Thursday, 29 September 2016 02:28

The secret side to Splunk


Splunk is well-known as a log aggregation and search tool. Simon Eid, country manager, ANZ, at Splunk, wants people to know it is so much more than that.

Splunk recently opened a new office in the Rialto Tower on Collins Street, Melbourne, following on from its Sydney office opening, and following its rapid growth in Australia from 17 employees to 72 in 12 months.

Splunk is a powerful tool for rapidly loading ("ingesting" in Splunk parlance) data from many and varied data sources into one single location, then providing rapid indexing and searching across all this data.

Pricing is based on the volume of data ingested within a 24-hour period and does not require any schema to be constructed, or data to be transformed, dates to be converted, or many other barriers which traditionally stymie efforts of IT departments to consolidate data from multiple sources.

Splunk interprets this mass of data in real time, and can automatically pull out interesting fields, while still allowing rich control and analysis of the data.

While Splunk became well known as being a really great log aggregation tool for systems administrators, businesses are finding it is a rich data mining system also. In fact, the more data you put into it from diverse sources, the more you can hone in on just what happened in your business at specific points of time.

A Web server timeout may be a manifestation of high disk I/O on your database server, which in turn is a manifestation of an SQL injection attack from a foreign nation, which in turn has its root as faulty program code just checked in. Splunk is proving its worth to many enterprises in reducing root cause analysis from months or days — or in some cases even never — to minutes.

"There are many use cases," Eid said. "It allows business to be preventative rather than reactive."

Further, Eid explains, Splunk, despite its roots, is not restricted to IT operations. He cites many examples of customers who use Splunk for situations the vendor did not even imagine would be something people would do with it.

A bank found new loan applications were down and determined a competitor around the corner was offering a discount that day. Typically, the bank may have spent months discovering this.

Domino's Pizza determined orders were down in certain regions and pushed coupons to its customers there, encouraging them to return.

A telecommunications company could investigate how many people were on a mobile cell tower when it failed and not only drill into the outage, but could identify specific people who may be high-value customers, or those with unsupported devices, who can then be encouraged to upgrade their phones.

Infigen Energy is using Splunk to manage its risk and compliance over how much energy it delivers to the grid.

The examples are many and varied, with Eid expressing each time how his customers come to him and speak passionately about the ways they have used Splunk to drill into information, to find trends, or to perform new ways of doing business.

This is the secret side of Splunk; it's not simply a log analysis tool. It's a data analysis tool. Whether your data is technical in nature, or financial, or sensors and IoT devices, or databases or spreadsheets, Splunk can ingest it, giving your team a single platform to efficiently search and capitalise on the data you have.

In this modern age we generate data far more than ever before. Yet, unless you have some way to transform data into meaningful information that lets your executives manage the business, your staff perform their jobs efficiently, your operators proactively resolve incidents before they become problems, then that data is valueless. Here's where Splunk comes in: it's not just for logs, it's for any data or situation where your imagination is the only limiting factor.

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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