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Tanium: Instantaneous Insight by Harnessing Peer-to-Peer Inventory

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Tanium Network Topology - Click to Enlarge

I’m embarrassed to admit I’d never heard of Tanium prior to my introduction last week.

With around 150 customers, an average customer size of 10,000 seats and 6 out of the top 10 Banks on Wall Street using their technology in production – it is clear it this isn’t some startup.

I recently spoke with Orion Hindawi, CTO of Tanium and former VP, Technology of BigFix, which was sold to IBM in 2010.

Orion claimed Tanium was looking to attack two industry pain points:

  1. How to scale IT management products effectively
  2. And the huge overhead and complication in training staff on IT management suites

Tanium aims to tackle both these issues head on with two clear competitive differentiators: natural language search and super fast peer-to-peer network inventory.

Peer-to-Peer Inventory Infrastructure

Conventional wisdom states that inventory tools broadcast their communications from a central point across the network. Usually this involves deploying an agent, agent-less, or combination of each. Whichever route is taken it involves polling a central server in some fashion. You may also build a tiered network of communication, so that all the agents in the Paris office speak to a central lieutenant or staging server – before passing their messages in the head office.

Tanium have a fresh new approach to this infrastructure. The infrastructure is organized via peer-to-peer communication between agents deployed on endpoints on the network. So rather than broadcasting your message to the entire network of agents, it is sent to a small handful who route their message intelligently via local endpoints until it returns to the server (see diagram).

This has huge advantages in terms of network bandwidth and speed of communications. It pushes the heavy lifting of communications off the clogged up WAN to the under utilized LAN. Powerful leverage.

The end result: data collection in seconds rather than days allowing instantaneous queries.

Natural Language Search

The premise here is real time access to what is going on the network using natural language parsing. You ask a question in English and get answers back in seconds.

So, much as you might use a search engine, you can ask “How many of my devices have Adobe installed?” and the software interprets this into the appropriate report and brings back live data in real time.

No Boolean algebra, no scripts, no building reports. That three-day administrators training course you used to take on how to use the product just turned into a few 1-minute YouTube videos. I described NEXThink as Inventory on Steroids when I reviewed it last year – I’ve run out of superlatives to describe Tanium.

As with iQuate, one criticism is that these tools are a great data pump and either need to be fed into something else for interpretation or need a layer of business intelligence. I.e. not just reporting on what I’m looking for but bringing pertinent information to my attention based on an intelligent interpretation of data.

Aggressive Price Point

Smart technology like this usually comes with a hefty price tag. I was pleasantly pleased to hear Tanium mention a subscription price from $18 a year per seat, which places it very aggressively in comparison to sleepier, tired stalwarts in the inventory space.

Powerful stuff, it would be good to hear of customers using it in anger for ITAM purposes. Short video overview here.

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Martin Thompson

Martin is an independent software industry analyst, SAM consultant and founder of The ITAM Review and The ITSM Review. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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