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Splunk is available as a free download that lets you log 500MB of data. Enterprise versions start at $5,000.

One of a systems administrator’s most tedious tasks is digging through log data to determine the cause of a problem. This kind of manual searching is time intensive and error prone. A better solution is an  search engine such as Splunk. But Splunk is to say the least unimpressive as a help in log analysis: on large volumes it is slow on small volumes it is redundant.  In both cases help that it provides is trivial.

The whole idea of Splunk is too much ado about nothing: to create a framework for using Python based modules in pipes to process stream of log data in the same way as typical admins uses Unix filters. But somehow due to relentless marketing they managed to stay afloat. 

Michael Baum, Splunk CEO and co-founder claims that his company created a search engine that lets you search and report on logs and data from any application, server, or network device similar to what Google can so on the Web.  But this analogy is wrong. Syslog records are more like database then the Web.

It is not completely useless. Splunk 3.0 does contain some useful features such as structured analysis and reporting. Splunk’s  reporting capability lets you use the product’s built-in library of graphs, charts, and reports to analyze the data that Splunk gathers.

The new scripting feature provides an easy method for porting data to Splunk. Users can write simple command-line or shell scripts that call another program, then send the output to Splunk for indexing.

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Old News ;-)

[Jul 4, 2009] People Over Process " Splunk and CA Unicenter Cross Launching Into Systems Management Innovation

2006-05-02 | Redmonk

Pareto Principle Coverage for Systems Management

First, we see Unicenter+Splunk pitched as a two complimentary products. That certainly makes sense. As we outlined in our briefing notes on Splunk, they're specifically not about "higher level" systems management, like service tracking or even complex event handling. Splunk is squarely focused on log searching and the implied event indexing, while CA is more concerned with those higher level functions. So, you have the sysadmin tool (Splunk) and the management tool (CA):

Mell Estrada (CA): Well, from the CA perspective, we are very excited about the opportunity to work with Splunk because, like Michael [Baum, CEO of Splink] was saying, we have two very good technology sets. Splunk brings interesting indexing and search capabilities and CA brings up the large breadth of monitoring and management capabilities and bringing them together and integrating them in a - at least, at this point in a - what we call a partnership perspective, we are saying and letting the world know that we are taking the heavy investing out of the customer's hands; we, as proactive vendors in this space with world class technologies, are coming together in a proactive manner to help them manage their data and their data centers in a much more efficient manner.

There're two interesting points here:

  1. the emphasis on addresses the issue of complexity in tool way rather than the usual systems management pixie dust
  2. I suppose the "at least, at this point in a" is a tease about a possible acquisition?
And then to the Splunk perspective:

Michael Baum (Splunk): IT organizations [have] become a lot more sophisticated about dealing with that complexity and the problems they deal with as things get more complex and most IT organizations, large IT organizations today have done a really good job with help of products like Unicenter, at building a work flow, building a set of infrastructure around dealing with finding problems and alerting on those problems in the infrastructure. What I've seen in my past, and what we're trying to attack together with CA is, okay, now that we're really good at that, what about the problems that don't get solved quickly because it's not an obvious - there's a single component failure, or there's a piece of hardware down somewhere; now you have to go investigate.

The last part is the key: neither Unicenter nor Splunk will be a "complete" enterprise systems management solution. You need both the "dad/management" platform that does all the "boring" stuff like workflow, dashboards, etc., and the tool platform that's used for trouble shooting the internals and "low-level" issues. What's refreshing is seeing a member of The Big 4 accept that duality and doing something about it instead of focusing on the higher level issues and pixie-dusting away the low-level problems.

On Splunk's end, this is also a kinder, more enterprisey way of Splunk positioning itself with The Big 4, rather than saying "those folks make things more complex than they need to be." I can also imagine that Splunk devs (or, my dev-gut tells me, all of Splunk as everyone there seems "dev") are happy about this deal because it means they don't need to worry about writing and supporting dashboards, reports, ITIL driven workflows, and all that other stuff that can pushed off to CA now, and future partners I hope.

Contextual Launch & Back-end Integration

Michael Baum: The first piece is a integration at the user level with the NSM product, where you can launch a Splunk search on any of the components that you see in the NSM console. The second part is, we have tied into the Event API underneath Unicenter. And we are streaming events from the Event Database inside of Unicenter into the Splunk world so that they can be indexed and searched and navigated along with all of the other data that you might want to index with Splunk.

This is interesting as it shows a sort of "non-log" use of Splunk. It also gives Splunk equal footing with Unicenter as far as raw and, perhaps, even synthesized data: if Splunk is sucking data out of Unicenter, then Splunk theoretically has access to all the data that Unicenter does…meaning sysadmins could spend more time in Splunk than in Unicenter if they prefer Splunks's UI. That's just wild speculation. I'll have to check out a demo of the integration to know for sure.

Collaborative Systems Management

Michael Baum: [F]or Unicenter itself, which is a product that needs to be managed, certainly its useful to apply the notion of Splunk Base and intelligence about managing the Unicenter product itself but Unicenter - the particular product we are talking about here, the NSM product collects all kinds of data, right, there is all sorts of things that they are able to drive into their event database. So, you could imagine very deep connection with Splunk Base where you are looking at some data that's coming across an SNMP port; maybe it's a type of MIB information from a device - you have never seen it before, you don't really understand what it is. Well, there are probably a couple of thousand people around the world that know what it is and if they have taken the opportunity document that in the Wiki on Splunk Base, its something you can have direct access to.

Since I'm big time on Collaborative Systems Management, this is the most interesting aspect about the partnership to me. Indeed, we advised CA to build up more community involvement and help facilitate more user-driven content generation. I'd like to see CA take full advantage of this Splunk partnership and more directly integrate with Splunk Base. Part of that integration is getting involved in the growing Splunk Base community: for example, CA's internal IT could start uploading newly found events in Splunk Base and getting involved in describing those events. From the on- and off-line discussions I've had with CA folks, I know they're interested in doing more community building, and Splunk Base is a great place to start learning the ins and outs of working with and within a community.

Of course, it might be wise for Splunk to keep Splunk Base to itself, least CA "take over" that great idea. Unless that wouldn't be a problem down the line… Also, pulling in other Big 4 vendors would hedge against one vendor/user base dominating Splunk Base.



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