Skip to content

Elsevier Manages Thousands of AWS EC2 Instances With Help From Tanium

After the publisher of scientific information and analytics moved to a cloud-only environment with literally tens of thousands of EC2 instances, it turned to Tanium to help tame the complexity

Customer Spotlight

For most of its 140 years, Elsevier published its books and reports on paper. But as publishing has become increasingly digital and on-demand, Elsevier has undergone a massive transformation of its business model.

There’s a lot at stake. Elsevier, now a unit of London-based RELX Group, publishes more than 550,000 peer-reviewed articles a year. Some 25,000 academic and government institutions worldwide rely on the company’s products.

Elsevier has transitioned from traditional data centers and on-premises applications to an agile, 100% cloud infrastructure. That includes many AWS EC2 instances, with the exact number fluctuating between 11,000 and 40,000 instances.

Managing them all is a big job. Relevant use cases include vulnerability assessment, server management, patching, asset inventory and agent consolidation.

“Managing, tracking and controlling the software, licensing and patch levels for tens of thousands of server instances is extremely challenging on its own,” says Matt Reid, Elsevier’s director of technology infrastructure and operations. “Then amplify this with the transitory nature of these instances — in an environment that scales unpredictably and bidirectionally — and things quickly get really complicated.”

Turning data into actionable insights

For these and other use cases related to managing its AWS instances, Elsevier relies on Tanium. Matt Reid likes to say all roads lead back to Tanium.

Elsevier has implemented a suite of Tanium products to bring visibility and control to its vast and dynamic pool of virtual servers. Tanium quickly distills the enormous volumes of information about Elsevier’s dynamic server environment into actionable intelligence.

“With Tanium,” Matt Reid says, “we can efficiently determine the key actions we need to take to keep our infrastructure secure.”

The visibility provided by the Tanium platform helps Matt Reid and his colleagues rapidly identify vulnerabilities across cloud endpoints and then take immediate action to eliminate the exposure. Tanium agents capture, aggregate, and analyze the data from each instance to protect Elsevier’s infrastructure safe from attack.

“Tanium has helped us remove the toil by introducing critical automation into our IT ops and security programs,” Matt Reid says. “People can now focus on addressing threats, rather than wasting time identifying them.”

Automated cloud patching

Tanium also helps Elsevier automate important use cases, including patching. Because Elsevier has so many AWS instances, it takes a “cattle, not pets” approach to patching. If an instance has an out-of-date application, Elsevier destroys the instance and re-stands another in its place. It’s a big job, with as many as 4,000 instances being destroyed and then replaced on any given day. (That said, some highly important “pet” instances do get patched.)

One of the many benefits Elsevier enjoys by using Tanium is faster results. One important use case is determining which “core AMI” image was used to provision other images, as well as where that original is located. In the past, answering that question took Elsevier as much as two full days. Now, with Tanium, the answer pops up in mere seconds.

Elsevier has also gained visibility into potential vulnerabilities, such as the Zero Day exploit affecting Log4j. In the past, before using Tanium’s vulnerability scanning, Elsevier didn’t know where it had Log4j code or whether that code was vulnerable to the exploit. Now, with Tanium, the company knows both. And it has pushed additional visibility into its AWS instances, as well.

Visibility and control over the entire environment

The Tanium platform has also helped Elsevier highlight underutilized stored data that can be removed to save costs, or software assets nearing end of life that need to be phased out.

“Now we just pay license fees for what we actually run,” Matt Reid says, “rather than what the vendor thinks we might be using.”

The insights that historically would have taken Matt Reid and his team hours of labor-intensive churning are now immediately available. That’s also providing Elsevier with a huge return on its investment.

Here are the top benefits Elsevier experiences with Tanium Cloud:

  • Scalable, responsive management, plus protection of dynamic cloud-based infrastructure drives business growth.
  • Enhanced visibility across multi-cloud environments increases efficiency and data security.
  • Improved detection and response performance decreases exposure to potential threats.

Check out the full case study and video to learn more about how Elsevier is transforming operations with Tanium.


You can also learn why other customers partner with Tanium to manage and secure their endpoints. Want to try Tanium in your environment? Request your two-week free trial today.

Tanium Staff

Tanium’s village of experts co-writes as Tanium Staff, sharing their lens on security, IT operations, and other relevant topics across the business and cybersphere.