy knowing your secrets are in good hands.

Key features and capabilities

HashiCorp Vault is packed with features that’ll make secrets management easy across multiple teams in your organization:

Secure secrets storage

Vault doesn’t just store your secrets; it goes the extra mile by encrypting secrets at rest and in transit. It can store arbitrary key-value secrets, with the values encrypted using 256-bit AES in GCM mode with randomly generated hash text before writing them to its persistent storage backend.

Dynamic secrets

Do you know that some secrets have a short lifespan and need to be rotated frequently? HashiCorp Vault can generate secrets on-demand for databases and cloud providers, among other systems, while offering a secure way to store and manage those credentials for external services. However, do note that dynamic secrets are not easy to manage in reality. They can cause conflicts of access when multiple non-human identities try to access a secret simultaneously.

Data encryption

In addition to storing secrets, HashiCorp Vault can encrypt and decrypt data without storing it, providing encryption as a service, thus allowing developers to protect sensitive data without having to design their own encryption methods.

Deployment options and ecosystem

One of the best things about Vault is its flexibility. It can be deployed in various environments, including public clouds, private data centers, and hybrid setups. It can also be integrated with various authentication methods, secret engines, and audit devices. The integration capabilities also stand for major cloud providers, databases, identity providers, and other tools, making it a breeze to fit into your existing infrastructure. On top of it all, the HashiCorp Cloud Platform (HCP) offers a fully managed version of Vault, enabling organizations to get up and running quickly.

As of 2023, HashiCorp changed Vault’s license from open-source to a source-available model using the Business Source License (BSL). While you can still peek at the source code, some usage rights have been limited compared to the previous open-source license. 

Latest developments

HashiCorp has been busy making Vault even better. In 2023-2024, they introduced some pretty nifty enhancements:

  • Secrets sync for centralizing secrets management across multiple external destinations
  • HCP Vault Secrets, a new SaaS offering focused on simplifying secrets management for developers
  • HCP Vault Radar for proactive secrets discovery and remediation (currently in beta)

Akeyless’s “vaultless” secrets management

Setting new standards in secrets management, we have Akeyless offering a SaaS-based platform that entirely does away with the complexities of on-premises deployments. With its cloud-native approach and distinctive architecture, Akeyless equips organizations to protect their sensitive data and streamline non human identity management processes in a DevOps-driven environment.

Distributed Fragments Cryptography

At the heart of Akeyless’s solution is its patented Distributed Fragments Cryptography (DFC) technology. This technology breaks new ground by enabling the creation of encryption keys as distributed fragments across multiple cloud providers and regions. These fragments never see the light of day together, not even during the encryption or decryption.

With it, Akeyless has pulled off something unique — a true zero-knowledge architecture where the platform is in the dark about the complete encryption keys.

The whole nine yards of seamless integration and automation

In a sea of DevOps tools and secrets management platforms, Akeyless’s vaultless offering shines with its seamless integration capabilities. The platform comes equipped with ready-to-use plugins and APIs, making it a breeze to weave non-human identities management into existing workflows. This capability extends to secrets security in hybrid cloud environments, enabling teams to manage non-human identities across varied infrastructures from a single, unified platform.

Furthermore, Akeyless doesn’t miss a beat with its extensive automation features, such as dynamic secrets, automated rotation, and just-in-time access. These features help organizations maintain security by minimizing sensitive data exposure and slashing the risk of unauthorized access.

Enterprise-grade security and compliance

Built with security and compliance as its backbone, Akeyless is FIPS 140-2 certified with SOC 2 Type 2, ISO 27001, and GDPR compliance. Furthermore, given its zero-knowledge architecture and DFC technology, organizations can rest assured that no single entity — not even Akeyless – can access the encryption keys.

HashiCorp Vault vs Akeyless comparison

Hasicorp Vault has 2 major offerings — “managed” secrets management, wherein Hashicorp manages the platform on your behalf, and “self-deployed” secrets management. While the former makes things smoother in some scenarios, it often comes with a high cost, involves complex architecture changes, and is likely to restrict your integration flexibility. Not to mention, in a way, Hashicorp has complete control over your assets. With self-deployed secrets management offering, organizations have complete ownership and need to take over the whole process of installation, configuration, and management of the vault on their infrastructure. While it ensures customization freedom, the operational overload can be insane.

In stark contrast and innovatively so, Akeyless’s SaaS approach ensures super-fast deployment and on-demand scalability options while giving organizations full control over their secrets. Think ease of use from SaaS and security with DFC. With that said, let’s compare HashiCorp vault and Akeyless vaultless SaaS secrets management.

 

ParametersHashiCorp VaultAkeyless
Features
  • High availability
  • Available on app, CLI, web
  • Tokenization for sensitive data
  • Secrets wrapping for one-time contractor use
  • High availability
  • Available on app, CLI, web
  • Distributed Fragments Cryptography and zero-knowledge architecture
Applications supported
  • CI/CD – GitLab CI, TeamCity
  • Container orchestration – Kubernetes, OpenShift, Swarm
  • IaaC – Ansible, Helm, Terraform
  • Cloud – AWS, Azure, GCP, Alibaba Cloud
  • Databases – MySQL, MS SQL, Oracle
  • CI/CD –  Circle CI, XebiaLabs
  • Container orchestration – Kubernetes, OpenShift
  • IaaC – Ansible, Helm, Terraform
  • Cloud – AWS, Azure, GCP
  • Databases – MySQL, MS SQL, Oracle
Deployment options
  • On-premises, IaaS
  • Available on major cloud marketplaces
  • On-premises, SaaS
  • Not available on major cloud marketplaces
Security levels
  • OAuth
  • Compatible with OpenID Connect
  • OAuth
  • Compatible with OpenID Connect
Scalability and integration capabilities
  • Heightened scalability is available only in the enterprise version.
  • Offers horizontal scaling through performance standby nodes.
  • Integrates with major identity providers but needs manual setup and configuration with other systems.
  • SaaS model supports auto-scalability available with no need for extensive hardware.
  • Offers plugins for existing IT and security tools, allowing easy integration with DevOps flows, CI/CD pipelines, and business workflows.
  • The unified platform simplifies integration across both legacy and hybrid systems.
Pricing
  • Open source, free option (up to 25 secrets per month). 
  • HCP Vault starts at $1.58 per hour.
  • Enterprise option (need to contact the sales team).
  • Free option with allowance for up to 5 clients and 2,000 static secrets.
  • Enterprise option with features such as dynamic secrets, secrets rotation, 24×7 support, extended log retention, etc. (need to contact the sales team for pricing).

When comparing the two options, HashiCorp Vault and Akeyless secrets management, it’s evident that each platform brings its own strengths to the table, tailored to different organizational needs. HashiCorp Vault shines in terms of flexibility and a robust feature set, making it a go-to for enterprises that need a heavyweight on-premise solution. 

Akeyless, conversely, is more about ease of use and quick deployment, thanks to its SaaS model. It’s a great fit if you’re looking to hit the ground running without the hassle of an on-premise setup. Plus, its competitive pricing and strong security posture make it a smart pick for cost-conscious organizations.

The Game Changer

When it comes to Hashicorp vs Akeyless, it really hinges on your specific needs. And while we’re on this topic, why not go a step further and reimagine your entire management outlook for non-human identities? That’s where Entro comes in, offering a smarter way to manage non-human identities. 

Entro isn’t a regular tool you grab off the shelf to help you keep tabs on your non-human identities; it’s about giving them a power-up. It discovers and enriches non-human identities across platforms, providing the full scoop — like who owns a non-human identity when it was last rotated, and what it accesses. This comprehensive approach tightens security and keeps an eagle eye on API interactions, ensuring that all API secrets are managed securely. This extra layer of vigilance helps avoid shadow APIs by nipping them in the bud.

The best part? Regardless of whether you pick Hashicorp or Akeyless, you can integrate it with Entro. It’s just plug-and-play. There’s so much more to Entro. See it for yourself.

Reclaim control over your secrets

Get updates

All secret security right in your inbox

Want full security oversight?

See the Entro platform in action