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Software Bill of Materials

A Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) is a detailed record of all components within a software application, including open-source libraries, third-party dependencies, licenses, and known vulnerabilities.


Modern software applications often rely on a combination of proprietary code, open-source libraries, and third-party components.

Ensuring legal compliance, security, and streamlined management is fundamental for engineering leaders and Chief Technology Officers (CTOs).

To address these challenges, organizations rely on a Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) – a comprehensive inventory of all components within their software.

That's where our Software Bill of Materials Hub comes in. This Hub is a definitive guide including a curated collection of articles, whitepapers, and other resources that provide a wealth of information.

Whether you're just getting started with SBOMs or you're a seasoned pro, you'll find valuable insights and practical advice that can ensure a fluid SBOM initiative.


What is a Software Bill of Materials (SBOM)?

A Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) is a detailed record of all components within a software application, including open-source libraries, third-party dependencies, licenses, and known vulnerabilities.

It plays a crucial role in managing dependencies, ensuring legal compliance, mitigating security risks, and providing transparency within an organization.

While software metadata provides broader information about the software itself, SBOM focuses on the components and dependencies used in a software application.

SBOM can be seen as a subset of software metadata, specifically focusing on the inventory and composition aspects of the software.

If you want to explain SBOM to a child, try this: "SBOM, or "Software Bill of Materials", is like a detailed list of all the ingredients used to make a pizza. This includes not just the main ingredients, like dough or cheese, but also all the toppings and even the type of oven used for baking. The SBOM tells you everything that goes into making the software (or pizza), where it comes from, and how it all fits together. This is very important for understanding what's in the software, especially if something goes wrong, like if there's a bad topping on the pizza or a problem with the code. It also helps people make sure that the software is safe and good, just like how a list of ingredients can help you check if the food is healthy and allergen-free.”


The history of the Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) can be traced back to the growing complexity and interconnectedness of software systems. As software development evolved, developers started relying on various components and libraries to expedite the process.

However, this brought challenges such as security vulnerabilities and license compliance issues. The concept of SBOM emerged as a solution to address these challenges. It draws inspiration from the manufacturing industry's Bill of Materials, which documents the components used in a product.

The idea of applying this concept to software gained prominence with the increasing use of open-source software.

In recent years, high-profile cyberattacks and supply chain breaches highlighted the need for improved transparency and security in software supply chains. Regulatory bodies, industry organizations, and cybersecurity experts recognized the importance of SBOMs for enhancing software security and managing supply chain risks.

In 2021, the United States National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released a formal definition of SBOM, promoting its adoption as a best practice.

Additionally, several industry initiatives and standards organizations, such as OWASP and SPDX, have contributed to the development and promotion of SBOM standards and tools.

📚 Related: SBOM Time Act, SBOM EO 14028, and SBOM CISA Regulation

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Why do you need SBOMs?

Software Bills of Materials (SBOMs) are crucial because modern enterprises rely on numerous applications incorporating open-source or third-party components.

Cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities in these components. Without tracking software components, organizations face security breaches, compliance issues, and system failures.

SBOMs act as 'nutrition labels' for enterprise software. They provide transparency, optimize operations, enhance security, and improve issue response in complex architectures.

By leveraging SBOMs, development teams can effectively manage and secure their tech stack, ensuring a safer and more efficient environment for their organization.

If this is not a big enough reason, let's look at the main benefits it provides.

📚 Related: Why do SBOMs Matter?


Benefits (business case)

The business case for implementing a Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) lies in the benefits it offers to organizations.

Here are some key aspects of the business case for SBOM:

  • Enhanced cybersecurity: SBOMs provide visibility into software components and their associated vulnerabilities. By identifying and addressing these vulnerabilities promptly, organizations can strengthen their cybersecurity posture, reduce the risk of cyberattacks, and safeguard sensitive data.
  • Improved supply chain risk management: SBOMs enable organizations to understand and manage the software components and dependencies throughout their supply chain. This helps identify potential risks, such as dependencies on outdated or vulnerable components, and allows for proactive risk mitigation strategies.
  • Compliance with regulations and standards: SBOMs aid in complying with regulations and industry standards related to software security and supply chain management. They help demonstrate due diligence, ensure compliance with licensing requirements, and support audits or regulatory assessments.
  • Effective vulnerability response and patch management: SBOMs assist in quickly identifying and addressing vulnerabilities by providing a clear view of the impacted components. This enables organizations to prioritize and apply necessary patches or updates, reducing the time and effort required for vulnerability response.
  • Streamlined software development and maintenance: SBOMs facilitate a better understanding of software dependencies, making it easier to track and manage changes, updates, and compatibility issues. This streamlines software development, maintenance, and the integration of new features or functionalities.
  • Risk reduction in mergers and acquisitions: When acquiring or merging with another organization, having a comprehensive SBOM can aid in evaluating the software's security posture, identifying potential risks, and assessing compatibility with existing systems. This reduces risks associated with software integration and helps in making informed business decisions.
  • Enhanced customer trust and reputation: Demonstrating a commitment to transparency, security, and compliance through SBOMs can enhance customer trust and satisfaction. It showcases responsible software development practices, reducing the likelihood of breaches, and safeguarding the organization's reputation.

Overall, implementing SBOMs offers organizations a proactive approach to software security, supply chain risk management, compliance, and efficient software development.

It helps minimize vulnerabilities, streamline processes, and build a strong foundation for secure and reliable software systems.

SBOM + DORA metrics

The relationship between these two areas can be viewed from the perspective of software quality and security, risk management, and operational efficiency:

  • Software quality and security: SBOMs can contribute to reducing the change failure rate (a DORA metric) by identifying problematic components or dependencies early before they cause failures in production. The SBOM can also assist in restoring service faster (another DORA metric) in case of a security incident by quickly identifying affected components.
  • Risk management: SBOMs provide transparency about the components used in the software, their origins, and their security implications, which could impact the change failure rate and time to restore service.
  • Operational efficiency: An accurate and up-to-date SBOM can potentially reduce the lead time for changes (a DORA metric) by identifying dependencies and potential conflict or compatibility issues upfront, enabling faster and smoother integration and deployment processes.

While DORA metrics and SBOMs address different aspects of software development, their integration can enhance performance, security, and risk management in software delivery processes.

📚 Related: Detect and Eliminate Code Smells



The vast majority of organizations understand the importance of SBOMs but there remain many challenges in adopting and implementing SBOMs as a standard practice.

As described in our top SBOM implementation challenges blog post, the main challenges are:

  1. SBOM adoption is still lagging
  2. SBOM generation and regeneration require more standardization
  3. There is still no consensus on what to include in SBOMs
  4. Many SBOM tools lack maturity
  5. There are serious security concerns with vulnerability management


Main components of the SBOM

  1. Component names & versions
    Detailed identification, including names and versions, is necessary for tracking and managing each software component in the inventory. This information allows organizations to ensure they are using the most up-to-date and secure versions of components.
  2. Software dependencies
    Clearly outlining the relationship between components and their dependencies helps maintain software functionality and supports efficient dependency management practices. Understanding dependencies enables organizations to identify potential issues, such as conflicts or outdated components that may expose the software to security risks.
  3. Open-source licenses
    Proper documentation of each component's license type and associated terms prevent legal issues. It ensures compliance and promotes innovation within the landscape of open-source software. By keeping track of licenses, organizations can ensure they are adhering to the terms and conditions set by the component's creators.
  4. Known vulnerabilities
    Being aware of known security vulnerabilities for each component enables organizations to mitigate potential risks and enhance the overall security of their software. This information allows engineering teams to prioritize updates and fixes to maintain a secure software environment.

📚 Related: How we Mitigated the log4j Vulnerability

How to create SBOM?

Creating a Software Bill of Materials involves gathering information about the components used in your software application or system.

Consider utilizing specialized SBOM tools or platforms that automate the creation, management, and tracking of your SBOM.

Here are a few ways you can choose from to create SBOM:

1. Tech Obsolescence tools

Tools, such as LeanIX streamline the whole process and provide end-to-end visibility of your software supply chain, enabling you to trace every component of your software back to its source. They also provide additional features such as vulnerability impact analysis, license compliance checks, and aggregation of open-source software risk onto the application level.

2. Open-source tools

These tools are usually free and they can often be configured and extended to meet your specific needs. They are also community-supported, which means that they are continuously updated and improved by developers around the world.

The quality and capabilities of open-source tools can vary. They may not offer the level of support or reliability that commercial tools provide. Also, you might need a developer who understands how to set up and maintain the tool.

3. Security tools

Security tools, such as those used for software composition analysis, are specifically designed to discover and track the components and dependencies in your software. These tools can automatically generate an SBOM and also help you identify and manage security risks associated with your software components.

These tools can be costly and may require expertise to use effectively. They can also produce false positives and negatives, potentially leading to unnecessary work or overlooked risks.

4. Directly via code repositories

If you're already using GitLab for source control and CI/CD, creating an SBOM directly from GitLab can be a convenient option. GitLab can track every commit and merge request, which can be used to build a comprehensive SBOM.

This approach relies on your developers to properly document and describe their changes in GitLab. It may also not capture components or dependencies that are added or managed outside of GitLab.

5. Within CI/CD pipeline

Integrating SBOM generation into your CI/CD pipeline can ensure that your SBOM is always up-to-date with the latest version of your software. It also aligns with modern DevOps practices and can facilitate faster detection and resolution of issues.

This approach requires a well-defined and maintained CI/CD pipeline. It may also require additional tools or scripts to generate the SBOM, and those need to be maintained as your software and pipeline evolve.


How to integrate SBOM into engineering workflow?

If you already created SBOM in your organization and you want to effectively integrate it into your engineering workflow, consider the following steps:

1. Define SBOM responsibilities

Assign specific roles and responsibilities within your team for managing and maintaining the SBOM. This ensures that everyone is aware of their part in managing software components and maintaining compliance.

2. Integrate SBOM tools

Select and implement the appropriate SBOM tool. This automates the process of creating and updating your SBOM, making it easier for your team to stay on top of component management.

3. Establish a review process

Set up a regular review process for your SBOM to ensure that it remains accurate and up-to-date. This can involve checking for new vulnerabilities, updating component versions, and verifying license compliance.

By following these steps, organizations can successfully integrate SBOM management into their engineering workflows, leading to more secure and compliant software products.



In conclusion, a Software Bill of Materials is a crucial element in modern software development.

As software applications continue to rely on open-source libraries and third-party components, the importance of an SBOM will only grow.

Engineering leaders must recognize the value of SBOM management and invest in the necessary tools to ensure its effective implementation within their organizations.

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What is a software bill of materials?

A Software Bill of Materials (SBoM) is a detailed record of all components within a software application, including open-source libraries, third-party dependencies, licenses, and known vulnerabilities.

What is a bill of material in software?

In the context of software development, a Bill of Materials (BOM) refers to a comprehensive list of all the components, modules, libraries, frameworks, and other resources required to build or assemble a software application. It provides a detailed inventory of the software's building blocks and their dependencies.

How to create a software bill of materials?

To create an SBOM, you can choose from multiple different ways, such as using a value stream management tool, open-source tool, security tool and its software composition analysis, through code repositories, or within CI/CD pipeline.

Who creates an SBOM?

SBOMs are typically created by software developers, project managers, or organizations involved in software development and supply chain management.

What is an SBOM tool?

An SBOM tool is a specialized software or platform that automates the creation, management, and tracking of SBOMs. It helps identify vulnerabilities, ensure license compliance, and integrate with software development workflows.

What can you do with an SBOM?

With an SBOM, you can enhance software transparency, manage supply chain risks, address security vulnerabilities, ensure license compliance, and facilitate effective software development, deployment, and maintenance.

What does an SBOM include?

An SBOM includes a list of software components, version numbers, descriptions, licensing information, dependencies, and sometimes hardware requirements. It provides a comprehensive inventory of the software's building blocks and their relevant details.



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