Splunk has long been a favoured tool in tech teams. Its purpose is to bring together the data from disparate systems – usually the logs from all manner of different network, security and server hardware – into a single location so that it can be analysed.
While that use case drove the company forward over the last decade, Splunk’s potential reach is far broader. Signalling the company’s new “data-to-everything” strategy, CEO Doug Merritt launched this year’s Splunk.Conf event, the company’s tenth, pointing to a future where data will be used in everything from digitally printing food to getting us to travel in fully autonomous vehicles.
With the world facing numerous challenges, Merritt said, “data is the answer”. Everything from new medical technologies for growing populations where everyone has unique genetic code to protecting privacy, he said, can be overcome through the intelligent use of data.
Looking into the near future, Merritt said there will only be two types of companies — those that make things happen with data and those that don’t exist. “The world will depend on those that can capture, make sense and ultimately act on data.”
The volume of data that businesses face today is vast and it’s more complex and unstructured. The data is coming in faster than ever before and in different time scales, with some coming in milliseconds while other information arrives monthly. And it needs to be integrated rather than remaining in silos.
Merritt said this means businesses need to find ways to turn data into value. Data needs to be liberated, he said, to make the right things happen at the right time with the right outcomes.
Splunk is expanding its reach into marketing, HR and other functions. The company’s CMO, Carrie Palin, says access to data is elevating discussions so that line-of-business managers can look more holistically at the entire enterprise.
“As a functional business leader, the pressure for CMOs, CHROs and those with a seat at the exec table to be business people first, and bring their functional expertise second, is where it’s at today. Data drives just about everything we do. About ten years ago it was only a major inflection point for the marketing functional area. We’re in a place where data scientists and data practitioners are part of our organisations.”
Every business area is looking for new insights, Palin added, and data is at the base of those insights. Making that data widely available and usable is behind the company’s decision to invest in web apps, mobile apps and even an Apple TV app that can integrate multiple data feeds as well as live TV, something that can be used in the office or near your reception desk.
This is what lies at the foundation of Splunk’s renewed vision. With a full rebrand completed, sporting new pink and orange livery, Splunk is moving towards its new ‘data-to-everything’ strategy. A big part of that broadening scope is the realisation that one type of data can have multiple applications. For example, data from financial systems can be used the HR function or marketing to help make better decisions about how to use finances and to better understand what is happening in the business more broadly.
Splunk’s role in this, said Merritt is to “bring data to every question, to every decision and to every action.”
For that to work, Merritt said businesses need software that can deal with any data, from the most structured to most unstructured. That data could be static or fast flowing from any number of systems. And the questions need to be answered from almost any device in different ways. This is one of the key drivers behind Splunk’s evolution from the back office into almost every business function.
Augmented reality allows data from Splunk to be overlaid in real-time into diagnostic systems. For example, in a demonstration, an engineer commissioned a new charging station for the latest Porsche – the fully electric Taycan. During that demonstration, the technician pointed a smartphone camera at the charging station and instructions to activate the station and connect it to the rest of Porsche’s network were displayed along with instructional videos and manuals.
Similarly, a video presentation showed fault diagnosis in a chiller unit managed by a power utility at a power plant with information displayed on screen as the technician pointed a smartphone at the malfunctioning equipment.
Where does this bring us? We are reaching a major inflection point in the use of technology across multiple business functions. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality, analytics and automation all rely on having access to large volumes of data from multiple sources. Splunk sees that as being its future and is making the move from the bowels of IT into the front office.