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Splunk Execs: Partners Taking Machine Learning Into New IoT, Industrial Applications

Splunk debuted new releases of its core software with new machine learning capabilities Tuesday and company executives touted the company's success in recruiting new channel partners.

Splunk is expanding the machine data capabilities of its operational data software as it launches new releases of its Splunk Enterprise, IT Service Intelligence and User Behavior Analytics applications. The company said these new releases would bring machine learning capabilities to mainstream users.

The new product releases, announced Tuesday at Splunk's .conf2017 customer and partner conference, come as the vendor continues to expand its Partner+ Program and grow its base of channel partners.

Splunk now has 950 partners within its channel ecosystem, up from 750 earlier this year, said Brooke Cunningham, Splunk area vice president of global partner programs and operations, in an interview prior to the .conf2017 conference.

[Related: Sources: Symantec Is Looking To Break Into The SIEM Market]

"We're seeing that growth across the partner ecosystem," Cunningham said, referring to Splunk's partner ranks that include resellers, systems integrators, professional service companies, managed service providers and technology OEMs.

Splunk, founded in 2003, only began focusing on the channel in recent years. Channel efforts accelerated two years ago when Doug Merritt was hired as president and CEO in 2015 and he made the channel a part of his growth strategy.

"I think we're starting to see the payoffs from those investments," Merritt said during a press conference Tuesday. "It's been a long journey and we're never done. Wherever we are a year from now, there's still going to be 50 percent more that we can be doing the year after and 50 percent more after that."

Splunk's partners have been particularly successful in specific domains such as robotics and industrial Internet of Things where "unique use cases" require expertise that Splunk doesn't have, said Rick Fitz, senior vice president of IT markets, in the same press conference.

"We're seeing [partners] really pick up the areas we don't know and start to drive a lot of unique value in the market," Fitz said. "This is really the area of value-added resellers and systems integrators."

Splunk has been particularly stepping up its channel operations this year. In March the company added programs for professional service and MSP partners and upgraded the resources it offers reseller partners.

In July the vendor launched an overhauled partner portal with expanded capabilities designed to boost loyalty among existing partners and help recruit additional partners. The new portal provided more self-service capabilities, improved partner communications, and was more tailored to Splunk's different categories of partners including resellers, systems integrators, professional service companies and MSPs.


Splunk also recently began offering additional sales incentives for partners, including rebates for resellers who bring new customers to the vendor.

"We've had really good feedback from partners since the launch," Cunningham said. As of last week the portal had received 19,000 logins from 4,100 unique partner users.

Partner certifications are another metric of the vendor's channel expansion: Engineers, developers and consultants at partner firms now hold a total of 17,000 technical certifications – up 120 percent year over year, Cunningham said – and more than 5,300 sales certifications, up 38 percent.

By the end of Splunk's current fiscal year next January the vendor plans to offer a more robust partner planning application through the portal, provide more functionality specifically for distribution partners, and link more information about partner experience to the partner locator system on Splunk.com, Cunningham said.

On the technology front, Splunk introduced Splunk Enterprise 7.0, a new release of the vendor's flagship platform, and updates to Splunk Cloud – both incorporating expanded machine learning technology that boost the software's ability to monitor and analyze real-time data and predict IT, security and business outcomes.

The new edition of Splunk Enterprise, available now, also offers significant improvements in performance and scalability, including core enhancements that provide a three-fold increase in search speed and a 20-fold boost in monitoring and alerting applications.

DevOps software vendor Puppet announced a strategic partnership with Splunk on Tuesday to integrate the two vendor's products. Tim Zonca, Puppet marketing vice president, said in an interview that customers who use Puppet and Splunk software would benefit greatly from the predictive intelligence capabilities through the new machine learning functionality.

"That level of intelligence is going to be pretty powerful," Zonca said.

New machine learning capabilities also figure prominently in the new Splunk IT Service Intelligence 3.0 and Splunk User Behavior Analytics 4.0 software that will ship next month. Also new – and free for existing Splunk customers – is the Splunk Machine Learning Toolkit data science application.

Roughly half of Splunk's software is used for security tasks and the vendor also debuted a number of new and updated packaged applications and services in security and IT operational security. They include Splunk Enterprise Security Content Update, a subscription service that provides prepackaged security content; Splunk Security Essentials for Fraud Detection for identify and investigating fraudulent activity in healthcare, payment card and transactional systems; and Splunk Insights for Ransomware for assessment of potential ransomware threats.

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