Building Big Data applications is easy!

by Admin 5. May 2014 15:08

Splunk Web Framework - Part 1


Building applications on top of big data is much easier than you may think. To prove it I'm going to show you what I did. But first I need to point out that I'm not a developer, I'm a comercial manager, so if I can do it then I'm pretty sure that you can too.

Many people are very happy to use Splunk and possible add a few applications to it to get fast time to value, but one thing I always drummed into my team at Barclays is that the best tools are invisible. By that I mean that users should get what they need from a tool without having to think about the tool itself and if they can't even tell there is a commercial product there then you are really winning. This was highlighted the other day when I was on the stand at InfoSec. One of our customers was asking about customising the look and feel of Splunk to meet his companies branding. I suggested the Web Framework and he said that it was too difficult. I didn't have time there to show him just how easy it is, but perhaps I can show you...

So lets get started

Of course for this you need to have Splunk installed. Web Framework comes with Splunk 6 but if you are still on Splunk 5 there is a separate download. I strongly recommend upgrading to Splunk 6 though, it is a huge step forward over previous releases and a joy to work with.

The very first thing you need to do is open a command prompt and navigate to $SPLUNK_HOME/etc/apps/framework

If you're using Mac OS X or Unix, enter the following: ./splunkdj createapp smon

This will create a skeleton application for you in $SPLUNK_HOME/etc/apps/smon which you can then easily build upon, here I have chosen the name smon but you can use anything you want. You will need to restart Splunk at this time and the Apps section should have been created in you start page with an application called smon (or whatever you actually used) in there. Clicking on the app will take you to a default application template which doesn't say much, but you can now start to customise that page or add additional pages of your own These pages are in $SPLUNK/etc/apps/smon/django/smon/templates and the page you were just looking at was home.html in that folder. You can also customise the way your smon app looks on your Splunk home page if you intend to access it from here, but you can also navigate directly to it now and the idea of the Web Framework is that you hide Splunk from your users and just give them something which matches their expectations and your corporate look and feel.

If you look inside your home.html file you will see something a bit like this:

{% extends "splunkdj:base_with_account_bar.html" %}

{% load splunkmvc %}

{% block title %}{{app_name}} Home Page{% endblock title %}

{% block css %}
    <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="{{STATIC_URL}}{{app_name}}/cust
om.css" >

        .main-area {
            margin: 0px auto;
            margin-top: 30px;
            margin-bottom: 30px;
            padding: 10px;
            width: 300px;
{% endblock css %}

{% block content %}

        <div class="main-area"&GT
            <p&GT>Template message: {{message}}</p&GT
            <p class="muted"&GTYou should also look in the JavaScript console...</

{% endblock content%}

{% block js %}
        console.log("Custom JavaScript Goes Here (look in your template)!");
{% endblock js %}

But congratulations, you have just created your first Big Data application. It doesn't do very much yet, but we will fix that in part 2.

Building blocks

The Splunk Web Framework is built on a few standard building blocks. The Framework itself is Django (no, not the film) the well known python based web development framework. Don't worry, you can build Web apps without knowing any python at all. In fact you will probably only need python if you want to interact with other subsystems on your server, like a database or directly with the OS. You will need to know a little about the components that Splunk provides, in the way of search managers and visualisations, but we will learn the basics of that next time. If you want a very classy look and feel to this web application then you will probably need to be familiar with HTML and probably CSS3. My skills in HTML hadn't been used in 15 years, but I soon remembered enough of it to get by. I knew no CSS3 at all other than I did know what it stood for, so I needed to learn just enough of that to be dangerous. With CSS it is very easy to change your look and feel or to add standard web components such as menu bars.

If you want your application to have the maximum impact then you will also need to learn a little bit of Javascript. You will certainly need this if you want to use external visualisation elements like D3 charts. In my first app I have added a D3 chart and also some frills like tabbed browsing and chart drilldowns using JavaScript.

Next time

In the next episode I'll look at adding Big Data from Splunk to your application and how you can display and visualise that data and allow your users to interact with it. Don't worry, the next episode won't be any more mentally taxing than this one; I promise. Below is a short movie which shows the very first app I built with the Splunk Web Framework. it allows me to analyse some aspect of who has been reading the blog and shows just what you can do, even as a novice with this powerful Web Framework. I hope it wets your appetite for the next post on this subject.


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