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May 10, 2016

Zillow Eschews Open Source for Proprietary Splunk

As homeowners and realtors track the dynamic U.S. housing market, platforms like the online real estate database Zillow are seeing surges in traffic as buyers and sellers keep tabs on which properties are moving and when a seller might be ready to drop the asking price.

To keep up with demand for its services and gauge customer preferences, Zillow Group Inc. (NASDAQ: Z) said this week it is standardizing on Splunk Inc.’s real-time “operational intelligence” platform. Seattle-based Zillow said the ongoing shift to Splunk (NASDAQ: SPLK) includes its mobile as well as web-based real-estate services.

Zillow added that it has steadily expanded its use of the proprietary Splunk Enterprise platform over the past several years, beginning with IT operations and application delivery while expanding to include DevOps and business analytics. The standardization move announced on Tuesday (May 10) includes Zillow’s Trulia and Retsly brands.

Zillow and rival real estate tracker Trulia merged last year. Zillow acquired software developer Retsly in 2014.

Zillow’s engineering and IT teams use San Francisco-based Splunk’s platform for development, customer services and mobile platform support, the partners said. Meanwhile, a web site operations team uses the platform to monitor live site investigations and to troubleshoot incidents reported by customers.

Meanwhile, product development teams are using the Splunk’s analytics capabilities to glean real-time insights into web site performance as a way to mitigate issues and speed delivery of real-time data on local real estates markets.

The teams also track and analyze web site metrics showing trends related to online user behaviors and preferences. Additionally, Zillow’s security team uses the Splunk platform to identify site malfunctions or anomalies that could reduce site performance and functionality.

Splunk’s proprietary approach runs counter to the growing number of open source tools designed to, among other things, prevent vendor lock-in.

Before embracing Splunk Enterprise, Zillow said it monitored services using a variety of open source utilities that collectively could not meet all its operations demands. Hence, the real estate and rental marketplace opted to shift all of its data to the Splunk platform as a way for developers and the operations teams to use the same dashboards to access mission-critical operational data and monitor performance.

Zillow also said it is leveraging Splunk to track user behavior, site performance as well as anomalies. Unlike “disjointed” open source tools, the shift has allowed developers “to focus on what to monitor, how to monitor and not as much on what tools or how to build a tool to give us the monitoring that we need,” explained Seth Davis, Zillow’s director of site operations.

Big clients like Zillow have helped Splunk grow into among the most successful big data platform vendors. Company revenues have far exceeded competing Hadoop distributions, and the company’s proprietary machine data analytics platform continues to attract new clients seeking an integrated approach to, as in the case of Zillow, web site performance monitoring and the ability to discern customer preferences.

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