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TPM Access Broker (TAB)

The TAB is used to control and synchronize multiprocess access to a single shared TPM. When one process is in the middle of sending a command and receiving a response, no other process is allowed to send commands to or request responses from the TPM. This is the first responsibility of the TAB. Another feature of the TAB is that it prevents processes from accessing TPM sessions, objects, and sequences (hash or event sequences) that they don't own. Ownership is determined by which TCTI connection was used to load the objects, start the sessions, or start the sequences.

The TAB is integrated with the RM into a single module in most implementations. This makes sense because a typical TAB implementation can consist of some simple modifications to the RM.

Resource Manager

The RM acts in a manner similar to the virtual memory manager in an OS. Because TPMs generally have very limited on-board memory, objects, sessions, and sequences need to be swapped from the TPM to and from memory to allow TPM commands to execute.

A TPM command can use at most three entity handles and three session handles. All of these need to be in TPM memory for the TPM to execute the command. The job of the RM is to intercept the command byte stream, determine what resources need to be loaded into the TPM, swap out enough room to be able to load the required resources, and load the resources needed. In the case of objects and sequences, because they can have different handles after being reloaded into the TPM, the RM needs to virtualize the handles before returning them to the caller. [1] This is covered in more detail in Chapter 18; for now, this ends the brief introduction to this component.

The RM and TAB are usually combined into one component, the TAB/RM, and as a rule there is one of these per TPM; that's an implementation design decision, but this is typically the way it's done. If, on the other hand, a single TAB/RM is used to provide access to all the TPMs present, then the TAB/RM needs a way to keep track of which handles belong to which TPMs and keep them separated; the means of doing this is outside the scope of the TSS specifications. So, whether the boundary is enforced by different executable code or different tables in the same code module, clear differentiation must be maintained in this layer between entities that belong to different TPMs.

Both the TAB and RM operate in a way that is mostly transparent to the upper layers of the stack, and both layers are optional. Upper layers operate the same with respect to sending and receiving commands and responses, whether they're talking directly to a TPM or through a TAB/RM layer. However, if no TAB/RM is implemented, upper layers of the stack must perform the TAB/RM responsibilities before sending TPM commands, so that those commands can execute properly. Generally, an application executing in a multithreaded or multiprocessing environment implements a TAB/RM to isolate application writers from these low-level details. Single-threaded and highly embedded applications usually don't require the overhead of a TAB/RM layer.

Device Driver

After the FAPI, ESAPI, SAPI, TCTI, TAB, and RM have done their jobs, the last link, the device driver, steps up to the plate. The device driver receives a buffer of command bytes and a buffer length and performs the operations necessary to send those bytes to the TPM. When requested by higher layers in the stack, the driver waits until the TPM is ready with response data and reads that response data and returns it up the stack.

The physical and logical interfaces the driver uses to communicate with the TPM are out of scope of the TPM 2.0 library specification and are defined in the platform-specific specifications. At this time, the choice for TPMs on PCs is either the FIFO[2] or Command Response Buffer (CRB) interface. FIFO is first-in, first-out byte-transmission interface that uses a single hardcoded address for data transmission and reception plus some other addresses for handshaking and status operations. The FIFO interface remained mostly the same for TPM 2.0, with a few small changes. FIFO can operate over serial peripheral interface (SPI) or low pin count (LPC) interface busses.

The CRB interface is new for TPM 2.0. It was designed for TPM implementations that use shared memory buffers to communicate commands and responses.


This completes the discussion of the TSS layers, which provide a standard API stack for “driving” the TPM. You can intercept this stack at different levels depending on your requirements. These layers, especially FAPI and SAPI, are used in the following chapters, so please refer to this this chapter while studying the code examples.

  • [1] For this reason, handles aren't included in authorization calculations. Otherwise, authorizations would fail because the application only sees virtual handles. Names are used instead, and these names aren't affected by virtualization of the handles.
  • [2] The FIFO interface is mostly identical to the interface used by the TPM Interface Specification (TIS) for TPM 1.2 devices. The TIS specification included much more than the interface, such as the number of PCRs, a minimum set of commands, and so on, so the use of “TIS” has been deprecated for TPM 2.0.
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