What does the Microwave, 3D Printing and Splunk all have in common?


Q. What does the Microwave, 3D Printing and Splunk all have in common?  

A. They are all technologies that have introduced a fundamental paradigm shift from the conventional ways of doing things. Before the invention of the microwave oven, if I told you that I could place food in a box, turn it on, and cook food in a fraction of the time that it normally takes without making the box hot you would have looked at me like I was crazy. Prior to the microwave, your reference point would have been either a gas or electric range which incorporated a heating element (fire or heated coils) that would heat your oven.  You place your food into a pre-heated oven, and the ambient heat would in turn heat your food.

If you happen to be old enough to remember the mind blowing experience of witnessing the a microwave in use for the first time – you may have thought that it was some magic trick.  Personally, it took me a little to wrap my head around the technology.  No pan, no pre-heating, no metal – just place the food on a plate, place the plate in the microwave, set the time, hit run and pow – out comes hot food. Most shockingly, when you opened the door to retrieve your food, the inside of the microwave (minus the plate with your food) was cool to the touch – remarkable!  The need to heat food has existed forever, but this new approach to heating and defrosting food was fast, efficient, and radically different.

3D Printing is equally remarkable. Until the invention of the 3D printer, creating a product prototype or one of mechanical part was a manual, time consuming, and often-expensive process. Prior to 3D printing, if you needed to create or recreate something you would have to hand craft a model or prototype, create a mold and have the part fabricated in a special facility. The introduction of the 3D printer changed all that.  Now anyone outfitted with a CAD Cam program and a 3D printer can spin up mechanical designs in just a few hours, resulting in enormous savings of manpower and time.

Splunk is like a microwave and a 3D printer in that introduces a whole new way of accessing and leveraging machine and human generated data in ways that have heretofore have been impossible to achieve. Human generated data is simple enough to understand, that’s all the data we create from filling in information manually.  But just is machine data? Here’s the short answer – any electronic device that has some intelligence built into it generates machine data.  That would include everything from your automobile that you drive and the elevators your ride, to the laptop you type on, and the cell phone you talk on – in short, most everything creates machine data.

For the most part, this machine is often unused and often discarded, which is a huge mistake, here is why.  Imagine your automobile engine is running erratically.  You bring it into mechanic, he/she takes it for a drive, listens for the sound, and simply guesses what it might be, replaces several parts, and sends you on your way – on your drive back from the mechanic, you discover that engine is still operating erratically.  You are out hundreds of dollars, spent hours of you time bringing the car in and the problem still isn’t fixed.

Using the same example, you bring your car into the mechanic, the technician connects a handheld computer to the automobiles on-board interface, and reads the machine data (error codes) from the engine.  The handheld computer interprets these codes and alerts the technician to the malfunctioning part – the repair is made, and you drive home with the problem resolved.  No guesswork, no unnecessary repairs, and the problem is quickly repaired properly the first time.  That’s the power of leveraging machine data.

Just imagine that you could collect this machine information from all over your company, from every device (servers, applications, databases, hardware devices, etc.) and like the automobile example, you could quickly make sense of this data in real-time, how many hours of wasted activity chasing down technical problems could be eliminated?  Better yet, imagine you could break down informational silos and ask questions of this amassed data to help you manage your business more efficiently. Just imagine that you could easily organize and visualize all of this information in meaningful ways, with information updating these visualizations in real-time. Just imagine that you could set alerts, so that when conditions that you’ve outlined are met notifications are sent or programs are triggered to take immediate corrective action. Now imagine a world where finding information no longer involved taking days, weeks or months, but instead only took seconds or minutes. Actually, you can stop imagining, just like the Microwave Oven and 3D Printers, Splunk actually exists.

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