gRPC and Envoy Application LayerTransport Security (ALTS) HelloWorld

Simple helloworld demonstrating GCP support for Application Layer Transport Security. You can read more about ALTS in that article (no sense in repeating it).

ALTS can be thought of intrinsic platform-based security which helps ensure service->service communication uses the machine's bound identity itself.

That is, the gRPC communication will utilize and transmit an encrypted message at the application layer using keys intrinsic to the peer systems involved. This is in contrast to user-space based security (eg, auth header, mTLS with user-space certs, etc) because the system that provides the assertion of machine identity and security is provided by the platform itself.

This repo also shows a sample envoy client server using ALTS but for HTTP traffic (you could, ofcourse use gRPC just the same w/ envoy but i’ll stick with HTTP here).

For more information on ALTS configuration for Envoy, see envoy.extensions.transport_sockets.alts.v3.Alts

This article is nothing new…its just a rehash of gRPC’s ALTS helloworld

The difference in this repo is that I specifically show how to setup the VMs and actually emit the service account information from the peers (which is important to see).


You can find the source here in this repo

Build Client/Server

go build -o bin/client client/client.go
go build -o bin/server server/server.go

Create Service accounts/VM

gcloud iam service-accounts create alts-server --display-name "ALTS Server Service Account"gcloud iam service-accounts create alts-client --display-name "ALTS Client Service Account"export PROJECT_ID=`gcloud config get-value core/project`export CLIENT_SERVICE_ACCOUNT=alts-client@$PROJECT_ID.iam.gserviceaccount.comexport SERVER_SERVICE_ACCOUNT=alts-server@$$ gcloud  compute  instances create alts-server \
--service-account=$SERVER_SERVICE_ACCOUNT \
--scopes= \
--image=debian-10-buster-v20200521 --zone us-central1-a --image-project=debian-cloud
$ gcloud compute instances create alts-client \
--service-account=$CLIENT_SERVICE_ACCOUNT \
--scopes= \
--image=debian-10-buster-v20200521 --zone us-central1-a --image-project=debian-cloud

Copy binaries

$ gcloud compute scp bin/client alts-client:
$ gcloud compute scp bin/server alts-server:

Run Server

$ gcloud compute scp alts-server$ ./server 2020/06/08 21:58:11 AuthInfo PeerServiceAccount: alts-client@mineral-minutia-820.iam.gserviceaccount.com2020/06/08 21:58:11 AuthInfo LocalServiceAccount:

Run Client

Replace the value for your SERVER_SERVICE_ACCOUNT below

$ gcloud compute scp alts-client$ ./client --addr alts-server:50051 --targetServiceAccount $SERVER_SERVICE_ACCOUNT2020/06/08 21:58:11 AuthInfo PeerServiceAccount: alts-server@mineral-minutia-820.iam.gserviceaccount.com2020/06/08 21:58:11 AuthInfo LocalServiceAccount:
UnaryEcho: hello world


Note that in the output we’ve identified the intrinsic service account used at each peer. The idea here is you can use this as an applicaiton-layer signal to allow or deny the inbound request. Note, the client peer info is available after the RPC

In debug mode:


The following demonstrates envoy’s support for ALTS on GCP. This snippet does not use gRPC though you could adapt it to do that but instead just uses a plain HTTP upstream/downstream connection.

To use

Edit envoy configuration

Edit server.yaml and client.yaml and specify the upstream/downstream service accounts to use (peer_service_accounts). Remember which is the peer for which end

Install Envoy on Client/Server

You can either run envoy within docker or (as i prefer), a direct binary. You can get the envoy binary by “extracting” it from the docker image

On your laptop:

$ docker cp `docker create envoyproxy/envoy:v1.13.1`:/usr/local/bin/envoy .

Copy Configuration files to client and server

Copy server.yaml to alts-server and client-yaml to alts-client

Run Envoy on Client/server

On alts-server:

./envoy -c server.yaml -l debug

On alts-client:

./envoy -c client.yaml -l debug

Access Endpoint from client

Open up a new shell on alts-client and run

curl -v http://localhost:18080

You should see the headers sent back to you from httpbin via two hops through envoy:

> GET /get HTTP/1.1
> Host: localhost:18080
> User-Agent: curl/7.64.0
> Accept: */*
< HTTP/1.1 200 OK
< date: Tue, 09 Jun 2020 12:59:52 GMT
< content-type: application/json
< content-length: 337
< server: envoy
< access-control-allow-origin: *
< access-control-allow-credentials: true
< x-envoy-upstream-service-time: 72
"args": {},
"headers": {
"Accept": "*/*",
"Content-Length": "0",
"Host": "",
"User-Agent": "curl/7.64.0",
"X-Amzn-Trace-Id": "Root=1-5edf87c8-442f573c7a743fdf4419cc1d",
"X-Envoy-Expected-Rq-Timeout-Ms": "15000"
"origin": "",
"url": ""

Debug logs

This is the important bit, in envoy look for the log lines on the client and server that showed ALTS:

  • Client
[2020-06-09 12:59:52.818][3782][debug][connection] [source/extensions/transport_sockets/alts/] [C1]   certificate_type: ALTS[2020-06-09 12:59:52.818][3782][debug][connection] [source/extensions/transport_sockets/alts/] [C1]   service_accont:
  • Server
[2020-06-09 12:59:52.819][2245][debug][connection] [source/extensions/transport_sockets/alts/] [C0]   certificate_type: ALTS[2020-06-09 12:59:52.819][2245][debug][connection] [source/extensions/transport_sockets/alts/] [C0]   service_accont:

The full trace of from the Client

On the envoy server

Thats can use ALTS to control precisely which systems on GCP talk to each other…there’s no faking the credentials each end uses: its part of the infrastructure itself!!!




A collection of technical articles and blogs published or curated by Google Cloud Developer Advocates. The views expressed are those of the authors and don't necessarily reflect those of Google.

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