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What Is Splunk? A Beginners Guide

What Is Splunk? A Beginners Guide

Introduction to Splunk

Splunk is an advanced, scalable, and effective technology that indexes and searches log files stored in a system. It analyzes the machine-generated data to provide operational intelligence. The main advantage of using Splunk is that it does not need any database to store its data, as it extensively makes use of its indexes to store the data.

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Splunk is a software mainly used for searching, monitoring, and examining machine-generated Big Data through a web-style interface. Splunk performs capturing, indexing, and correlating the real-time data in a searchable container from which it can produce graphs, reports, alerts, dashboards, and visualizations. It aims to build machine-generated data available over an organization and is able to recognize data patterns, produce metrics, diagnose problems, and grant intelligence for business operation purposes. Splunk is a technology used for application management, security, and compliance, as well as business and web analytics.

With the help of Splunk software, searching for a particular data in a bunch of complex data is easy. As you might know, in the log files, figuring out which configuration is currently running is challenging. To make this easier, there is a tool in Splunk software which helps the user detect the configuration file problems and see the current configurations that are being utilized.

As we have discussed about Splunk, now we have a question ‘Why Splunk?’ Splunk is a digitized platform that assists in accessing machine-generated data, which will be useful and worthwhile for everyone. Handling a huge amount of data is one of the biggest challenges, as there is a rapid development in the IT sector and its machines. In this situation, Splunk plays a vital role to deal with the situation.

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Let us discuss Splunk with an example. Suppose, you are a System Administrator and you have to find out what’s wrong in the machine/system you are working with. Take a look at the machine-generated data to get an idea of how it looks like.


It would take hours to find out what’s wrong with your system.

Now, this is where Splunk comes into the picture. It will do all the hefty tasks for you, i.e., processing of the whole data which was generated by your machine/system, and after obtaining the relevant data, it will be a lot easier to locate the problems.

Want to have a detailed knowledge on Splunk Read this extensive Splunk Tutorial!

As you came to know about Splunk, let’s now discuss about Splunk’s history in our next section.

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A Brief History of Splunk

Rob Das and Eric Swan co-founded this technology in the year 2003 as a solution to all the queries raised while examining the information caves faced by most of the companies. The name ‘Splunk’ is derived from the word ‘spelunking,’ which means exploring the information caves. It was developed as a search engine for the log files that are stored in the infrastructure of a system.

The first version of Splunk was launched in 2004 which was largely appreciated by its end-users. Slowly and gradually, it became viral among most of the companies, and they started to buy its enterprise licenses. The main goal of the founders is to market this developing technology in bulk so that it can be deployed in almost all kinds of use cases possible.

Now, you have an idea about Splunk and its history. Coming up next is Splunk features.

Why Use Splunk?

Manually managing big data is difficult, as its depth can be in thousands of rows and columns. Therefore, to solve this problem, we need a tool that can handle the traffic and disruptions. To do so, Splunk comes into the picture; it handles massive overflows occurring on the web servers by providing support user documentation.

As we know, when big data comes into play, it is not easy to handle data manually as the depth of the data can be in thousands of rows and columns. Therefore, to solve this problem, we need a tool that can handle the traffic and disruptions. To do so, Splunk comes into the picture to help us handle massive overflows occurring on the web servers by providing support user documentation.

Splunk software is useful for businesses as it can help to understand the patterns of attackers. It detects any inconsistencies or damage to production systems.  Splunk provides the ability to monitor data closely, which helps in the improvisation and optimization of performance. This infrastructure can be used to set up alerts based on custom queries and reports. Also, it can manage dashboards while reading the patterns and trends of data visuals

Splunk helps organizations fulfill requirements by maintaining log data in terms of searching, analyzing, and monitoring the activities within the data. It helps to gain useful data insights and solve troubleshooting issues by generating reports.

Splunk Features

Here are some of the functionalities for which Splunk is being used:

feature of splunk

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After getting a fair understanding of Splunk features, we will now proceed with the advantages and disadvantages of Splunk.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Splunk

According to an IT Central Station user, some remarkable qualities about Splunk are ‘its performance, scalability, and most importantly the innovative style of collecting and presenting the data.’ On the other hand, the same user writes that Splunk can be complex when it comes to setting up and adding new sources.

Here are some advantages of using Splunk:

advantages of splunk
  • Splunk creates analytical reports with interactive charts, graphs, and tables, and shares them with others which is productive for users.
  • Splunk is scalable and easy to implement.
  • Splunk can automatically find useful information enclosed in your data, so you don’t have to identify it yourself.
  • It helps in saving your searches and tags which are recognized as important information so that it can make your system smarter.

Also, have a look at some of its disadvantages:

disadvantages of Splunk
  • Splunk can be expensive for very large data volumes.
  • Optimizing searches for speed is more of a philosophy than science, which means it cannot be practically implemented.
  • Dashboards are useful but not as reliable as Tableau.
  • The IT sector is continuously attempting to replace Splunk with new open-source options, which is a challenge faced by Splunk.

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What is Splunk Architecture?

Let’s now look into how the robust architecture of Splunk works to retrieve the desired output from the complex data.

Let’s start off by looking at this simple pictorial representation of Splunk’s architecture:

architecture of splunk

Now let’s talk about the terms that are related to the Splunk architecture:

  • Universal Forwarder (UF): It is a lightweight element that assists in pushing the data to the heavy Splunk forwarder. The principal task of this element is to just forward the log data from the server. You can easily install Universal Forward on the client side or on the application side.
  • Load Balancer (LB): In computing terms, Load balancing enhances the distribution of workloads over multiple computing resources. A load balancer is an element that distributes the network or the application traffic over a cluster of servers.
  • Heavy Forwarder (HF): It is recognized to be a heavy element. This Splunk component enables you to filter the data. For instance, it will help in accumulating only the error logs.
  • Indexer: The chief task of an indexer is to store and index the filtered data. It helps in improving Splunk’s performance. By default, Splunk automatically implements indexing like hosts, sources, date, and time.
  • Search Head (SH): It is simply a Splunk instance that helps in distributing the searches to the other indexers, and it normally doesn’t have any instance of its own. It is essentially used to achieve intelligence and perform reporting.
  • Deployment Server (DS): It helps in deploying the configuration like updating the UF (Universal Forwarder) configuration file. You can use a DS to share data between the components.
  • License Master (LM): A license slave is a Splunk Enterprise state which is controlled by a License Master. If you have a single Splunk Enterprise instance, it assists as its License Manager (once you have installed an Enterprise license on it). The license is based on quantity and usage. For example, for 50 GB per day usage, Splunk examines the licensing details daily.

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Here is how the Splunk Architecture works:

  • Forwarder: It assists in collecting the data from the primitive machines, then it forwards the data to the indexer in real time.
  • Indexer: It helps in processing the incoming data in real time. It also collects and arranges the data on the disk.
  • Search Head: With the help of Search Head, end-users can interact with Splunk. It enables users to perform the search, analyze, and visualize functions.
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Let’s now see how the architecture of Splunk works in detail:

  • The forwarder can track the data, make a copy of the data, and can perform load balancing on that particular data before it sends it to the indexer.
  • Cloning can help in producing duplicated copies of any case at the data source whereas load balancing is performed so that even if one case collapses, that data can be carried to another case that is hosting the indexer.
  • When the data is obtained from the forwarder, it is then dropped in an Indexer component. In the Indexer, the obtained data is then split into various logical data stores and at every datastore, you can set authorities that will then guide the user’s views and accesses.
  • When the data is inside the Indexer, you can explore that data and assign those explorations to different search companions and all the results that we will be getting after assigning will be merged and carried forward to the Search Head.
  • You can also perform scheduling the search companions and create the alerts, which will be then activated when some situations will match the saved searches.
  • You can also use the knowledge objects only to intensify the existing unstructured data (data that do not have any format).
  • The search heads and knowledge objects can be retrieved from a Splunk CLI or a Splunk Web Interface. This interaction happens over a REST API connection.

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Is Splunk free?

After understanding everything about Splunk and its comprehensive advantages, you must have doubt whether Splunk is free of cost? The answer to that question is, yes! There is a version of Splunk known as Splunk Free. It is totally a free version. The free license permits you to index up to 500 MB per day, and it never expires.

The 500 MB limit indicates the amount of new data that you can add or index per day. However, you can keep adding data every day, collecting as much as you desire. For instance, you can index 500 MB of data per day and ultimately have 10 TB of data in Splunk Free. If you require more than 500 MB/day, you will have to buy an Enterprise license. Splunk Free manages your license usage by tracking the license violations. If you exceed over 500 MB/day more than three times in a 30-day session, Splunk Free will continue to index your data, but it disables the search functionality until you are back down to three or fewer alerts in the 30-day period.

 Splunk Enterprise Installation for Windows

  1. To get started with Splunk, follow these steps:
  2. First, visit the official page,  https://www.splunk.com/, and sign up for free.
  3. For the installation, run the Splunk wizard and follow the further instructions.
  4. Run the installer package (.msi file) for Windows installation.
  5. Enter the Splunk platform and start exploring the features.
  6. After completing the installation, launch Splunk and set up your instance.
  7. Follow the wizard to configure basic settings like your admin password and license agreement for premium features.
  8. Now that you are in the Splunk dashboard with multiple impeccable data resource handling capabilities, use it as it suits your needs.

Splunk Enterprise Installation for macOS

  1. First, visit the official page, https://www.splunk.com/, and sign up for free.
  2. For the installation, run the Splunk wizard and follow the further instructions.
  3. Run the installer package (.dmg file) for macOS installation.
  4. Enter the Splunk platform and start exploring its features.
  5. After completing the installation, launch Splunk and set up your instance.
  6. Follow the wizard to configure basic settings like your admin password and license agreement for premium features.
  7. Now you are in the Splunk dashboard with multiple impeccable data resource handling capabilities; use it as it suits your needs.

Splunk Enterprise Installation for Linux

  1. First, visit the official page, https://www.splunk.com/, and sign up for free.
  2. For the installation, run the Splunk wizard and follow the further instructions.
  3. Run the installer package (.tgz file) for Linux installation.
  4. Enter the Splunk platform and start exploring its features.
  5. For Linux configuration files, use splunk-launch conf and splunk version.
  6. After completing the installation, launch Splunk and set up your instance.
  7. Follow the wizard to configure basic settings like your admin password and license agreement for premium features.
  8. Now you are in the Splunk dashboard with multiple impeccable data resource handling capabilities; use it as it suits your needs.

Differences Between Splunk, ELK, and Sumo Logic

There are plenty of tools available on the market to handle disruptions on web servers. However, Splunk, ELK, and Sumo Logic are mostly preferred. Now, let us understand the differences between these tools through the table below:

  Attributes        SplunkELK (ElasticSearch-Logstash-Kibana)  SUMO LOGIC 
        SetupIt provides both on-premise and cloud setups.This tool also provides on-premise as well as cloud setup.This tool provides only cloud setup.
      SearchingSearching is performed right after importing data.Searching is performed after installing the ELK stack.Like Splunk, searching is performed right after importing data.

     Data  Type           
Accepts data in any format.Does not accept data in any format; log stash is responsible for loading data.Accepts data in any format.
          AnalysisThe data field is imported directly.The data field is first recognized and then configured.The data field is first recognized and then configured.
    IntegrationsIt is good for setting up and importing integrations.Does not support many integrations.Supports integrations,  including tools like Jenkins and Kubernetes.
Customer             SupportStrong community and customer base, thus offering better support.Small community and customer base.Small community and customer base.

Why Choose Splunk Platform?

Companies prefer using Splunk because of its flexible environment. It helps in providing multiple solutions with Splunk Enterprise and Splunk Cloud that offer faster application delivery by importing large amounts of data and processing it quickly.

It is useful for business analytics, which includes customer data, invoicing data, and billing data. Searches can also be customized according to our needs and saved for future purposes. It also provides threat detection to manage and monitor any suspicious behavior arising on web pages. All these features help customers choose Splunk over any other platform.

Understanding Splunk Search Language

SPL stands for Splunk search language, which consists of various commands, functions, and arguments that are used to retrieve and manipulate data to get the desired results from the given database.

The key components used in Splunk Search Language (SPL) are as follows:

  1. Search: It consists of keywords that are used to retrieve records from the dataset.
  2. Commands: Commands used for calculating and extracting expressions include rex, eval, and stats.
  3. Functions: SPL supports many in-built functions to take input and give the desired output, for example, stats avg(), which calculates the average of the given input.
  4. Clauses: It is used for grouping or renaming fields, using group by clause.

 Splunk Integration With Other Tools

Splunk helps organizations aggregate multiple data from different sources into a single platform, which helps in troubleshooting, analyzing, and reporting.

Integrating Splunk with other tools allows organizations to increase the use of advanced analytics on their data. It helps in updating overall performance and reducing manual work. We can perform Splunk integration as per the needs and requirements of the organization.

Different integration options include pre-built connectors, APIs, SDKs, and third-party tools. 

Let’s see some Splunk integration examples:

  1. Integrating Splunk with ServiceNow
  2. Integrating Splunk with Amazon Web Services
  3. Splunk and Cisco Integration     

Creating Dashboards With Splunk

Let’s look at the steps involved in creating a dashboard:

Step 1: Create a new dashboard.

Step 2: Select New to create a new dashboard.

Step 3: Insert a title and description for the dashboard.

Step 4: Allow permission.

Step 5: Choose the framework given below.

Step 6: Save the dashboard.

Step 7: Convert the dashboard to a form.

 Splunk Best Practices

 There are many pros and cons we need to follow to support Splunk’s customers through the tech team 

  • Specify the proper index, like index=windows instead of index=*; this helps in optimizing data performance.
  • Downsize your search with a date range like “7 days” rather than all time.
  • Do not share information with the main index; instead, find anything jumbled in one place.
  • Use the SPL editor and search “auto-format” to keep your search neat.                

Splunk Enterprise Security

Splunk Enterprise Security, also known as Splunk ES, includes a security information and event management (SIEM) solution that helps increase security intelligence in the organization. It helps in monitoring and supporting our security operations center (SOC) by implementing incident response and integrating data, tools, and content. It manages controls like role-based access controls (RABC), which help restrict user permits based on their roles and responsibilities.

It offers features like security posture, where we can create our widgets for our dashboards and view security events by location. Splunk Enterprise Security also helps in reviewing, classifying, and tracking status changes designed for security teams. 

How will Splunk help in your career growth?

With the landscape of Big Data changing every other day, numerous technologies are coming into the limelight. However, a few of them have made a mark with their performance. Splunk is one such booming technology. Its growing demand and suitability for candidates with diverse educational backgrounds make it an attractive field of opportunities. Hence, if you want to make a career in the domain of Data Analytics, learning Splunk will ensure your success. It took eight years to develop Splunk [NASDAQ: SPLK] and is now expected to beat US$100 million in revenues this year. Splunk is considered the first option among many existing companies, as well as IPOs that are yet to come, which are running the wave of the Big Data revolution.

For those people who do not surf the techno-sphere frequently, let me tell you that Splunk’s CTO and co-founder, Erik Swan, predictively described in an interview that Splunk’s magic seasoning is that it is considered the ‘Google for machine-generated data.’ The machine here includes all machines that generate huge amounts of data. In the Splunk network, data traffic is counted, logged, and classified by various machines.

Splunk is growing in many domains of technology and other industries such as Finance and Insurance, Information Technology, Retail, Trade, and many more. Many organizations worldwide use Splunk for their business needs in cybersecurity, customer understanding, fraud prevention, service performance improvement, and overall cost reduction. Splunk is getting used worldwide in organizations like IBM, Salesforce, Facebook, HP, Adobe, etc.

splunk engineer salary

As you can see from the above graph, the average salary of a Splunk Sales Engineer is US$148,134 annually, which comprises a base salary of US$115,967 with a US$32,167 bonus. This total compensation is $7,627 more than the average salary for a Sales Engineer in the US. Sales Engineer salaries at Splunk can range from US$112,500–US$190,000 with equity ranging from $80K to $100K (in US dollars). The Engineering Department at Splunk earns $9,393 more, on average than the Product Department. Comparably, the data has a total of two salary records from Splunk Sales Engineers.

Get familiar with the top Splunk Interview Questions to get a head start in your career!

Who should learn Splunk?

Splunk is one of the most suitable courses for applicants who want to see themselves as Machine Learning Engineers, System Administrators, Analytics Managers, and beginners, who wish to get trained in this awesome technology. The most remarkable fact is that there is no need to have a technical background to learn this technology, which makes it viable for candidates having degrees in diverse educational fields.

Now that brings us to the end of this blog. In today’s world, Splunk has become one of the most in-demand tools for Big Data professionals. In Big Data, there can be numerous data sources such as structured or unstructured. Thus, Splunk helps the experts retrieve the most important information even from unstructured data, which is considered to be the biggest challenge.

Check out Intellipaat’s Splunk Training Course and become a Splunk Developer!

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About the Author

Senior Content Manager - Content and Content Marketing

Mohammad Waseem is a Senior Content Manager with a passion for crafting profound narratives. With a background in content and content marketing, he blends creativity with strategy to captivate audiences. His experience in content creation resonates across various platforms and gets lakhs of views, showcasing his expertise in content strategizing.