Splunk is one of a new wave of companies built up around the big data movement that has been taking hold over the last few years.They are not really a true BI platform in the sense of a BusinessObjects or Cognos, but they are more geared toward getting real-time statistics, or operational intelligence as they refer to it.

The biggest users thus far have been server administrators, especially social media and web sites. These types of sites can generate massive amounts of data that is typically unstructured. While Hadoop, 1010data, or other technologies have been used to store and process this, they've found a niche in analyzing log files from servers, activity processing, or really any operational type information. This data historically has not been rounded up and processed via ETL to a nice tidy datawarehouse. However, there is often critical data in terms of alerts, error logging, and metric that management often demands, and IT would struggle with providing. Enter Splunk, with a nice GUI but lots of technical backend flexibility.

Version 4.3 is the latest current version. It’s actually a very straight forward install, and they have a free version as well. A time-limited free trial of the Enterprise version is available as well. The Free version lacks some of the monitoring and bells and whistles of the enterprise versions, and is limited to up to 500MB of data handling per day. Not enough for a large scale enterprise, but enough for a small IT department or test department. Pricing will vary based on the amount of data analyzed per day and based on perpetual or term licensing. Its definitely not cheap, with reported quotes of $30000 for a 5gb day limit. Kaseya is another commercial software platform that is probably the main competitor. However, the best option probably out in the market now would be either a home grown or a cobbled together open source option. Logstash is one option and Zenoss also has gotten good remarks.

Given that they recently filed for an IPO in January 2012, it’s a good bet that they will be expanding rapidly in the future. They also released a beta version of a new product called Storm, which is designed to work in cloud environments.

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