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Create a Security Data Fabric

Building a distributed detection and response architecture is a daunting challenge. Large-scale organizations with strict data residency feel the pain of extracting insight from disparate data locations. So do multi-cloud environments and those operating intricate on-premise or private cloud deployments.

Centralization of all security data is not always feasible, nor is it well-defined. Especially managed security service providers (MSSPs) and managed detection and response (MDR) vendors face this problem due to their needs to integrate heterogeneous data sources and simultaneously guarantee strict data segregation per tenant.

Wouldn't it be nice if we can put a layer on top that abstracts the dispersed infrastructure? This is where the idea of fabric comes into play. We use the term security data fabric to refer to a federated, decentralized security data architecture.1 We like to visualize this concept as a data plane when emphasizing the dataflow, but the distributed nature also requires a management control plane. A data fabric is at the other spectrum of a data lake, but the two architectual approaches can complement each other.

Tenzir's helps you to logically achieve such an abstraction layer through a network of pipelines that can be centrally managed. This allows you to implement security use cases in a federated manner, such as threat hunting, enrichment, detection, investigation, and incident response.

Key Takeaways
  • The tight coupling of storage and compute of traditional systems makes them hard to deploy in a distributed setting.
  • Tenzir is a good fit for such complex environments due to the ability to deploy nodes close to the data.
  • Tenzir offers numerous pipeline operators that serve as building blocks for executing detections and running your own analytics—both in-stream and on historical data.
  • Tenzir's temporal compaction makes it possible to implement data residency and sharing policies using pipelines.
  • Tenzir's spatial compaction makes it possible to get the most retention span out of your data, which is especially relevant in space-confined environments, such as appliances.

Problem: dispersed infrastructure is hard to secure

Building out distributed security operations in a large-scale infrastructure is hard because of multiple reasons: a strong coupling of data acquisition and analytics, a complex heterogeneous tool landscape, costly centralizing of telemetry, and policies and regulations that prevent data from moving in the first place.

Costly and impractical data collection

High-velocity data sources generate immense amounts of telemetry such that costs quickly spiral out of control:

  1. Moving data strains network bandwidth and the incurred transfer costs need to be factored into the total cost of ownership (TCO).
  2. Ingesting all data into a volume-priced sink is uneconomical. (See example calculation below.)
  3. Coping with high data rates often requires substantial performance tuning, forces to scale horizontally (if feasible at all), and strains the equally scarce resources of operations teams.
  4. Data overload during investigations or threat hunting can cause a poor signal-to-noise ratio, making analysts less productive.

For example, a networking monitor producing 100k events per second (EPS) accumulates roughly 4 TB/day, assuming an average event size of 500 bytes. Endpoint telemetry in larger organizations (10–100k employees) can produce similar amounts. Moving 4 TB/day may incur significant costs.2 Splunk clocks in at $80k/year for 100 GB/day at the AWS marketplace. In a simple back-of-the-envelope calculation, we'd pay 40x that , i.e., $3.2M. Yikes!

Strong coupling of data collection & analytics prevents decentralization

Traditional log management and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems have a strong coupling of data collection and security analytics, requiring first centralization before analytics can run. This system design may boost performance in a highly integrated setup, but complicates the deployment in distributed settings where it yields multiple isolated silos.3

No BYO analytics due to vendor lock-in

The tight coupling of data collection and analytics in traditional SIEMs causes another problem: users are now limited to the one console for all of their analyses. But more advanced detection engineering use cases, such as feature extraction, model training, backtesting, etc., require high-bandwidth access to the raw data. Most SIEMs do not expose such raw access and restrict users to a set of pre-canned operations. For example, it's impossible to use a Python notebook with custom analytics built on Pandas (or Polars) and run those on the data.

Data residency requirements create architectural fragmentation

Data residency policies can prevent centralizing data, forcing data to remain where it was generated.

Anonymization and pseudonymization can alleviate these restrictions, allowing for shipping a small substrate back to a central service provider for analysis. For example, redacting or permuting IP addresses, URLs, or other personal data may suffice to lift a tight data lockdown. In the case of a security finding, the investigation can then proceed on the raw data—albeit by again bringing the investigation to the data.

Such tight compliance and regulatory environments make it hard to operate in the traditional model of collecting data from remote locations and analyzing it centrally.

Tool and data diversity cause detection incompatibilities

Unlike a central data repository where the collection architecture enforces a unified event taxonomy (or schema) at write time, a distributed architecture is substantially harder to keep synchronized. Multiple sites not only use different data naming conventions but also entirely different tools.

Data fragmentation creates new requirements

These problems require to rethink security operations in a distributed settings where data is fragmented and spread across numerous islands. While a centralized architecture focuses on bringing the data to the single place of computation, a decentralized architecture must bring the computation to the data. Traditional tools have not been designed to work with this inversion.

Practicing IaC and DaC. Operationalizing detection content now requires pushing it to the edge, so that the distal locations always have an up-to-date representation of the threat landscape. But this requires a solid management layer. Security teams often build inhouse fleet management solutions, although developing and operating this control plane is in itself a sizeable effort. The problem conceptually resembles managing agents on endpoints, with the added complexity of sizeable data at rest. Operating such an environment requires strong infrastructure-as-code (IaC) and detection-as-code (DaC) practices, and thus engineering-centric security teams.

Standardizing detections. A heterogeneous data landscape makes detection engineering substantially harder. Sigma is a great direction towards normalizing detections to decouple them from multiple data stores, but it has a narrow scope that focuses on search. Security content is more than just a search expression, but also includes threat intelligence, Python scripts, or machine learning models.

Standardizing data. Standardizing detections is one angle to reduce complexity in a heterogeneous environment. Standardizing the data is another. The Open Cybersecurity Schema Framework attempts to provide a canonical form for security events. However, reshaping all data to match the OCSF structure requires a powerful translation and validation engine. Today, security tools do not generate OCSF natively and public mappings are scarce. The OCSF project is also still fledgling and it remains to be seen whether it will dominate longer established taxonomies in the community, such as Elastic Common Schema (ECS).

Nonetheless, standardizing the data shape holds promise to execute a wide range of detections across data from various vendors. But aren't we now back full circle to log management and SIEM? The key difference is the need to operate in a decentralized fashion to meet the challenges of a distributed environment. This requires:

  1. Decoupled storage from compute to bring the analytic to the data.
  2. Ad-hoc reshaping of data to fit the security content at hand.
  3. Flexibly deploying an execution engine to run a existing data.
  4. A control plane to disseminate content and manage the infrastructure.

Solution: Tenzir as a security data fabric

Despite the complex constraints of large-scale infrastructure, Tenzir's deployment and execution model fits well to realize a federated detection and response architecture. Tenzir nodes can easily run at multiple locations, bringing intelligent storage and detection execution capabilities to even distal parts of the infrastructure.

Save costs by avoiding eager centralization

A Tenzir deployment saves costs by making it possible keep data close to its origin, avoiding unneeded transfers. Tenzir pipelines acquire, normalize, and aggregate data in motion, and further compact data at rest—all on top of open storage standards (Apache Parquet & Feather) suitable for low-cost object stores or space-constrained form factors, such as appliances.

By making conscious decisions about forwarding only the subset truly needed for for global correlation, you can avoid the money trap of a rigid pay-first-for-ingest-then-do-work architecture. For example, compliance or forensic readiness use cases may not require centralizing and it suffices to store the data on low-cost blog storage with a certain retention span.

Decouple data collection from security analytics

Tenzir's data pipelines provide a toolbox of composable building blocks to collect, filter, shape, store, and route security data. Acquiring data through Tenzir has the advantage of solving half of the equation: by relying on open in-motion and at-rest formats (Apache Arrow and Parquet/Feather), Tenzir enables choice of the other half: be it a SIEM, a lake, or notebook running a custom engine.

Raw data access is especially important for detection engineering. Feature extraction, model training, backtesting, etc., all require high-bandwidth access to the data.

Bring Detections to the Data

In a decentralized architecture, a critical capability is bringing the detection to the data rather than the data to (centralized) detections. Tenzir ships with ready-made pipeline operators to run detections and analytics, e.g., YARA, Sigma, or Python. Deploying pipelines at Tenzir nodes spread over the infrastructure yields a federated execution engine that can be fueled with detection content.

You can either use Tenzir's built-in operators for expressing computation, or rely on the Python and C++ plugin interfaces to hook yourself into raw dataflow. Thanks to highly efficient data architecture, you can run even the most intricate analytics and expect data to arrive in a standardized format in Apache Arrow.

Comply with regulations and use a clearing house

Tenzir helps implement strict data residency requirements with a multi-node architecture where each node can have independent storage and run distinct pipelines. Tenzir comes with a managed platform to which nodes connect for centralized coordinated operation.

With highly flexible data reshaping capabilities at ingest and query time, it is possible to store the data exactly according to a given policy. Similarly, by transparently applying pipelines whenever data leaves a node, it is possible to implement a clearing house that sanitizes data when it leaves a regulated zone, e.g., by encrypting, anonymizing, pseudonymizing, or redacting information.

For data at rest, Tenzir features a powerful compaction framework. Temporal compaction allows for time-based triggering of transformations, e.g., "apply the PII scrubbing pipeline after 7 days" or "delete clear-text events after 6 months". Spatial Compaction allows for applying arbitrary pipelines as soon as storage exceeds a given space budget. Tenzir then executes those pipelines according to schedule that is ordered from the oldest to the youngest data. Age is relative in that you can assign weights that get multiplied with the original age. This makes it possible to smartly maintain a storage budget while keeping relative importance of events.

Keep data complexity local and increase productivity

By keeping the less actionable data outside the central data repository, less data pollution occurs and the signal-to-noise ratio increases. Tenzir pipelines can clean and enriched data before they arrive at a central location, resulting in higher fidelity workflows.

To address the heterogeneity of data and tools at various locations in a distributed system, Tenzir has powerful reshaping mechanisms that allow for mapping data at read time. For example, this allows for ad-hoc transformation into OCSF with a pipeline operator prior to hitting the data with detection that requires this data shape.


Navigating the complexities of building a distributed detection and response architecture, especially in large-scale organizations, involves addressing several critical challenges. These include the high costs and impracticalities associated with data centralization, the tight coupling of data collection with analytics in conventional systems, inherent limitations due to vendor lock-in, diverse data residency regulations, and the difficulties arising from a heterogeneous landscape of tools and data formats. These challenges make securing dispersed infrastructures a daunting task.

Tenzir's federated deployment model maps well to complex, distributed environments. The inherent decoupling of data collection from analytics can lead to a more flexible and cost-effective management of security data. By deploying nodes closer to the data's origin, Tenzir facilitates efficient operations in fragmented and distributed environments. The security data fabric approach marks a significant shift from traditional centralized systems, offering a scalable, efficient, and adaptable solution for contemporary, complex infrastructures and enhancing the effectiveness of security operations.


  1. For logs specifically, Gartner speaks about Federated Security Log Management (SLM).
  2. In-flight compression is often a necessity. We observed up to 80% reduction when using Zstd on JSON-encoded network monitor logs, e.g., 4 TB down to 800 GB.
  3. Security data lakes have this decoupling by design. But lakes don't come with the turnkey security integrations. They neither run decentralized yet, although cloud on-prem solutions like Google Anthos, AWS Outpost, and Azure Stack are emerging.