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Splunk Base brings IT troubleshooting to the IT masses

Splunk is betting the combination of a powerful IT troubleshooting search tool and a global repository managed by IT pros will help combat data center complexity.

To better understand Splunk Base, look no further than the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

Like Wikipedia, Splunk Base provides a global repository of user-regulated information, but the similarities end there. Splunk Inc. will formally unveil Splunk Base this week at the LinuxWorld 2006 Conference for all to see its free-of-charge community stockpiled error messages and troubleshooting tips for IT professionals from IT professionals -- for any system they can get their hands on.

At the head of this community effort is Splunk's chief community Splunker Patrick McGovern, who picked up much of his community experience while working with developers when he managed the open source project repository

Now at Splunk, McGovern manages Splunk Base, a global wiki of IT events that grants IT workers access to information about specific events recorded by any application, system or device.

Any system, worldwide, for free

Splunk CEO Michael Baum said Splunk Base meets the lofty promise of "any system" by leveraging a company's universal event classification algorithms to automatically fingerprint individual events and identify common events in any kind of IT data.

"Splunk fingerprints every event it sees based on the structure and syntax of the event, ignoring variables such as timestamps, IP addresses and process IDs. Universal Event types are used to organize and look up wiki entries and connect people working on similar kinds of infrastructures and technologies," he explained.

Splunk Base also integrates Splunk's existing search software for log files and other types of IT data to cut the time it takes for troubleshooting and problem resolution. The search software indexes and links together all log files and other types of IT data generated by any system, application or device making it possible to search and navigate IT infrastructures.

This, in effect, allows systems administrators, developers and support staff to tap into hands-on experts with a vendor-neutral point of view while maintaining privacy and security.

And vendor neutral is a term Baum and McGovern want tied closely to Splunk Base. "We are running Splunk Base as free public service," Baum said. "A user doesn't need to have our [Splunk Professional] product to use it."

The benefit of this system is two-fold, said Dana Gardner, principal analyst for Gilford, N.H.-based Interarbor Solutions LLC. IT workers, who might not have a developer's technical level of expertise, will have access to Splunk Base information in addition to what many would consider their most trusted resource -- their peers.

"Splunk has integrated two strengths for optimizing IT troubleshooting -- search and community," Gardner said. "Search makes discovering problems amid data overload easier, and community involvement provides rich fix-it advice based on actual use and experience."

The time is right for global IT troubleshooting

If you believe the research from firms like Framingham, Mass.-based IDC, then Splunk Base has arrived at a key moment.

According to IDC, companies will spend more than $100 billion this year on managing the world's data centers. And with virtualization quickly becoming an IT buzzword in 2006, the complexity and costs could increase.

"What's interesting about virtualization is that people are saying this is going to be the panacea to manage all data centers, but all it does is add complexity," Baum said. "It is an amusing game, kind of like 'whack a mole,' but who is going to troubleshoot all of this new virtualization?"

The Splunkers believe their global community model is needed to circumvent this problem. "Applications and underlying infrastructure today are made up of thousands of components, technologies and services," Baum said. "You can't possibly understand it all in-depth in this lifetime. But you understand some of it and other IT professionals will understand [the rest]."

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