The Futurum Group's Statement on Israel

SUSE Earns Highest Level Accreditation for its SLES Linux Distribution, Doubles Down on Security

The News: SUSE has earned the highest level accreditation for its flagship SLES Linux distribution. Announced this week, the Common Criteria EAL 4+ certification for the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 15 SP2 is now EAL 4+ level certified for IBM Z, Arm, and x86-64 architectures, signifying compliance with the most demanding security requirements for mission critical infrastructure. Read the full press release from SUSE here.

SUSE Earns Highest Level Accreditation for its SLES Linux Distribution, Doubles Down on Security

Analyst Take: The news that SUSE has earned the highest level accreditation for its SLES Linux distribution was welcome news. With the daily headlines filled with high profile hacking attacks, and the reality that ransomware is focused on critical infrastructure, security has never been more of a hot button issue. Against this backdrop, the announcement by SUSE concerning the security certification for the company’s SLES Linux distribution is incredibly timely.

What is Common Criteria?

Common Criteria (CC) is an international set of guidelines with 17 certificate authorizing member nations and 14 certificate consuming countries that provide specifications developed for evaluating information security products. These specifications are specifically designed to ensure they meet an agreed-upon security standard for government deployments. Given the provenance and widespread adoption of these specifications, many security focused organizations in Finance, Telco, Retail, and those focused on securing personally identifiable information (PII) use these specifications as a way to evaluate solutions

The Common Criteria specifications are broken into two areas: Protection Profiles and Evaluation Assurance Levels. A Protection Profile (PPro) defines a standard set of security requirements for a specific type of product. The Evaluation Assurance Level (EAL) specification defines the thoroughness of product testing.

Evaluation Assurance Levels range from 1-7, with seven being the highest-level of evaluation. Despite what you may think, a higher evaluation level does not mean the product has a higher level of security, only that the product went through more tests. The graphic below provides a quick overview of the EAL levels:

overview of the EAL levels
Image Credit: Common Criteria

In order to submit a solution for evaluation, the submitting vendor must complete a Security Target (ST) description. This vendor submission includes an overview of the product and the product’s security features, along with the vendor’s self-assessment detailing how the product is designed to conform to the relevant Protection Profile at the EAL the vendor chooses to be tested against. Following the vendor submission, the next step is for the laboratory to test the product to verify the product’s security features. The results of a successful evaluation form the basis for an official certification of the product.

In a Strategic Move, SUSE Doubling Down on Security is Smart

This is without question an indicator that SUSE is doubling down on security — which is smart strategy. As more and more organizations deploy Linux into mission critical environments, and UNIX deployments correspondingly decrease, the need for highly secure operating systems is becoming more prevalent. Against this backdrop, it is somewhat surprising that SUSE is currently the only provider of a general purpose Linux operating system with a secure software supply chain that is certified Common Criteria EAL 4+ for the IBM Z, Arm and x86-64 architectures given how prevalent these platforms are in governments and financial services organizations. Given their market leadership, it will be interesting to see when Red Hat receives this same certification.

Commenting on the announcement, Thomas Di Giacomo, SUSE Chief Technology and Product Officer said, “In today’s age of advanced hacking and service disruption, Common Criteria EAL 4+ level certification for SLES provides confidence to critical service providers such as governments, finance and banking companies, healthcare organizations, water and power companies, telecommunications providers, and others innovating at the edge.”

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 15 SP2 was also certified by BSI, Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security, full details of that certification can be found here.

The Significance of SUSE’s EAL Certification

As vendors look to increase the security posture of their offerings and solutions, I expect to see a stronger focus on industry standards and specifications such as EAL as these independent specifications allow customers to make purchasing decisions based on independent verification. While the Common Criteria evaluation criteria are not a hard and fast insurance policy, they do form a basis for vendor evaluations and would form the basis for a series of questions in any Request For Information or Request For Proposal.

As deployment models become more fragmented — with solutions spanning IoT, edge, on-premises datacenter and increasingly hybrid and public cloud models — customers need a way to evaluate solutions and make informed decisions. Approaches such as Common Criteria and EAL address this requirement and will therefore become a key part of how vendors start to describe their offerings to potential customers.

SUSE taking a leadership position in certifying the ARM, IBM Z & LinuxONE and Intel x86-64 platforms is good for the Linux market as a whole, as it will force vendors such as Red Hat with RHEL and Canonical with Ubuntu to follow suit. I would expect these vendors to not be far behind in getting their Linux distributions certified. However, if Red Hat and Canonical do delay in getting their distributions certified, I would expect to see SUSE leverage their first mover advantage to drive further adoption in customer segments that will be focused on EAL ratings.

Disclosure: Futurum Research is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Other insights from Futurum Research:

Salesforce Rolls Out Its Slack-First Customer 360 Strategy 

With The Argus System, Microsoft Research And Collaborators Seek To Leverage Ethereum To Prevent Piracy

Qualcomm Spoke Partnership Brings C-V2X To Bicycles, Expands Smart Transportation Safety Ecosystem

Image Credit: Linux and Mainframe

Author Information

Regarded as a luminary at the intersection of technology and business transformation, Steven Dickens is the Vice President and Practice Leader for Hybrid Cloud, Infrastructure, and Operations at The Futurum Group. With a distinguished track record as a Forbes contributor and a ranking among the Top 10 Analysts by ARInsights, Steven's unique vantage point enables him to chart the nexus between emergent technologies and disruptive innovation, offering unparalleled insights for global enterprises.

Steven's expertise spans a broad spectrum of technologies that drive modern enterprises. Notable among these are open source, hybrid cloud, mission-critical infrastructure, cryptocurrencies, blockchain, and FinTech innovation. His work is foundational in aligning the strategic imperatives of C-suite executives with the practical needs of end users and technology practitioners, serving as a catalyst for optimizing the return on technology investments.

Over the years, Steven has been an integral part of industry behemoths including Broadcom, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), and IBM. His exceptional ability to pioneer multi-hundred-million-dollar products and to lead global sales teams with revenues in the same echelon has consistently demonstrated his capability for high-impact leadership.

Steven serves as a thought leader in various technology consortiums. He was a founding board member and former Chairperson of the Open Mainframe Project, under the aegis of the Linux Foundation. His role as a Board Advisor continues to shape the advocacy for open source implementations of mainframe technologies.


Latest Insights:

In this episode of Infrastructure Matters – Insider Edition, Krista Macomber and Randy Kerns are joined by Jim McGann, Index Engines’ Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, for a conversation focusing on the topic of the convergence of cyber security and storage.
New Cisco App Attention Index Indicates Elevated Digital Experience Expectations
Sherril Hanson, Senior Analyst at The Futurum Group, breaks down research results from Cisco focusing on digital and application experience and increased consumer expectations in this area.
An Assessment of Key Developments Across the 5G-IoT Ecosystem Including Netcracker Telco GenAI Debut, Amdocs NVIDIA Alliance, and SKT DT Telco-specific LLM
The Futurum Group’s Ron Westfall and Todd R Weiss review key telco GenAI developments such as Netcracker’s introduction of its GenAI Telco solution, the Amdocs NVIDIA GenAI partnership, and SKT DT jointly developing multilingual LLM aimed at global telcos.
Fourth Quarter Earnings for HP Indicate Continuing Sequential Growth in the Rebounding PC Market
Olivier Blanchard, Research Director at The Futurum Group, shares his insights on the HP Q4 2023 earnings, which suggest a rebound for PCs in 2024 despite persistent market headwinds.