Friday, 01 June 2018 22:54

Rokt finds Splunk rocks for business and customer value


Martech business Rokt, pronounced “rocked” with a ’t’, not “rocket”, says Splunk has given it predictable and scalable IT management and security.

You’ve no doubt seen “powered by Rokt” when shopping online; Rokt is a marketing technology that “powers the transaction moment”, meaning the business strives to bring together brands and consumers during a transaction or purchase on an e-commerce website.

What this means in practice, is the commerce site will, typically on its receipt page, pass information to Rokt about the consumer and their purchase and interests, and Rokt will use this to predict other brands and products the consumer may be interested in, so this is presented to the buyer.

Rokt is based in seven different global markets — Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, the UK, Germany, and the US — with 50 engineers based in Sydney. It sees up to 140 million transactions per month through its e-commerce partners.

The engineering team adopted Splunk four to five years ago and while the focus began, and remains, with internal operational efficiencies, it has found customer-facing benefits. For example, identifying problems with client websites due to bugs, missing tags, or other things. Splunk alarms fire and Rokt can proactively advise customers of these issues.

Andy Vermeulen, chief engineer for DevSecOps at Rokt, explains the Splunk journey began when the business was running in a physical data centre and planning its move to the cloud.

“Even on fixed servers it was difficult to run through logs and was hard to diagnose issues. We had to log into servers, get logs, download, search manually … it was a horrendous experience, as you can imagine,” Vermeulen says.

Rokt decided to build a centralised logging system with Splunk Enterprise. “We had heard good things about Splunk and know how popular it is in the market, but it wasn’t until we actually used the software that we realised its true value,” Vermeulen adds.

The move to the cloud was an opportune time to adopt Splunk, allowing faster diagnosis, and meaning an improved solution was necessary with no long-term servers that would stay around because servers were terminated as needed and logs would be otherwise lost.

Consequently, Rokt has accelerated its log management from hours to minutes. This issue solved, Rokt found it could apply Splunk in many ways beyond those originally imagined.

“We never imagined we could achieve so much with Splunk,” says Vermeulen. “By delivering end-to-end visibility across our IT infrastructure, Splunk provides unprecedented benefits for both technical and business users.” 

As well security information and event management, Rokt has found Splunk provides value to the wider business.

“As part of our regular software development lifecycle, we often find we can implement any internal dashboards for business insights, monitoring, or similar capabilities more easily in Splunk as opposed to building custom UIs and tooling ourselves.  We increasingly expose these dashboards  to the wider business as opposed to only the Engineering teams.  Our Splunk Apps have thus become more business critical,” he said.

Moving further, Rokt is now keen to apply Splunk to predictive analytics, catching outliers, identifying what’s normal, and automatically detecting what may be outside of that.

“We have some simple fixed upper/lower threshold detection, but also have statistical detection that takes seasonality and traffic spikes into account.  This is particularly useful to handle fluctuations in traffic volumes on our e-commerce partner sites,"Vermeulen says

"For example, we will see very short traffic burst when concert tickets go on sale. We used to have custom tooling for this and frequently received false positive alerts. We have since replaced this tooling with Splunk which has made the alerts more accurate, while also being cheaper for us to develop and faster to roll out.

“We continue to find new ways to get more value out of our investment in Splunk. We’re starting to track KPIs around how much we deploy, security, things like that. We use Splunk a fair bit but want to push it further, tying it back into the product and building more dashboards more for the business."

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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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