There has been increasing demand to provide higher beam intensity and high enough beam energy for heavy ion accelerator and some other applications, which has driven electron cyclotron resonance (ECR) ion source to produce higher charge state ions with higher beam intensity. One of development trends for highly charged ECR ion source is to build new generation ECR sources by utilization of superconducting magnet technology. SECRAL (superconducting ECR ion source with advanced design in Lanzhou) was successfully built to produce intense beams of highly charged ion for Heavy Ion Research Facility in Lanzhou (HIRFL). The ion source has been optimized to be operated at 28 GHz for its maximum performance. The superconducting magnet confinement configuration of the ion source consists of three axial solenoid coils and six sextupole coils with a cold iron structure as field booster and clamping. An innovative design of SECRAL is that the three axial solenoid coils are located inside of the sextupole bore in order to reduce the interaction forces between the sextupole coils and the solenoid coils. For 28 GHz operation, the magnet assembly can produce peak mirror fields on axis of 3.6 T at injection, 2.2 T at extraction, and a radial sextupole field of 2.0 T at plasma chamber wall. During the commissioning phase at 18 GHz with a stainless steel chamber, tests with various gases and some metals have been conducted with microwave power less than 3.5 kW by two 18 GHz rf generators. It demonstrates the performance is very promising. Some record ion beam intensities have been produced, for instance, 810 e μA of O7+, 505 e μA of Xe20+, 306 e μA of Xe27+, and so on. The effect of the magnetic field configuration on the ion source performance has been studied experimentally. SECRAL has been put into operation to provide highly charged ion beams for HIRFL facility since May 2007.