AlmaLinux and SBOMs

At CentOS Connect yesterday, Jack Aboutboul and Javier Hernandez presented a talk about AlmaLinux and SBOMs [video], where they are exploring a novel supply-chain security effort in the RHEL ecosystem.

Now, I have unfortunately ignored the Red Hat ecosystem for a long time, so if you are in a similar position to me: CentOS used to produce debranded rebuilds of RHEL; but Red Hat changed the project round so that CentOS Stream now sits in between Fedora Rawhide and RHEL releases, allowing the wider community to try out/contribute to RHEL builds before their release. This is credited with making early RHEL point releases more stable, but left a gap in the market for debranded rebuilds of RHEL; AlmaLinux and Rocky Linux are two distributions that aim to fill that gap.

Alma are generating and publishing Software Bill of Material (SBOM) files for every package; these are becoming a requirement for all software sold to the US federal government. What’s more, they are sending these SBOMs to a third party (CodeNotary) who store them in some sort of Merkle tree system to make it difficult for people to tamper with later. This should theoretically allow end users of the distribution to verify the supply chain of the packages they have installed?

I am currently unclear on the differences between CodeNotary/ImmuDB vs. Sigstore/Rekor, but there’s an SBOM devroom at FOSDEM tomorrow so maybe I’ll soon be learning that. This also makes me wonder if a Sigstore-based approach would be more likely to be adopted by Fedora/CentOS/RHEL, and whether someone should start a CentOS Software Supply Chain Security SIG to figure this out, or whether such an effort would need to live with the build system team to be properly integrated. It would be nice to understand the supply-chain story for CentOS and RHEL.

As I write this, I’m also reflecting that perhaps it would be helpful to explain what happens next in the SBOM consumption process; i.e. can this effort demonstrate tangible end user value, like enabling AlmaLinux to integrate with a vendor-neutral approach to vulnerability management? Aside from the value of being able to sell it to the US government!

Tim Retout

A solution architect

By Tim Retout, 2023-02-04