Scott Mosqueda, senior director of site reliability engineering for Dell, speaking at Splunk .conf18 in Orlando, Fla.

Splunk .conf18: How Dell Leveraged Splunk to Improve Its Black Friday Performance

Analytics helped the company increase sales and customer satisfaction during the 2017 holiday season.

For online retailers, there is perhaps no worse time for a website malfunction than during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. After all, Americans spent a record $5 billion in 24 hours on Black Friday last year, a nearly 17 percent increase in dollars spent online compared with the previous year, according to data from Adobe Digital Insights.

What’s more, according to the same data, Cyber Monday 2017 was also a record-breaker, with $6.59 billion spent on products and web traffic up nearly 12 percent compared with the previous year.

However, that exact scenario unfolded for Dell a few years back, Scott Mosqueda, senior director of site reliability engineering for the company, shared Tuesday during an education session at Splunk .conf18 in Orlando, Fla.

“Our Black Friday a couple of years ago felt like chaos for us,” he said. “Mass confusion, mass amounts of data, mass amounts of congestion in everything we did. Roadblocks at every turn, situations that took way too long to handle.”

Mosqueda said that customers who were in search of Dell’s annual Black Friday doorbuster sales were unable to complete tasks in a timely manner.

Negative customer impact was definitely there,” he said. “The experience was not good.”

That’s where Splunk’s IT Service Intelligence (ITSI) solution came into play for the Dell.

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ITSI’s Real-Time Updates Provide a Boost to Dell’s System

According to Mosqueda and Michael Brown, a staff professional services consultant with Splunk, siloed processes and an inability to scale were to blame for the lull.

Dell was already a mature Splunk user, Brown said, with hundreds of dashboards already in existence. While that helped speed up the process to build services on the IT side and eventually make KPI thresholds to test the health of its system, it needed more.

“They had good information, and they were making good decisions, but the data they were using was coming to them too slowly,” Brown said. “Relative to IT users, the business users were underserved by Splunk’s capabilities. That was an opportunity for us.”

ITSI, said Tanuj Arcot, a senior principal software engineer with Dell, takes bird’s-eye-view snapshots of Dell’s system, every 30 seconds, which allows IT staff to go back in time to view the analytics on any given day.

“I can go back five minutes ago, I can go back a week ago,” Arcot said. “Based on data retention, I can go back however far I want. This is very, very powerful in the sense that we can do analysis based on this information.”

For instance, he said, if someone asks what the system’s health was a month earlier, he can pull that up. Further, if a problem arises, he can go back to the date of the problem, view the KPI metrics and be on the lookout for potential similarities.

The technology helped Dell reap the rewards of last year’s record Black Friday spending, Mosqueda said. The company recorded zero downtime during the 2017 holiday season, and was able to check its capabilities in real time to add more doorbusters and other sale items on its system. That helped Dell see a spike in customer satisfaction compared with other years.

“Black Friday is not really about the money for us; it’s a brand thing,” Mosqueda said. “We never want to be the site that went down. We want to serve our customers the best we can. This is the day for our business customers that we offer up the best deals we can, and we expect to have a good experience as we go through.”

Keep this page bookmarked for articles from the event. Follow us on Twitter @BizTechMagazine, or the official Splunk Twitter account, @splunk, and join the conversation using the hashtag #splunkconf18.

Dan Bowman
Oct 03 2018

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