Susan St. Ledger speaks to audience
Susan St. Ledger

ITS leaders bolstered relations with Splunk during a visit last week by the company’s President of Worldwide Field Operations.

On January 15, Splunk’s Susan St. Ledger met with UNC-Chapel Hill leadership for part of the day and joined the Kenan Institute to present a Dean’s Speaker Series talk at the Kenan Center.

Talking about partnership possibilities with St. Ledger and her team “renewed discussions of how we can further the usage and expansion of our Splunk environment,” said Patrick Casey, Director of Middleware Services at ITS.

The University uses Splunk as a log aggregation system and as a reporting engine for both machine and business data. Splunk has the ability to make complex systems look simple by creating custom reports and dashboards.

UNC-Chapel Hill has been a Splunk customer for nine years. The University has 650 Splunk users from 95 departments or units. These users execute more than 34,000 searches daily.

John Mack
John Mack

“As part of the vendor management process, it is to our advantage to have a strong relationship with Splunk,” said John Mack, Assistant Vice Chancellor of ITS Infrastructure & Operations.

St. Ledger acknowledged that Splunk has under served higher education. The company wants to do more. Splunk is looking to create a Splunk Education Advisory Group to learn more about how it may better serve higher education.

“This recent opportunity to hear directly from Splunk’s President of Worldwide Field Operations was special,” Mack said, “because ITS and campus were able to directly convey use case successes, current issues and to offer suggestions to a top company executive who wants to be a better partner with higher education communities.”

The University has 16 key success stories, Mack said.

St. Ledger “was impressed with our use cases and she is looking forward to strengthening a partnership with UNC-Chapel Hill,” he said.

One Splunk user who St. Ledger singled out was Matt Bernacki, a professor came to UNC-Chapel Hill in 2018 from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. While at UNLV, Bernacki used Splunk to develop predictive models for student success. He is continuing that work at Carolina. In fact, Bernacki and other researchers have received a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to create new ways to assist college students who are struggling in math and science courses. The $2 million grant is shared across three institutions. Carolina’s portion is $1 million.

“We are embarking on a critical milestone where Splunk will be leveraged” via this $1 million grant to determine student success by the School of Education, Mack said.

Susan St. Ledger presents at Kenan Center
Susan St. Ledger presents at Kenan Center

UNC-Chapel Hill also will use Splunk to enhance Qualys reporting. “ITS is building a Common Information Model,” he said, “and through the Splunk partnership and potential Splunk Education Advisory Group, we will be able to stretch the service application much further in support of the University’s mission.”

“We are hopeful,” Casey said, “that UNC will be included in several higher education working groups that are going to be created where we can help guide the direction of what is important to us, both in enhancements and product direction, but also with new training opportunities. With Splunk understanding projects that are important to UNC and ITS, they may be able to provide support to ensure successful implementation of these projects.”

From their time with St. Ledger, University leaders learned:

  • Splunk is willing to offer up resources to assist ITS on using a DevOps model to leverage Splunk
  • St. Ledger is willing to partner with the Kenan-Flagler Business School to help with recruiting and internships
  • St. Ledger will investigate the reason for the training changes that Splunk made. She now understands the negative impact those changes will have on the University’s 132 certifications that will expire this year.

In her presentation at the Kenan Center, St. Ledger also addressed how Splunk’s customers are using data analytics for security, operations and beyond to accelerate business and outcomes. In addition to Bernack’s predictive models for student success, St. Ledger cited Domino’s Pizza for e-commerce and nonprofit Global Emancipation Network for fighting human trafficking.

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