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November 25, 2013By Vance Loiselle

Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Machine Data Intelligence

The annual craze of getting up at 4am to either stand in line or shop online for the “best” holiday deals is upon us. I know first-hand, because my daughter and I have participated in this ritual for the last four years (I know - what can I say - I grew up in Maine). While we are at the stores fighting for product, many Americans will be either watching football, or surfing the web from the comfort of their couch looking for that too-good-to-be-true bargain. And with data indicating a 50% jump in Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals this year, it’s incumbent on companies to ensure that user experiences are positive. As a result, the leading companies are realizing the need to obtain visibility end-to-end across their applications and infrastructure, from the origin to the edge. Insights from machine data (click-stream in the form of log data), generated from these environments, helps retailers of all stripes maximize these two critical days and the longer-term holiday shopping season.

What are the critical user and application issues that CIOs should be thinking about in the context of these incredibly important shopping days?

  • User Behavior Insights. From an e-commerce perspective, companies can use log data to obtain detailed insights into how their customers are interacting with the application, what pages they visit, how long they stay, and the latency of specific transactions. This helps companies, for example, correlate user behavior with the effectiveness of specific promotional strategies (coupons, etc) that allow them to rapidly make adjustments before the Holiday season ends.

  • The Elasticity of The Cloud. If you’re going to have a problem, better it be one of “too much” rather than “too little”. Too frequently, we hear of retail web sites going down during this critical time. Why? The inability to handle peak demand - because often they don’t know what that demand will be. Companies need to understand how to provision for the surge in customer interest on these prime shopping days that in turn deliver an exponential increase in the volume of log data. The ability to provide the same level of performance at 2, 3 or even 10x usual volumes in a *cost-effective* fashion is a problem few companies have truly solved. The ability of cloud-based architectures to easily load-balance and provision for customer surges at any time is critical to maintaining that ideal shopping experience while still delivering the operational insights needed to support customer SLAs.

  • Machine Learning for Machine Data. It’s difficult enough for companies to identify the root cause of an issue that they know something about. Far more challenging for companies is getting insights into application issues that they know nothing about. However, modern machine learning techniques provide enterprises with a way to proactively uncover the symptoms, all buried within the logs, that lead to these issues. Moreover, machine learning eliminates the traditional requirement of users writing rules to identify anomalies, which by definition limit the ability to understand *all* the data. We also believe that the best analytics combine machine learning with human knowledge about the data sets - what we call Machine Data Intelligence - and that helps companies quickly and proactively root out operational issues that limit revenue generation opportunities.

  • Security and Compliance Analytics. With credit cards streaming across the internet in waves on this day, it’s imperative that you’ve already set up the necessary environment to both secure your site from fraudulent behavior and ensure your brand and reputation remain intact. As I mentioned in a previous post, the notion of a perimeter has long since vanished which means companies need to understand that user interactions might occur across a variety of devices on a global basis. The ability to proactively identify what is happening in real-time across your applications and the infrastructure on which they run is critical to your underlying security posture. All this made possible by your logs and the insights they contain.

Have a memorable shopping season and join me on twitter - @vanceloiselle - to continue the conversation.

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Vance Loiselle

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