Den of Antiquity

Dusting off old ideas and passing them off as new.

Splunk: A High Level View... In Layers

I explain Splunk to my team using a layered approach.
1. Full-Text Searchof the world

Start with a full text search engine.  But put _everything_ we have into it.
  • logs ( host and application )
  • configuration files (change management)
  • stats (system performance, monitoring)
  • alerts (snmp, emails, anything automated)
  • reports
  • emails
  • bugs, tickets, issue and tracker systems
  • documentation, wikis, and maybe even source code
This is immediately useful in small ways, and is a common practice at large companies anyways.  At least for documentation, wikis, tickets.  To search for details related to a host when working on a problem ticket, or fixing bugs.

2. Records

Give that full text search engine a knowledge of the ‘record’ structure within all those files.  Thus when you search, it can give you just the relevant records from the file.  But it can also display records in context or the entire file if desired.

This also lets you restrict search by records, or by transactions made of groups of records, making more powerful searches possible.

3. Fields

Make it cognizant of the ‘fields’ present in those records.  This is obviously useful for narrowing queries, as well as sorting, and displaying only relevant info.  But these fields are flexible, and resolved in a lazy fashion.  They can be different; per file, per record, per search.  Furthermore they don’t require the heavy project overhead of schema and datamining planning.  The lazy resolution of fields becomes a powerful tool when combined with step #4.

4. Powerful Expression language

Building upon all the structure of records and fields, and the lazy resolution of structure to allow all sorts of complicated processing and data manipulation: splitting, mutating, joining datasets.  Not just searching through records, but also data munging, to generate new data and then perform further searches on that.

5. Powerful User Interface.

  • a CLI with autocompletion
  • intuitive record/field browsing
  • automatically populated one-click drilldowns
  • graphing/visualisation
  • default dashboards automatically populated with commonly used searches and keywords.
  • custom dashboards

6. Zeroconf

Splunk detects most of the details and configuration itself.  With heavy heuristics that do the right thing most of the time.  But can be overridden in the cases they don’t, or just for further control.

The only place you need to do some forethought is some capacity planning.

7. Scalability

And finally, wrap this all up into a componentized architecture so that it scales well, and you can scale just the components that you need to.  Whether that be for capacity, or for performance.

If this sounds like some heavy propaganda, it is.  I’ve already replaced a number our tools with Splunk at the core. Which is working out great.

Eventually we found that alot of the stuff we were generating and then feeding into Splunk, can be generated more conveniently by Splunk itself.  Furthermore replacing alot of homebrew code with more robust, flexible and easier to maintain Splunk applications.