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I've been watching the videos at splunk.com and really it's hard to believe that one can get all those features for free, there's still that "where's the catch?" in the back of my head.

So it'd be great if anybody that is actually using it Splunk on production would like to share their experiences, perhaps highlighting its benefits over, say, Nagios?

Thanks much in advance.

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@DLux: thanks for the heads up! –  Nano Taboada Jun 10 '09 at 16:41

6 Answers 6

up vote 12 down vote accepted

We're using it for 7+GB of data per day, but we pay for that. A lot. I think we get a bit of an academic discount, but mostly we managed to justify spending the money because it satisfied auditors about having somebody/something looking over our logs.

We also use nagios. We've configured nagios with some saved searches that call scripts that either generate nagios alerts or create RT tickets. So, for instance, over X login failures in a 5 minute time window (across all servers) will generate an alert. That's the kind of thing nagios can't really do on its own.

Previously we were using SEC to generate those kinds of alerts, but it didn't work as well and somebody still had to try to use grep on a 20GB file now and then.

I'm not sure we have any nagios alerts generated anymore; we've switched most, if not all, of that to generating RT tickets. The nagios alert model doesn't really work well for stuff based on log analysis, it's better at things with a state that can be good or bad, not a discrete event that may need investigating.

EDIT:

Yes, it really does make life a lot easier for us. It's substantially better than trying to grep through logs. We've got Windows, Linux and Solaris boxes sending it logs.

Does it magically find exactly what you want like some of the videos imply? No, it's got some limitations and you may have to do a bit of configuration to get it handling specific types of logs well. And overly "interesting" searches can require reading through the docs and then waiting a few minutes while the splunk server churns. But, seriously, it rocks. From what I've seen, there's really nothing else in its league.

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So, overall, are you satisfied with Splunk? Does it live up to the demonstrations that are on the website, etc. ? –  Ryan Fisher Jun 10 '09 at 17:37
    
edited a bit to answer question –  freiheit Jun 10 '09 at 17:49

I've worked with both Splunk and Nagios and they serve two distinct differences.

Splunk does make searching through logs much simpler and easier to do. Having saved searches for common problems can be invaluable in identifying problems. I have 2 Splunk servers in different locations, they are both using the free edition as the pricing was out of range and the daily indexed amount is not enough to require purchasing more.

Nagios on the other hand makes for a great active monitoring platform. I have a 5 server distributed Nagios platform monitoring multiple geographical locations. It is very different than Splunk which monitors logfiles, Nagios can have service check plugins written to monitor just about anything actively and allow you be notified of problems so you can resolve them.

I find the two together gives a much better picture and does help in maintaining a network. Especially if it is a team versus an individual effort. Everyone involved is able to see the same picture.

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It's only free up to 500MB/day of log processing. I tested it and even if you stay under 500MB/day, I found that many of the more "advanced" features require a real license. It also requires a lot of hardware resources to work adequately.

I know of a company using it on a very large scale, but it cost a very large amount of money too (the low end licenses are many thousands of dollars).

It does different things than Nagios as well. Splunk seems better for tracking trends or looking for peculiarities in long term data and Nagios is better for being able to react immediately.

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Enterprise edition is very very costly, which is the version you'd be using in a large scale environment. This is the reason we've not used it.

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Splunk doesn't actually parse log data which makes it difficult or impossible to create reports that span systems with different log formats. It also makes it impossible to do actual correlation since there's no consistent taxonomy to correlate against.

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I have tested Splunk and found it to be very useful for ADHOC searches. However, I have used LogLogic now for several years as an MSSP because it is an appliance solution that is tuned to handle as many as 75,000 MPS, it supports a distributed architecture, provides built in MD5 Checksum File Integrity (for forensics) and has many index reports, regex and boolean search filters prebuilt for most log sources.

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