Scaling Splunk with Qumulo File Fabric

Posted May 2, 2018 by Stefan Radtke — Technical Director - EMEA. Filed under Trends.

Scaling Splunk with Qumulo File Fabric

Splunk is the leading platform for machine data. Splunk gathers many types of log and machine-generated data and, because it is highly scalable, it can index, analyze, and visualize very large data sets. Splunk provides both historic and real-time data analytics and a large supporting ecosystem has developed around it, such as machine learning libraries and various types of software developer's kits (SDKs).

This diagram shows many of the inputs that Splunk can accept and the ways it can process that information.



The main components of any Splunk implementation are forwarders, indexers and search heads. Forwarders are typically software agents that run on the devices Splunk monitors. They forward streams of logs to the indexers. Indexers are the heart of the Splunk architecture. They parse and index data in real time. Search heads are separate servers to which users connect to query data, build reports and visualize data (in smaller environments indexers and search heads can run on the same servers).

This diagram shows the Splunk architecture. The indexers contain hot (H), warm (W) and cold (C) buckets, which we’ll discuss in the next section.


Splunk Buckets

Data in Splunk is stored in buckets that reflect the age of the data:

  • Hot buckets store data when it is first indexed. A hot bucket can be written to until a certain threshold, which you define, is reached. Then, the hot bucket is closed and moved to a warm bucket.
  • Warm buckets contain data that is indexed and searchable. Data can still be written to warm buckets. When the threshold for warm bucket capacity is reached, older warm buckets are moved to cold buckets.
  • Cold buckets hold the majority of the data, in most cases. Cold buckets are read only but are still in the index. Thus, cold buckets will appear in all search results, reports, and so on.
  • Frozen Buckets are buckets that are not in the index anymore and are stored for archive purposes only. They are useless for searching/analysis and reporting.

Qumulo File Fabric Improves Splunk Efficiency

Splunk can use direct-attached storage (DAS) for all bucket types. However, this is relatively inefficient. If reliability is required, the Splunk replication factor (RF) and the search factor (SF) need to increase. The RF indicates the number of copies d of the raw data while the SF determines the number of copies for the index data. Both have a default value of two but can be changed at implementation time. A factor of two means that all stored data is doubled, which already implies a lot of storage.

DAS storage is complex to manage and this complexity increases as capacity grows. Whether you are using JBODs or RAID arrays, in both cases there is a significant administration overhead. Also, traditional RAID arrays have extremely long rebuild times, which translates to increased risk of data loss.

A much better solution for the majority of data, which sits in cold buckets, is Qumulo File Fabric (QF2). QF2 is a modern, highly scalable file storage system that can be deployed on standard hardware from Qumulo and 3rd party vendors such as HPE or in the cloud. QF2 is easy to install, manage, and expand. Its visibility into the file system lets administrators identify and solve problems in real time.

Qumulo’s Hybrid Architecture

A QF2 cluster has a minimum of four nodes and it can scale to many petabytes of capacity by adding more nodes. The QF2 hybrid model (there is also an all-flash version of QF2 available) uses SSDs as a relatively large write and read caching layer and HDDs to store colder data. Thanks to this hybrid architecture, all writes and many reads are directly served from SSDs but the economics of a QF2 cluster are largely dictated by the HDDse.

This diagram shows the QF2 hybrid architecture.


Even though Splunk doesn’t yet support using network-attached storage (NAS) storage for hot and warm buckets, QF2 is an excellent solution for cold buckets. When buckets are moved from the storage defined for warm buckets to the QF2 cluster for cold buckets, all data lands first on SSDs. This makes the transfer very fast. Also, cold buckets are still indexed and searchable. Data that is on the SSDs will be served at much higher speeds compared to data on HDDs.

Summary and Benefits

  • QF2 can scale to handle billions of files and many petabytes of data while still being extremely easy to manage.
  • The capacity of a QF2 cluster can be scaled as needed by adding additional nodes.
  • Performance can be scaled independently from capacity. More users or more complex queries require higher performance but not more capacity.
  • Frozen buckets can be avoided because data can be stored efficiently and cost effectively on QF2 in cold buckets. Data in cold buckets remains searchable. Storing more Splunk data allows you to run queries against data that has been stored for many years, rather than only on data from the last couple of month. This provides a more accurate view of trends, as well as making it easier to pinpoint anomalies.
  • Instead of increasing Splunk’s RF to increase reliability, data in QF2 is protected by erasure coding, which is very efficient, in terms of how it uses disk space.
  • QF2 has snapshots, which can be used as a backup strategy.
Stefan Radtke
Technical Director - EMEA
Qumulo is bringing long-awaited innovation to file storage. Most of the technologies dominating the enterprise today weren't yet invented when other vendors entered the market, and it is clearly time for a new, modern approach to file storage.

Stefan Radtke has spent his career working in technology, and comes to Qumulo as a principal evangelist of universal-scale storage for EMEA. Most recently, Stefan has been working to bring the best storage solutions to the automotive industry.

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