Most Developers Dont Know about AWS Nitro System: Find Out Why

Vikas Yadav
3 min readMay 27, 2024


As Cloud-DevOps engineers, we’re always on the lookout for technologies that boost performance, enhance security, and improve availability. The AWS Nitro System is one such innovation, yet surprisingly most Engineers I interact with remain unaware of its capabilities. AWS Introduced Nitro in 2017 and since then they have introduced it into multiple EC2 instance types. AWS Nitro is an innovation that makes the computing quality of AWS far superior than its competitors.

What is the AWS Nitro System?

The AWS Nitro System is a collection of hardware and software components designed by AWS to provide high performance, high availability, and high security for EC2 instances.

So what? What do you get out of it?

  1. Instant Bootup: You might have noticed that EC2 instances are ready much faster than other cloud providers. This speed is possible only because of Nitro.
  2. Utilizes a hardware-based security model with the Nitro Security Chip, providing a more secure environment.

Here’s a breakdown of its key components:

Purpose-built Nitro Cards

Function: These hardware devices handle system control and I/O virtualization, operating independently of the main system board’s CPUs and memory.

Benefit: By offloading these tasks, Nitro Cards enhance overall system performance and efficiency.

Nitro Security Chip

Function: This chip ensures a secure boot process using a hardware root of trust, enables the use of bare metal instances, and protects the server from unauthorized firmware modifications.

Benefit: It adds multiple layers of security, safeguarding your data and applications.

Nitro Hypervisor

Function: A minimalist, firmware-like hypervisor that provides strong resource isolation and near bare-metal performance.

Benefit: Delivers high efficiency and performance, making it ideal for various workloads.

Nitro Controller

Function: The primary Nitro Card that manages all components and firmware, stored securely on an encrypted SSD. It uses a TPM and secure boot for encryption key protection.

Benefit: Ensures system integrity and security, acting as a trusted intermediary.

How Does the AWS Nitro System Work?

Imagine you need to launch an EC2 instance. Here’s how the AWS Nitro System facilitates this process:

  1. Request Initiation: You use the AWS SDK or CLI to run a command like aws ec2 run-instances, specifying instance type, availability zone, region, and AMI.
  2. Resource Validation: The EC2 control plane checks resource availability and forwards the request to the Nitro controller for user authorization.
  3. Resource Allocation: The Nitro controller communicates with the Nitro hypervisor over the PCIe bus to allocate CPU and memory resources. The hypervisor sets up hardware-based isolation and allocates memory.
  4. Resource Setup: The Nitro controller instructs other Nitro components to allocate an Elastic Network Interface (ENI), an Elastic Block Store (EBS) volume, and local storage.
  5. Instance Boot: The Nitro controller confirms the setup, and the EC2 instance boots up, ready for use.

This seamless interaction between Nitro components ensures your EC2 instances are secure, high-performing, and highly available.


The AWS Nitro System is a powerful technology that enhances the capabilities of EC2 instances. Now every time you use an EC2 instance — be thankful for this amazing system.

You can learn more about Nitro System here:

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