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Gramine 1.0 release

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Announcing Gramine production ready release!

Having recently joined the Confidential Computing Consortium in the Linux Foundation, The Gramine Project (formerly known as Graphene) is proud to announce the first production-ready version to enable protecting sensitive workloads with Intel® Software Guard Extensions (Intel® SGX).

The project started as a research prototype at Stony Brook University in 2011, and the first open-source version was published in 2014, followed by the Intel® SGX port in 2017 in collaboration with Intel Labs. In December 2018, Golem and ITL joined the project, forming the core of the open source community around the project, including a first release.  The Gramine community has subsequently grown into a diverse group of contributors, from universities, small and large companies, as well as individuals.

Gramine not only runs Linux applications on Intel® SGX out of the box, but also provides several tools and infrastructure components for a push-button lift-and-shift paradigm for running unmodified applications on confidential computing platforms based on  Intel® SGX. Gramine supports both local and remote Intel® SGX attestation, and with both EPID and DCAP schemes. With the protected files feature, security-critical files are automatically encrypted and decrypted inside the enclave. Gramine supports several performance optimizations for Intel® SGX applications including asynchronous system calls. Gramine is one of the few frameworks that supports multi-process applications by providing a complete and secure fork implementation. Gramine supports Docker integration via a tool called Gramine Shielded Containers (GSC) that automatically converts Docker images to Gramine images.  Containers built with GSC can be deployed via Kubernetes for confidential containers and microservices.  Gramine also supports cloud deployment with Azure Confidential VMs and integrates with Azure Kubernetes Services in Azure cloud.

Since our last release, there have been major changes in the code with 1272 files changed, 100637 insertions, 112144 deletions, 1648 commits from 49 authors. This includes a major rewrite of the code that handles features including memory management, thread handling, process handling, filesystem and signal handling. You can find the detailed changelog at our github.  In future, we plan to continue Gramine development with additional features, code cleanup, tooling, and documentation. We also plan to add generic support for I/O device communication as well as add additional Platform Adaptation Layers (PAL) for other TEEs like Intel® TDX.

Gramine has a growing set of well-tested applications including machine learning frameworks, databases, web servers, and programming language runtimes and there are several projects that are already experimenting with Gramine for developing their solutions to protect data in use. We expect that Gramine 1.0 will bring many of those solutions to production. We look forward to your feedback as you deploy this latest version of Gramine for your confidential computing solutions with lift-and-shift capability.

For more information on the release please check out: https://github.com/gramineproject/gramine/releases/tag/v1.0

We invite you to join the Gramine community and contribute to adoption of  confidential computing through open source collaboration.

The Confidential Computing Consortium Year in Review, 2021

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We are just finishing the second year of the Confidential Computing Consortium, and it is time once again to look back on what the members have accomplished together. 

Membership & Project Growth

All of our meetings start with the reminder that all members are welcome and all projects are welcome. It have been this way since we launched. 

Remember that companies create non-profits like the Consortium in the broad open source space because our businesses benefit from that membership, and from working together towards common goals. We launched the Consortium with 15 premier and general members, growing to 27 corporate members and 2 non-profits by the end of the first year. While we lost a few members this year as company priorities shift, we have continued to grow to 34 corporate members and 4 non-profits over this past year. 

This year we welcomed the following companies to the Consortium: 

Ampere, Applied Blockchain, Cisco, Crust, Edgeless, En|viel, Ethernity Cloud, Madana, Phalla Network, Western Digital, Xilinx. 

Our newest general member last week is Profian. The addition of general members through the year brought us over the twenty mark and we added a new general member representative to the governing board (Eric Voit, Cisco). 

A primary part of our shared mission is to support open source and standards projects relating to confidential computing to accelerate the acceptance and adoption of confidential computing in the market. This year the Consortium welcomed four new projects:

  • Keystone: Keystone is an open-source project for building trusted execution environments (TEE) with secure hardware enclaves, based on the RISC-V architecture. Our goal is to build a secure and trustworthy open-source secure hardware enclave, accessible to everyone in industry and academia.
  • Veracruz: Veracruz is a research project exploring the design of privacy-preserving distributed systems.  Veracruz uses strong isolation technology and remote attestation protocols to establish a “neutral ground” within which a collaborative, multi-party computation between a group of mistrusting principals takes place.
  • Gramine: Gramine is a rebranded Graphene project. A particular use case for Gramine is Intel Software Guard Extensions (SGX), where applications do not work out-of-the-box. Gramine solves this problem, with the added security benefits. Gramine can serve as a compatibility layer on other platforms.
  • Occlum: Occlum makes running applications inside enclaves easy. It allows one to run unmodified programs inside enclaves with just a few simple commands.

The Technical Advisory Council (TAC)

The Technical Advisory Council continues to meet every other week. It is an opinionated public debate and everyone is welcome to attend. Members in the TAC saw the need to begin to add some structure and this year created the idea of Special Interest Groups (SIG) as they put in place the Attestation SIG. It was recognized by members that attestation will become the next challenge in confidential computing and have begun the discussion of how best to enable TEE attestation across the industry. 

The TAC membership also published a more detailed Technical Analysis of Confidential Computing white paper.

The Outreach Committee

Outreach Committee members were also busy this year in their collaboration. The Consortium Webinar Series has been building with monthly entries covering our projects and topics that span our domain. This is a good quick way to get an introduction to projects as each project has contributed to the collection. 

A global pandemic makes it tough to gather together, but this year the members organized and ran the first Confidential Computing Developer Summit, C2DS in June. It was run as a virtual unconference with a full day of content. There was good attendance with 400 registered developers participating through the day. All the feedback was good and the team looks forward to building an event again this coming year. 

The Outreach Committee commissioned an analyst group to produce a market study this year. Working with members, the analysts have built a view of the confidential computing industry in its growth. The study will be published this month. 

Lastly, Outreach Committee members have been working towards launching an End User Advisory Council to attract broader input into how users of confidential computing technology see the challenges ahead. We had hoped to launch the advisory council at the Linux Foundation Open Source Summit in September, but pulled back as people continue to be cautious with pandemic travel. Look for a launch in the near future. 

Outreach is working with the Linux Foundation creative staff to improve the Consortium website and we will be rolling changes out soon.

General Administrivia

I have long joked that governing boards should be boring places voting on meeting minutes, money, and membership. 

  • In keeping with that intent, we continue to run a healthy budget surplus as working committees spend money cautiously in a pandemic. 
  • We reviewed and tuned our charter last year in the Fall. As members continued to evolve our transparent, collaborative endeavor together, they had suggestions for tweaks to the charter that were voted last Fall. We will open the charter again shortly to see what new changes will be proposed. In making this an annual practice, it becomes an easy muscle to exercise, and debates don’t become worrisome and contentious. 

We continue to get great support from the Linux Foundation services teams. Stephano Cetola has recently moved to become a technical director at the RISC-V organization. While we are sad to see him go, Brian Warner is stepping into the role of Linux Foundation program manager. This year Ashley Weltz joined the program management team to help put the developer summit and end user advisory council in place. 

I look forward to continue working with all of our members in the coming year. A number of new projects have approached the Consortium. New members continue to express interest. It should be an exciting year ahead. 

The Confidential Computing Consortium Year in Review, 2020

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The first year of the Confidential Computing Consortium is coming to a close and it is an important time to reflect on what we’ve done and where we’re going as we look ahead to our next year. 

I want to start from the perspective of ‘why’ the Consortium. Companies create non-profits like the Consortium in the broad open source space because our businesses benefit from that membership. We launched the Consortium with 15 premier and general members and have since grown to 27 company members and 2 non-profit members. 

AccentureAlibabaAMDAnjunaAnqlave
ArmBaiduBytedanceCosmianCysec
DecentriqFacebookFortanixGoogleHuawei
iExecIntelKinditeMicrosoftNvidia
Oasis LabsOracleR3Red HatSwisscom
TencentVMware

Bold indicates a premier member. Our non-profit members are: iotex.io, MIT

For all of our corporate members: 

  • Confidential computing directly (or indirectly) benefits our company stories to customers.
  • Directly supporting/servicing the growth of well-formed OSI-licensed projects that create hardware TEE based solutions can provide building blocks for products and services to customers as part of our product portfolios. 
  • Directly funding/participating in collateral development that educates the marketplace and creates a community within the industry provides a consistent baseline in the market on which to build our individual customer-facing messages.  
  • Directly engaging in the Technical Advisory Council (TAC) discussions provides a collaborative space to debate and test engineering-focused discussions relating to confidential computing and accelerates innovation in the domain. 
  • The Consortium provides a shared cost structure and participation structure for the members supporting projects and building educational collateral.
  • Being a member creates a direct association of the company brand with the technology space through the Consortium brand.
  • ‘Hallway discussions’ around the main business of the Consortium create and strengthen business relationships and opportunities.  

The primary working committees of the Consortium are the Technical Advisory Council (TAC) and the Outreach Committee. They have each (and together) accomplished a lot in these first ten months getting to know each other as members and working towards those common objectives. (Some of this has been particularly challenging as the last five months have been in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.) 

The TAC has:

  • Accepted the first three open source projects under the Consortium umbrella in Oct 2019 (enarx, the Open Enclave SDK, and the SGX SDK for Linux). 
  • Agreed on a confidential computing definition, the scoping of the consortium mission, and scoping of TEE to the definition.   
  • Continued to improve and evolve the project acceptance criteria and services work.
  • Accepted three new projects through the Spring 2020 (Graphene, the Trusted Compute Framework, and Keystone… ).
  • Developed an introductory whitepaper on Confidential Computing with the Outreach Committee.
  • Developed content then participated in analyst and press briefings (e.g., Gartner, Forrester, IEEEFortune)
  • Developed and evolved work processes and templates (e.g., project submission) to accomplish the mission.
  • The TAC chair has engaged and coordinated with outside organizations (e.g., homomorphicencryption.org, IETF).

The Outreach Committee has: 

  • Developed the confidential computing messaging framework in coordination with TAC.
  • Organized and ran the press and analyst briefings (e.g., Gartner, Forrester, IEEE, Fortune)
  • Developed the current white paper with TAC.
  • Begun the long process of web site improvements. 
  • Organized and ran our booth presence at the Linux Foundation Open Source Summit in Lyon (October 2019), and at the Linux Foundation Open Source Summit North America virtual event. 
  • Begun planning for a conference for Spring 2021 for 300-500 participants, (and a test virtual event this Fall). 
  • Begun tracking interest in the Consortium with the launch of the Confidential Computing whitepaper.

I would very much like to thank all of the participating members. A truism about successful open source project communities is the need for people in the community to be willing to chop wood and carry water. The ‘community’ isn’t some magic workforce, but rather a group of individuals doing the work together towards shared goals. This is just as true when you build a non-profit as an umbrella organization for such OSI-licensed projects. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank our Linux Foundation program manager, Stephano Cetola, who helps us navigate the Linux Foundation services we use, and keeps clearing the to-do lists we collectively put in front of him, as well as Scott Nicolas from the Linux Foundation who helped us with the initial heavy lift of starting the Consortium and continues to get dragged into the occasional discussion about all things charter related.  A special thanks also to Omkhar Arasaratnam and Morgan Akers from JP Morgan Chase who have been active participants in TAC discussions and have shown us the need to build an end user advisory committee this coming year. 

We have a number of exciting projects to begin our second year with the TAC working on an in-depth technical report, the Outreach Committee exploring a Fall virtual event, and beginning work on the End User Advisory Committee. All this along with our regular work supporting the open source projects under our umbrella. I’m looking forward to it, and hope the membership is as excited as I am. 

As the Confidential Computing Consortium Grows

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The Confidential Computing Consortium is a community focused on open source licensed projects securing data in use and accelerating the adoption of confidential computing through open collaboration. The Consortium announced its intentions in August 2019, and has been heads down laying the foundations for open collaboration between the parties involved in confidential computing and creating a welcoming home for open source projects.

What is Confidential Computing

Confidential Computing is the protection of data in use by performing computation in a hardware-based Trusted Execution Environment. Technology solutions exist for securing data at rest in storage and data in transit across the network, but until recently securing data in use during computation wasn’t part of the story. Chip manufacturers have been bringing technologies to market (Intel with Secure Guard eXtensions, Arm with TrustZone, and AMD with Secure Encrypted Virtualization). These are examples of Trusted Execution Environments (TEE), the core building block in confidential computing. Software development frameworks and application deployment mechanisms were soon to follow. 

Developers that handle sensitive data such as Personally Identifiable Information (PII), financial data, or health information need to remove threats that target the confidentiality and integrity of the data in system memory. Using TEE to isolate and protect the execution environment of applications ensures data is secure while in use, preventing it from being exposed in the memory of the compute infrastructure. 

Accomplishments to Date

Since launch, the Consortium established an Outreach Committee–chartered with educating the industry and developers about confidential computing, and supporting the health of the Consortium projects–and a Technical Advisory Council (TAC)–chartered with driving the technical direction of the Consortium and supporting the Consortium projects.

In October, the TAC met at the Open Source Summit EU and heard from, and approved, three open source projects to join the Consortium:

  • Software Guard Extensions (SGX) SDK for Linux, designed to help application developers protect select code and data from disclosure or modification at the hardware layer using protected enclaves in memory.  
  • Open Enclave SDK, an open source framework that allows developers to build Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) applications using a single enclaving abstraction. Developers can build applications once that run across multiple TEE architectures.  
  • Enarx, a project providing hardware independence for securing and deploying applications using TEEs. 

As we come through the first quarter of 2020: 

  • The TAC has debated at length a definition for confidential computing after a survey of the members and across the industry.  
  • The Outreach Committee has begun educating industry shapers, like analysts, on this definition, and the work of the Consortium projects  
  • The Outreach Committee is developing educational materials for developers and the wider industry 
  • The administration of the Consortium continues to evolve and take shape. The Legal Subcommittee has now met on a number of topics to get a measure of how the Consortium can best meet its members’ legal needs. The Budget subcommittee is working to help the working committees have a better grasp of the money to be spent supporting Consortium projects and building educational collateral. 
  • New members continue to join the Consortium. We’re up to nine premier members, and 13 general members, with several more members filing paperwork as we speak.
  • New projects are in discussions with the TAC to come under the Consortium umbrella. 

The TAC and Outreach Committee are now heads down developing the website, wiki, and GitHub sites to ensure policies and decisions are captured, documented, and public, and to improve our on-ramps and services to open source licensed projects in the confidential computing space. We’re working to create a User Council to engage with sophisticated large-scale users of confidential computing. It is an exciting time. 

Like any open source project, the Consortium is a continuously evolving and growing effort; evolving to meet the needs of the user and growing in the ways that meet these needs. Consortium meetings are open to anyone, and we welcome all– from those who are curious about what confidential computing is to open source projects curious about what the Consortium offers to security researchers on their umpteeth TEE disclosure–there is a seat waiting for you. To find meeting times, join our mailing lists.