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Elastic Compute Service:Build a confidential computing environment by using Enclave

Last Updated:Mar 06, 2024

This topic describes how to create a trusted isolation space by using the Enclave feature to protect your applications and data.

Background information

Typically, data is classified into three states: data at rest, data in transit, and data in use. Data at rest and data in transit can be protected by using encryption. However, you may encounter difficulties in ensuring the security of data in use. Typically, confidential computing is used to protect data in use.

The Enclave feature provides an enclave as a trusted isolation space inside Elastic Compute Service (ECS) instances and encapsulates the secure operations of legitimate software in the enclave. This ensures the confidentiality and integrity of your code and data against malware attacks.


The Enclave feature is in invitational preview. To use this feature, submit a ticket.

The Enclave feature is suitable for businesses in industries such as finance, Internet, and healthcare that require strong protection for sensitive and confidential data.

How Enclave works

Computing resources (including vCPUs and memory) are split within an ECS instance (the primary VM) and an Enclave VM (EVM) is created as a trusted execution environment. The security of the EVM is ensured in the following aspects:

  • The underlying virtualization technology provides isolation for security. The EVM is isolated from the primary VM and other ECS instances.

  • The EVM runs an independent, customized, and trusted operating system. The EVM has no persistent storage, interactive connections, or external network channels, and communicates with the primary VM only by using a local secure channel (based on vsock) to ensure a minimal attack surface. You can run applications that involve confidential data in the EVM, and make secure calls to interact with the applications that run within the primary VM.

The security provided by the Enclave feature is implemented in multiple aspects. At the underlying layer, the third-generation SHENLONG architecture that uses Trusted Platform Module (TPM) or Trust Cryptography Module (TCM) chips provides vTPM or vTCM devices for the EVM to enhance security and trusted capabilities. At the upper layer, highly compatible SDKs are provided to allow you to build and use an Enclave environment in a quick manner. To verify the trusted capabilities, you can verify the code running in the confidential execution environment, such as by using SDKs. Confidential applications can generate attestation materials (including the platform information, application information, and signatures) at runtime and then verify the attestation materials by using the remote attestation server (with reference to KMS). When the primary VM splits resources to the EVM and the EVM starts to run, the underlying layer performs resource access isolation to ensure that the primary VM cannot access these split vCPU or memory resources. This ensures the normal operation and privacy of the EVM.


  • Only g7, c7, and r7 instance families support the Enclave feature.

  • You can create only one enclave for each ECS instance.

  • Before you use an enclave, you must reserve at least one processor core and a portion of the memory for the primary VM. The remaining processor and memory resources can be flexibly allocated to the enclave. If Hyper-Threading is enabled, two hyperthreads that belong to one physical core are reserved. Therefore, an ECS instance that has the Enclave feature enabled must have at least four vCPUs.

For information about other general limits, see Limits.

Use an enclave by means of a toolset

  1. Install the Enclave Runtime toolset.

    The Enclave Runtime toolset manages the lifecycle of enclaves on the primary VM, including the startup and termination of enclaves. You can use one of the following methods to install the Enclave Runtime toolset:

    • When you create an ECS instance, select Enclave. The Enclave Runtime toolset is automatically installed.随实例安装


      When you create an ECS instance on which an Enclave confidential computing environment is deployed by calling an API operation, you can call only the RunInstances operation. You cannot configure the confidential computing mode parameter (SecurityOptions.ConfidentialComputingMode) when you call the CreateInstance operation.

    • After the ECS instance is created, run the following commands to install the Enclave Runtime toolset on the primary VM:

      sudo rpmkeys --import
      sudo yum install -y alinux-release-experimentals
      sudo yum install -y

    After the Enclave Runtime toolset is installed, the local service attempts to start the enclave. By default, the enclave image is stored in /usr/local/share/dragonfly/image.bin. You can modify the /etc/enclave.conf configuration file to change the storage path. The configuration file also provides additional configuration options, including the vCPU and memory resources allocated to the enclave.

  2. The first time the Enclave Runtime toolset is installed, run the following command to download the enclave image and save the image to your computer:

    wget -O /usr/local/share/dragonfly/image.bin \
  3. Run the systemctl commands to perform operations on the enclave:

    systemctl status de_platform_service # View the running status.
    systemctl start de_platform_service # Start the service.
    systemctl restart de_platform_service # Restart the service.
    systemctl stop de_platform_service # Stop the service.

Use an enclave by means of SDKs

Alibaba Cloud Enclave provides SDKs for you to develop your own applications on ECS instances that have Enclave enabled. Alibaba Cloud Enclave also provides a set of API definitions and code libraries that are compatible with SGX SDKs. If you already have an SGX application, you can run the application on a platform that has Enclave enabled only with a small amount of migration work.

  1. Prepare the following Dockerfile file in the development environment:

    RUN rpmkeys --import \
        && yum install -y alinux-release-experimentals \
        && yum install -y devtoolset-9 wget openssl-devel zlib-devel patch git cmake3 \
        && yum clean all -y \
        && wget -O / \
        && chmod +x /
    WORKDIR /opt/app-root/src
    ENTRYPOINT ["/"]
  2. Run the following command to use Docker to create an enclave image:

    docker build -t deenclave/sdk-builder .

    After the command is run, an image named deenclave/sdk-builder is created. You can use this image to build DE Enclave applications. Alibaba Cloud provides the following SDK examples for your reference.

SDK example 1: Start a container to build an application

Alibaba Cloud provides an SDK sample program in /opt/alibaba/teesdk/desdk/examples/SampleMath. This sample program receives two externally entered plane coordinate points, calculates the straight-line distance between the two points within the enclave, and sends the calculation results to the console. Perform the following operations:

  1. Run the following command to start a container by using the created deenclave/sdk-builder image:

    docker run -it \
      -v /opt/alibaba/teesdk/desdk/examples/SampleMath:/opt/app-root/src:z \
  2. Run the following command to configure the environment variables within the started container instance:

    source /opt/alibaba/teesdk/desdk/environment
  3. Run the cmake command to build the sample code within the started container:

    cmake3 -B build && \
    cmake3 --build build

    The application is located in /opt/app-root/src/build/SampleMath/App/app, and the enclave is located in /opt/app-root/src/build/SampleMath/Enclave/

  4. Upload the application to the primary VM.

  5. Start the enclave on the primary VM, run the sample code SampleMath, and then check the execution result.

    [root@AliYun ~]# ./app
    A(3,4) -> B(1,8) -> 4.47214
    A(6,9) -> B(6,2) -> 7
    A(3,3) -> B(7,5) -> 4.47214

SDK example 2: Generate attestation materials through Attestation

Attestation is an authentication process that allows you to ensure that images, operating systems, and application code running in an enclave are not modified or tampered with. You can call API operations provided by the SDK in your Enclave application code to generate attestation materials and upload the attestation materials to the remote attestation server for verification. Then, the remote attestation server returns the verification results.

Alibaba Cloud provides the following sample programs. You can build and run these sample programs in the same way as you run SampleMath in SDK example 1.

  • The sample program for generating attestation materials is located in /opt/alibaba/teesdk/desdk/examples/QuoteGenerationSample.

  • The sample program for verifying attestation materials is located in /opt/alibaba/teesdk/desdk/examples/QuoteVerificationSample.