Azure confidential computing virtual machines (VMs) overview

Azure is the first cloud provider to offer confidential computing in a virtualized environment. We've developed virtual machines that act as an abstraction layer between the hardware and your application. You can run workloads at scale and with redundancy and availability options.

Intel SGX-enabled Virtual Machines

In Azure confidential computing virtual machines, a part of the CPU's hardware is reserved for a portion of code and data in your application. This restricted portion is the enclave.

VM model

Azure confidential computing infrastructure is currently comprised of a specialty SKU of virtual machines (VMs). These VMs run on Intel processors with Software Guard Extension (Intel SGX). Intel SGX is the component that allows the increased protection that we light up with confidential computing.

Today, Azure offers the DCsv2-Series built on Intel SGX technology for hardware-based enclave creation. You can build secure enclave-based applications to run in the DCsv2-series of VMs to protect your application data and code in use.

Read more about deploying Azure confidential computing virtual machines with hardware-based trusted enclaves.

Enclaves

Enclaves are secured portions of the hardware’s processor and memory. There's no way to view data or code inside the enclave, even with a debugger. If untrusted code attempts modify the content in enclave memory, the environment gets disabled and the operations are denied.

Fundamentally, think of an enclave as a secured box. You put encrypted code and data in the box. From the outside of the box, you can't see anything. You give the enclave a key to decrypt the data, the data is then processed and encrypted again, before being sent out of the enclave.

Each enclave has a set size of encrypted page cache (EPC) that determines the amount of memory each enclave can hold. Larger DCsv2 virtual machines have more EPC memory. Read the DCsv2 specifications page for the maximum EPC per VM Size.

Developing applications to run inside enclaves

When developing applications, you can use software tools to shield portions of your code and data inside the enclave. These tools will ensure your code and data can't be viewed or modified by anyone outside the trusted environment.

Next Steps