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There are a plethora of tools available in the market today for storing and processing machine data, but how do you choose the right tool? Do you know which among Splunk vs ELK vs Sumo Logic is the best option to handle the data generated by your machines?
I have written this blog to let you know the pros and cons of each of these tools, after which you will be able to zero in on the tool most appropriate for your organization’s needs. I learned the differences between these tools when I was doing research for my project, where abnormal system states and frauds needed to be alerted in real-time. That was when I learned that there were tools dedicated to monitoring the systems by processing machine data. You should also know that Splunk certification is said to be a skill of optimum importance in today’s IT sphere. So I have published this blog to share what I learned:
Splunk, ELK and Sumo Logic are among the most widely used in the market and they provide a good representation of the different types of tools available. Other popular tools being Loggly, Graylog and PaperTrails.
You might also be interested in reading this report which talks about the Top Technical Skills to master in 2018.
You can go through the below table to get an overview of the features supported by the three tools.
|Searching||✔||✔||Only possible with Integrations|
|Analysis||✔||✔||Only possible with Integrations|
|Visualization Dashboard||✔||✔||Only possible with Integrations|
|On Premise Setup||✔||✖||✔|
|Plugins & Integration||✔||✔||✔|
|Input any data type||✔||Needs Plugins||Needs Plugins|
|Customer Support||✔||Available; but not proficient||Available; but not proficient|
|Documentation & Community||✔||✖||✔|
Splunk is a proprietary tool which provides both an on-premise and a cloud setup. The difference between on-premise and cloud setup lies in where you are storing your data. If you are going for an on-premise setup, you can choose between Splunk Enterprise or Splunk Light. If you prefer a cloud setup, then you can opt for Splunk Cloud, which is a SaaS version of Splunk Enterprise.
Sumo Logic is again a proprietary tool, but it offers only a cloud setup. This means all your data is stored in cloud.
ELK on the other hand is a combination of three open source tools(Elastic Search-Logstash-Kibana). Similar to Splunk, ELK can be installed on-premise as well as setup on the cloud. Their cloud platform is called Elastic Cloud. If you are an AWS user, then you have another option: AWS Elastic Search. In October last year, AWS released this as a hosted solution for ELK.
Bottom line: Splunk and Sumo Logic are proprietary software and you pay for a wide range of functionality. Whereas ELK is open source and cheaper. So if you work for a small or a medium sized company, proprietary software might not be the best option because you might be paying for a whole lot of features that you might not use.
With Splunk and Sumo Logic, you have a complete data management package at your disposal. Once you have imported the data, you can search and investigate that data. You can perform analysis to gain insights and formulate business strategies accordingly. You can even showcase your findings in a visual form by using visualization dashboards.
Since ELK is a combination of three tools, Searching, Analysis & Visualization will only be possible after the ELK stack is setup. Elastic Search does data storage and works as an analytics engine, Logstash is a data collection and transferring agent and Kibana is used for visualizing data. These three tools together are called the ELK stack (Elastic search – Logstash – Kibana).
Bottom line: Searching, Analysis & Visualization can be done with all three tools, but they are done in different ways in different tools.
I did some research on the different data types that these tools accept and I learnt some interesting facts about Splunk and Sumo Logic. Splunk claim that their tool can accept data in any format, for e.g. .csv, or json or any other log format. Even Sumo Logic claim that their tool can ‘collect logs from almost any system in nearly any format’.
In case of ELK, Logstash is responsible for data on boarding. Even though Logstash does not support all data types by default, plugins can be setup for different data types. But the downside with Logstash is its long startup time and difficulty to debug errors since it uses a non-standard configuration language.
Another detail to be considered here is the difference in the way data is parsed. I noticed that in ELK and Sumo Logic, the data fields must be first identified and then configured before it is shipped. But with Splunk I can do it after the data comes to the system. This makes data onboarding easier by separating shipping and field labeling.
I found that Splunk is very good for setting up integrations with other tools. It has around 600 plugins for IT operations, security and other needs. Although ELK is seeing an increased number of available plugins, it does not support as many integrations as Splunk does. Logstash which is responsible for the data on boarding in ELK, has only around 160 plugins at present and work is ongoing for more integrations.
Splunk has a big customer base, thus a very strong community. I found the Splunk community helpful and many of my questions got answered there. This is why I feel Splunk would offer better support than Sumo Logic and ELK.
I also found that Splunk’s knowledge base has an accurate documentation for setting up clusters and plugins, but with Sumo Logic I did not find the documentation to be as good as I expected and I had a tough time navigating through the documentation.
All three of these tools have their own advantages and categories in which they are better than the other. My only intention here is to help you in your decision making. So, it is necessary that you choose the tool that can be tailored to your needs.
I found Splunk to be the most comfortable among these tools because it was very easy to use and it was a one stop solution for my needs. It let me do Searching, Analysis, Visualization all on the same platform and offered me good support when I needed it. You may have a different opinion, and you are welcome to put your view forward by posting in the comment box below.
To learn the growing need for Splunk professionals and the various job roles in Splunk, check out our next blog on Splunk careers.
|Splunk Certification Training: Power User and Admin|
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