Why Customers Need Splunk Professional Services

Why Customers Need Splunk Professional Services

A complete DIY (Do-It-Yourself) approach costs you time, money and a better end state.

Why do I need Splunk Professional Services?

You had the meetings and heard the benefits of Splunk based upon thousands of real world, documented customer experiences: IT troubleshooting time reduced by up to 90%, security incident detection and triage up to 70% faster, app development time-to-market cut by 50%. You may have even worked with Splunk’s Business Value Consulting team to tie these metrics to dollars in savings.

Yet many customers often fail to realize that value in the weeks and months following their initial purchase and deployment of Splunk software. It’s tragic to make a capital investment in such a powerful tool with such clear and documented drivers of business value, only to not realize the full benefit from the Splunk platform. Value realization may be hindered due to several reasons:

  • Many customers lack the in-house technical expertise to fully utilize features readily available out-of-the-box with Splunk. Splunk is a niche technology and skill set, and despite being sold as software that is relatively easy to use, it takes an investment of time from administrators and users to master (as any product does).
  • Many customers are not successful simply because their internal resources don’t have the time they need to bootstrap their Splunk environment effectively. This is especially true in mid-market companies where system administrators wear multiple hats and are responsible for managing many tools. A common refrain that we here from sys admins that are tasked with Splunk Administration responsibilities: “I’ll work on that when I find time” … and they rarely find that time, across competing priorities.
  • Due to the transformational nature of Splunk, some customers lack the understanding of what can and should be done with the platform, failing to produce compelling enough results to drive significant adoption within their organization.

Aside from these hindrances tied to in-house resourcing, there are other issues that we’ll refer to as “financial leakage” that can be avoided with Splunk consulting assistance. Many customers:

  • Overprovision the environment Splunk resides on, wasting money needlessly on technology infrastructure costs (whether on-premise hardware or software, or overprovisioned Cloud services such as AWS or Azure).
  • Conversely, under provision their Splunk environment by not properly scoping the necessary hardware, resulting in a Splunk environment that does not perform well for end users.
  • Spend needlessly on Splunk license. This comes in the form of not diligently managing what data is on-boarded into Splunk.

See Aditum’s article on Reducing Your Splunk License Usage.

Without successful deployment and adoption, and the proper ongoing care and feeding of your Splunk environment, how will you ever hope to achieve the ROI you calculated when you purchased Splunk in the first place? In this article, we outline the reasons why third party Splunk consulting services are absolutely critical to the success (or continued success) of your Splunk deployment.

Building a good foundation: Proper deployment with Splunk professional services ensures reduced time and cost for ongoing Splunk administration

The basis of any platform is a solid foundation. Splunk is one of the best documented and easiest-to-install pieces of software on the market – but there are many configuration options customers overlook that may impact a Splunk environment down the road. For example, most new customers start with a single, all-in-one Splunk instance. Once the environment starts to grow, customers will typically stand up additional Splunk instances and configure them all manually and individually through the UI (user interface). This adds huge administrative overhead that scales linearly (poorly) as your Splunk environment grows. For each new Splunk indexer or Splunk search head, your Splunk administrator will have to click through the UI to set up the necessary connections and copy over the appropriate configurations. Over time, Splunk administrators will make mistakes that eventually cause slow queries, incorrect results, or take the Splunk service down altogether.

When Splunk professional services are involved in a brand new Splunk install, configurations are designed and deployed in a scalable fashion using best practices – so bringing on new components in Splunk such as a new indexer or forwarder becomes a bit flip from the Splunk Deployment Server instead of a full day project. As your environment changes over time, you can be certain you have the same configurations deployed everywhere and save yourself hours of stress looking for one-off configuration changes – or “snowflakes”, as we call them in the field. In addition, as new data sources, servers, and appliances are brought into Splunk, your Splunk administrator will have a template of best practice configurations to copy. Essentially, the way that your Splunk environment is implemented and managed today, can reduce the time and cost to perform Splunk administration as your instance grows.

Splunk professional services delivered through a qualified Splunk consulting partner will ensure that you don’t overspend on IT infrastructure, or conversely under-spec resources and impact performance and the end-user experience

On top of the base configurations mentioned above, Splunk professional services can also help you ensure you have appropriate resources allocated to your Splunk environment. It’s very common for small Splunk environments to be wildly over-provisioned and larger environments to be woefully under-provisioned. A Splunk consulting partner can analyze your environment and use case and determine the best use of your resources. This can easily save thousands in server hosting costs, but more importantly you’ll have definitive answers instead of guessing and hoping more hardware can solve the problem.

Reduce Splunk software license waste

An experienced Splunk consultant can help you identify and eliminate data sources that are consuming your license without adding much value. It’s very common for Splunk administrators to simply “turn on everything” when onboarding new data sets. Oftentimes it’s not until after the second or third license increase that Splunk consulting comes in and points out multiple GBs per day of license usage are completely unnecessary and provide no value to the organization. Depending upon your type of license (perpetual or term) and volume of license purchased, each GB of data saved represents upwards of several thousands of dollars of savings – per each GB of data!  Or, unnecessary data can be replaced with higher value data that serves additional use cases and drives additional or higher value to your business, getting the most out of the license that you purchased.  For new customers, license is often precious and wasting license on unnecessary data limits opportunity for new innovations and business value created within your Splunk environment.

Splunk consulting helps you realize quicker time-to-value

For many organizations, Splunk provides insight into literally never-seen-before data. It can be very difficult and time consuming for a Splunk administrator to effectively review these logs and make a decision on which data is relevant, where the value lies in that data, and which data could be dropped from Splunk entirely. Using their experience analyzing large data sets and extensive domain knowledge, certified consultants from a Splunk professional services partner can help your Splunk administrator find the value buried in your data in a matter of hours instead of weeks.

For example, a new Splunk administrator might onboard Windows Security logs from a domain controller to analyze file server usage. Having never seen Windows Security logs presented in bulk before, this administrator will likely spend days identifying all the Event Codes related to the activity in question and perhaps even an even greater amount of time developing appropriate searches for displaying, alerting, and reporting on this information. With the help of Splunk professional services, your administrator can quickly get through the last-mile to value in your data.

Leverage advanced Splunk features and functionality that you may not be capitalizing on, to improve operational efficiencies

Once customers have a working Splunk environment, Splunk administrators often fail to identify opportunities to improve organizational efficiencies with Splunk. For example, a new Splunk administrator may not understand that all the server monitoring alert emails generated by Splunk could instead open tickets in ServiceNow directly and dynamically assign owners. The same Splunk administrator might also miss that there is an excellent Splunk app for AWS that could help them generate individualized billing reports. Splunk consulting services delivered by a qualified Splunk professional services partner brings an intimate knowledge of the product offerings along with the experience of using Splunk and deploying Splunk for other customers, and brings that product expertise into your organization.

Splunk professional services should simultaneously serve as cross training for full-time employees responsible for Splunk administration or use.

On top of all this, good Splunk consultants go beyond their role of “turning the screw driver” on Splunk and train customer teams on using the product to its fullest. This dual role of consultant and trainer assures that customer teams can be effective once the consultant moves on. In many cases, a good Splunk consultant will have customer staff at the keyboard making configurations together, in essence “teaching a man to fish”. The idea is to ensure that your full-time staff gain the expertise that was lacking, prior to you leveraging Splunk consulting.

An IT Operations team that has been logging into servers to look at individual log files for years is not likely to adopt Splunk overnight – they have incumbent processes in place and old (bad) habits die hard. Third party Splunk professional services can help accelerate this adoption process as much as possible – instructing users in how best to leverage the Splunk Search Processing Language (SPL) and helping those same users devise dashboards and alerts that can solve 30 minute problems in seconds. Splunk user adoption is driven by alleviating pain points, and Professional Services can do that immediately.

Reusing (already paid-for) ingested data sources for new use cases

The key to driving the highest level of value with Splunk is repurposing data that is being brought into Splunk, for multiple use cases. This brings the cost-per-use case down. Remember, Splunk is licensed based upon the amount of data ingested into the Splunk platform. Ingested data is paid for only once. Once that data is brought into Splunk, it can be repurposed and used for different use cases by different corporate end users, significantly leveraging the cost that was already sunk into the platform. Splunk professional services will help you devise ways to repurpose data for additional use cases. This is typically done via a Data Source Assessment tool available to Splunk consulting partners.

For an organization to successfully adopt a new analytics platform it is essential that users can rely on the service and that they trust the results of their analysis.

The Splunk platform is designed from top to bottom for service reliability, but many customers struggle with data reliability. Data reliability means being certain your data is complete and correct. Even when Splunk does its job perfectly, there are many external factors that could prevent data from reaching your Splunk indexers. For example, a recent firewall rule change blocks a Splunk universal forwarder from sending data – or, a server is patched and rebooted but the Splunk universal forwarder is not configured to start on boot. To make matters worse, this missing data will skew the results of any associated reports and cause confusion for analysts reviewing the data. Problems like these will lower your users’ confidence in their data analysis and, in some cases, completely stall adoption. With the use of built-in Splunk features like indexer acknowledgement, forwarder monitoring, and indexer clustering you can rest assured no data will be missing from your Splunk environment without you knowing about it – and with the help of Splunk professional services, you can design your IT ecosystem to avoid these problems in the first place. By designing for data reliability, you can give your users complete confidence in their analysis and drive Splunk adoption throughout your organization.

Summary

With any purchase, business value needs to be realized that justifies the capital investment being made. Splunk clearly has the potential to drive over-the-top results for your business. Like any tool or platform, however, it is just that – a tool – and it’s the human element that will determine the level of effectiveness the software ultimately provides. Having Splunk consulting services delivered by a qualified Splunk professional services partner guarantees you’ll avoid common mismanagement pitfalls that have performance, financial and end-user impact, get Splunk off on the right and sustainable foot, and assure much higher value realization.

Splunk consultants should be involved in the initial design and deployment of your Splunk environment, as well as regular health checks on ongoing maintenance, to ensure this value optimization. What this equates to in the long run is:

  • Reduced overhead through optimizing ongoing Splunk administration and scaling
  • Reduced unnecessary infrastructure spend
  • Reduced license waste by efficiently on-boarding data
  • Quicker time-to-value
  • Improved operational efficiencies by maximizing the functionality available in Splunk software and Splunk apps
  • Cross training of internal resources or end users, to develop in-house expertise
  • Reusing data for different use cases in order to drive down cost-per-use-case
  • Greater end user adoption by ensuring reliable data analysis

In all, leveraging an effective Splunk consulting partner will ensure higher value with a simultaneous lower TCO (total cost of ownership) – even after the money that is spent on Splunk consulting services.

Splunk is more than just another tool in your IT toolbox – Splunk is a universal machine data platform that gives customers the opportunity to become real-time, data-driven decision makers. Splunk professional services ensures that you get to that desired end state, and most importantly ensures that you realize the value you calculated you would get from Splunk immediately and continue to realize that value long into the future.

This article was authored by Jon Papp, Professional Services Manager and a lead engineer with Aditum. Jon is a Splunk Certified Consultant II, the highest level of certification in the Splunk domain. Aditum is a leading Splunk business partner, assisting customers with Splunk software acquisition and professional services.

About Aditum

Aditum (Latin: “to access”) is professional services firm specializing in next-generation Analytics solutions based upon the Splunk platform. The company is quickly building one of North America’s largest and most accomplished Splunk consulting team with extensive experience across all of Splunk’s major use cases including IT Ops, Splunk Security, DevOps, Business Analytics and IoT.

Aditum’s Splunk Certified Architects and Splunk Certified Consultants drive client success with initial Splunk deployments, environment upgrades/scaling, building of dashboards/searches/reports and Splunk health checks. Aditum also has a team of accomplished Splunk Developers that focus on the development of Splunk apps and technical add-ons.