SBOM formats SPDX and CycloneDX compared

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Software bills of materials (SBOMs) are becoming a critical component of vulnerability management. Many organizations, however, are still wrestling with understanding fundamental topics in the SBOM discussion, such as the differences among the SBOM formats.

What are SBOM formats?

SBOM formats are standards for defining a unified structure for generating SBOMs and sharing them with end users or customers. They describe the composition of software in a common format that other tools can understand.

The leading SBOM formats are Software Package Data Exchange (SPDX), Software Identification (SWID) Tagging, and CycloneDX. Only SPDX and CycloneDX are being adopted for security use cases. SWID is primarily focused on licensing and is therefore out of scope for this discussion. As the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and others have stated, we will have multiple SBOM formats for some time.

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