Splunk's 'by IT, for IT' approach marries Google-like search and log files

2009 InfoWorld CTO 25 Awards: Erik Swan

2009 InfoWorld CTO 25 Awards

Erik Swan


Who would see the potential in bringing a Google-like search interface to log files? An IT person, of course -- someone who not only recognized the wealth of information hidden in logs and the need for a flexible way to unearth it, but who also understood the sophistication of the user and the need for an interface that didn't hamstring someone who knew what he was looking for and whose use case might be entirely unforeseen.

This "by IT, for IT" approach of CTO Erik Swan and his development team at Splunk has produced a software tool that is both unusually useful and uncommonly popular with the IT sophisticate in the trenches. It helps that the personal version of Splunk is free, and that Swan and his team have built a number of applications on Splunk and provided them as free downloads on the SplunkBase community site, where Swan himself takes an active role in supporting them.

Thanks to steady improvements in the SDK and the release of the Splunk API, Splunk is now emerging as a powerful application platform, hosting indexing and reporting solutions for a diverse range of systems and purposes. Splunk apps for Unix, Windows management, VMware ESX management, Snort, change management, network security, and PCI compliance have all appeared in the last 18 months. Swan even wrote a Splunk app to index all the data in social networks such as Facebook and Twitter -- just because someone might want to use it.

Splunk isn't open source software, but Swan and company's focus on creating useful free software and building a close-knit community of users and developers is reminiscent of the open source ideal. (The company charges for extended editions of the product.) For Swan, keeping his ear to the community and his hands in the technology are key. "The team knows what to develop because we have a personal commitment to the Splunk community, and an ever-growing relationship with our users," Swan says. "But just as often, we build what we want to use."

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