March 22, 2023

One-click SBOM for your Kubernetes clusters with Palette

Tyler Gillson
Tyler Gillson
Principal Software Engineer

What is an SBOM?

A software bill of materials (SBOM) is a comprehensive list of the components, libraries and other assets that make up a software application. It details the third-party components and dependencies used in the software, which helps in managing security and compliance risks in the software supply chain.

An SBOM tracks software development metadata about each component including data fields such as version, origin and license. This enables organizations to track vulnerabilities, perform regular software maintenance and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.

SBOMs can be built in several formats, including:

  1. SPDX: A standardized format widely used by organizations and governments. It has been around longer than any other format.
  2. CycloneDX: An open source XML format that provides a standard representation of software components and their metadata.
  3. GitHub’s dependency submission format, which can power a dependency review workflow.
  4. JSON: A lightweight data interchange format that is often used to represent SBOMs in web-based applications.

Since the space is rapidly evolving, there is no formal consensus around which format is the best. A bill’s format will depend on the tool or procedure used to generate it, the requirements of the organization and its intended use.

Why is an SBOM important?

A bill of materials provides crucial information about the components that make up a piece of software. It allows organizations to manage and monitor the security footprint of their applications.

This is especially important today, as cybersecurity threats evolve and systems become more complex. Software deployments now comprise many software products, often from multiple software vendors. The SolarWinds attack and the Log4Shell vulnerability are two recent examples of supply chain risk. By maintaining up-to-date SBOM security, organizations can identify common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) and ensure that they are addressed before they are exploited.

Additionally, SBOMs can help organizations ensure that they are in compliance with regulations and standards, such as:

Maintaining complete and accurate SBOMs streamlines the process of demonstrating compliance with these regulations, helping organizations to build trust with customers and stakeholders.

How can I create an SBOM?

Numerous SBOM tools have been released under a variety of open source licenses. You can now generate SBOMs from container images or git repositories and file systems containing source code. There are even tools that work with more esoteric sources such as open container initiative (OCI) archives and Singularity Image Format (SIF) containers.

Popular open source tools include: Tern, Syft, Kubernetes bom, and spdx-sbom-generator to name just a few.

Open source tools are fantastic, but DevOps effort is still required to integrate your tool of choice into your image build pipelines. Even once SBOM pipelines are configured, additional thought is required around surfacing SBOMs and the metadata they contain in a user-friendly manner. That’s where Palette’s Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) scan comes into play.

Palette Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) Scans

Palette already supports a range of scans out of the box, covering Kubernetes configuration security, conformance and penetration testing. Now as part of Palette’s 3.2 release, we are pleased to announce our Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) scan.

Palette cluster scans
Palette cluster scans

Getting started is simple. First, select your desired SBOM format: we support four of the most popular. Then, set your scan scope, and optionally specify a backup storage location. Scan scopes include:

  1. Cluster: the whole K8s cluster
  2. Namespace: a single namespace
  3. Label Selector: all the pods within a namespace matching your label selector
  4. Pod: a single pod
SBOM scan configuration examples: cluster-scoped and label selector

Palette will identify every unique container image within your chosen scope and generate an SBOM for that image. We’ll also run the SBOM through a vulnerability scanner that will flag CVEs.

SBOM scan in progress

SBOM scan in progress

SBOM scan complete

SBOM scan complete

You can click into a completed scan to view a scan report containing additional detail for every image that was scanned.

The context column indicates every unique usage of each image, broken out by container name, namespace and pod name. We do this because each image may be in use by various containers within a given scope.

The vulnerability summary column provides a condensed view of the vulnerability report. You can access greater detail by clicking on any row in the scan report.

Completed SBOM scan report

Completed SBOM scan report

Finally, each image details page within the scan report provides a list of dependencies and vulnerabilities. These tables are condensed highlights of the metadata contained in the SBOM that was generated for a particular image. Each dependency’s version and type is displayed, but additional metadata will be included in the SBOM. Exactly what additional metadata is included will depend on the selected SBOM format.

Dependencies for the image

Dependencies for the image

For each vulnerability, you can view the name, severity level, vulnerability code, installed or impacted version and the fix version (if a fix is available). Any CVEs documented in the NIST National Vulnerability Database (NVD) will render as a hyperlink to the NVD detail page for that particular vulnerability.

Vulnerabilities for the image

Vulnerabilities for the image

If you specify a backup storage location — any common blob storage provider, such as AWS S3 or Minio — we’ll upload the full SBOMs there. You can download them with the click of a button or using the Palette API.

A download button will appear if a backup storage location was provided

A download button will appear if a backup storage location was provided

If you didn’t specify a backup storage location, you won’t be able to download the raw SBOMs. But Palette will still preserve all the results and metadata pictured in the screenshots above.


SBOMs can provide value to any organization across multiple dimensions, including:

  1. Software security: Flag CVEs early and manage exposure over time
  2. Compliance: Demonstrate compliance with industry regulations and standards; manage the legal risks and licensing issues associated with using open-source components
  3. Supply chain and version management: manage and maintain visibility into all of the dependencies brought in by your source code and third party binaries

Given the growing prevalence of cybersecurity breaches, maintaining SBOMs for your software is essential. Fortunately, Palette makes it easy to get started. You’re just a few clicks or API calls away from having an SBOM for every single image in your Kubernetes cluster.

Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out via email or LinkedIn.

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