OCI DR in the Cloud

Business Continuance via Disaster Recovery is an essential element of IT and takes on many forms. The high end consists of high availability solutions that provide real-time replication of systems. While these systems provide seamless continuity during outages they are large, complex, and expensive, justifiable to support only the most critical business applications. At the other end of the continuum, however, Disaster Recovery is little more than tape backup or backup to NAS which have complicated and lengthy restore procedures which take hours or days.
A major improvement can be made in disaster recovery with a solution that provides business continuity in a model that simply extends the existing IT architecture into the Cloud.

Rackware RMM Migration/DR platform is a non-intrusive Agentless Technology with pre- and post- Migration Configuration Capabilities that is easy to set up and configure for complicated enterprise environments/applications. Rackware RMM supports both Linux and Windows-based workloads for migration to the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.

RackWare RMM platform provides a flexible and all-encompassing solution for Migration and disaster recovery. RackWare helps Enterprises and large Organizations take advantage of the agility promised by Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. Rackware’s platform eliminates the complexity of protecting, moving, and managing large-scale applications, including critical business applications and their workloads into the Oracle Cloud. It is now possible for enterprise customers to forgo the upfront purchase of duplicate recovery hardware, the cost of set up, configuring, and maintaining that hardware by leveraging Oracle cloud infrastructure.

Rackware RMM provides the following value proposition for enterprises in the Oracle Cloud:

  • Non-disruptive / Live Captures -No agents installed, safe and secure replication of your production environments
  • Network and Application Discovery – Automatically discover network configurations and applications allowing you to reconfigure them in the OCI environment during migration
  • Universal DR Protection – RackWare support spans all physical and virtual confluences, even for complex environments with Large SQL Clusters, and Network Attached Storage
  • Seamless Failback –  To physical and virtual environments, for simple disaster recovery drills
  • Cost Reduction – Orchestration engine for multiple polices of RPOs and RTOs based on tolerance to reduce costs with less expensive compute, network, and storage utilization.

Storage Methods

There are 2 storage methods available for Disaster Recovery.

Store and Forward

Store and Forward will create an image of your source workload in storage on the RMM’s database. When using this method, the RMM will need a datastore capable of containing the amount of used data from each source hosts minus typical compression savings.

Store and Forward is required if using the auto-provision feature whereby the RMM will only provision the compute resources during a DR event or test/drill event or to offer the multi-stage protection of having data protected by a stored image and then synced from stored image to target compute resources.

Passthrough

RMM does not store a copy of the used data from source hosts. The RMM acts as a passthrough proxy to sync the source workload data through itself and onto the target DR instances.

How it works

RMM provides a DR solution that builds on its image mobility and elasticity features to bring economic DR to enterprises. The building blocks of RackWare’s DR solution include onboarding, cloud bursting and the policy framework to automate necessary functions. Captured images from production (origin) instances are cloned and pushed out to a local or remote DR site. Changes in production images are periodically synchronized with the remote images, keeping the original host Image and the DR image in sync. In the event of an outage at the origin site, the up to date image at the DR site can assume operations through RackWare’s fail-over mechanism.

After the production instance is repaired and operational, it’s easy to restore the origin site to any up any changes made to the CloudImage in the cloud. When the origin site is restored to its operational state, the administrator can utilize the capture from cloud feature to refresh the original Image and synchronize any changes that occurred during the outage.

Overhead on the origin Host is extremely small involving only resources to take a delta snapshot. Thus the data overhead of the WAN link incurs only the delta of information, keeping bandwidth needs and sync time to a minimum. It’s important that Image updates include user data, Operating System updates, and application installations and configuration changes so that the recovery image behaves exactly like the production image should a failover occur. The cloud DR feature supports all of these. While OS updates are more infrequent it is still important to ensure that kernel patches are kept in sync with the DR Image. When updating the OS, an image refresh operation is done from the RMM first before the sync to the CloudImage. Should the production system be compromised or inoperable, the CloudImage is automatically launched and is running with the latest synchronized changes.

Oracle & Rackware partnership provides a seamless experience to Migrate to the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and secure customer workloads with dynamic provisioning and disaster recovery.

About TekStream
TekStream accelerates clients’ digital transformation by navigating complex technology environments with a combination of technical expertise and staffing solutions. We guide clients’ decisions, quickly implement the right technologies with the right people, and keep them running for sustainable growth. Our battle-tested processes and methodology help companies with legacy systems get to the cloud faster, so they can be agile, reduce costs, and improve operational efficiencies. And with 100s of deployments under our belt, we can guarantee on-time and on-budget project delivery. That’s why 97% of clients are repeat customers. For more information visit https://www.tekstream.com/

TekStream Helps to Support the Launch of Professional Services in AWS Marketplace

TekStream, a digital transformation company and Amazon Web Services (AWS) Advanced Consulting Partner, announced today that it is participating in the launch of Professional Services in AWS Marketplace. AWS customers can now find and purchase professional services from TekStream in AWS Marketplace, a curated digital catalog of software, data, and services that makes it easy to find, test, buy, and deploy software and data products that run on AWS. As a participant in the launch, TekStream is one of the first AWS Consulting Partners to quote and contract services in AWS Marketplace to help customers implement, support, and manage their software on AWS. Click here for more information.

As organizations migrate to the cloud, they want to use their preferred software solutions on AWS. AWS customers often rely on professional services from TekStream to implement, migrate, support, and manage their software in the cloud. Until now, AWS customers had to find and contract professional services outside of AWS Marketplace and could not identify software and associated services in a single procurement experience. With professional services from TekStream available in AWS Marketplace, customers have a simplified way to purchase and be billed for both software and related services in a centralized place. Customers can further streamline their purchase of software with standard contract terms to simplify and accelerate procurement cycles.

“TekStream views AWS Marketplace as a strategic channel for our services to be discovered and procured,” said Judd Robins, Executive Vice President. “Complete solutions generally have a technology and a human component to make them work successfully. AWS Marketplace has always been a great catalog of technical solutions. With the addition of Professional Services in AWS Marketplace, customers now have a broader range of options to get those solutions launched and managed.”

• Database Migration QuickStart – Jumpstart your Database migration to AWS with a 1-week process to analyze and assess Oracle, Microsoft, and open-source database migrations to AWS purpose-built database solutions.
• Splunk Cloud QuickStart – Get your Top 3 IT Operations and/or Security use cases implemented leveraging Splunk with 2 weeks of services, training, and 3 months of go-live support provided by TekStream.
• Splunk CMMC QuickStart – a practical, proven, and effective solution to get you compliant in under 30 days.
• Oracle License Optimization Plan – 1 week to analyze and assess your Oracle licenses and contracts to reduce costs – paving your way to Database Freedom on AWS.
• CloudEndure Cloud Migration QuickStart – 1 week to Migrate Development, QA, or Testing On-Premise Workload to AWS
• CloudEndure Cloud Disaster Recover QuickStart – 1 week to implement and test disaster recovery for up to 3 on-premise workloads to AWS

TekStream accelerates clients’ digital transformation by navigating complex technology environments with a combination of technical expertise and staffing solutions. We guide clients’ decisions, quickly implement the right technologies with the right people, and keep them running for sustainable growth. Our battle-tested processes and methodology help companies with legacy systems get to the cloud faster, so they can be agile, reduce costs, and improve operational efficiencies. And with 100s of deployments under our belt, we can guarantee on-time and on-budget project delivery. That’s why 97% of clients are repeat customers.

Integrating Oracle Cloud ERP (Cloud Fusion) With External Applications Leveraging Oracle BI Reports

By: Greg Moler | Director of Imaging Solutions

 

Does your organization utilize Oracle Fusion Applications such as Oracle Cloud ERP, Cloud Human Capital Management, and Project Portfolio Management cloud?  Are you looking for ways to extend the functionality of these applications?  These platforms store a lot of critical business data, much of which has the potential to be integrated with other third-party applications.  In this article, we explore use cases and considerations for leveraging Oracle BI reports to integrate Oracle Fusion data with external applications.

 

What are Oracle BI reports?

Oracle’s Fusion Applications including Cloud ERP, Cloud Human Capital Management, and Project Portfolio Management cloud as well as many others, use the Oracle Business Intelligence (BI) platform to provide reports and analytics.  BI reports provide a way to query and report against the underlying data in these platforms.  In the cloud platform, these take the place of traditional database queries.  They can be used in a variety of different functions to extract data for use with external applications.

 

Use Cases

When it comes to potential use cases for extending your Oracle Fusion application’s data, the possibilities are endless.  If you can think of a need, we can design a way to build it.  In this section, we take a glimpse at some specific use cases for integrating data from Oracle Cloud ERP.

  • Automating GL/Project Account Coding: Manually coding invoices can be time-consuming for AP personnel. This process can be streamlined by automating business logic to programmatically apply GL and Project codes to invoices.  For example, often one attribute on the invoices drives the rest of the coding.  Another common scenario is vendor distribution sets, where each vendor has a pre-defined set of charge account strings and percentages that get applied to each invoice.  BI reports can be structured to take input from your 3rd party application such as vendor id and return coding data.
  • Workflow routing and Approval hierarchy: If your application does workflow routing or approval hierarchy, it will need to know which user’s documents should be assigned to. Often, this is based on data on the document and can be retrieved from Cloud ERP.  BI reports can be designed to return the appropriate workflow assignee based on the pertinent ERP data.  If your organization also utilizes Oracle Human Capital Management (HCM), you can extend functionality even further by directly accessing employee data in the approval hierarchy.
  • Vendor data: Vendor data stored in Oracle Cloud ERP can be incredibly useful in a variety of different scenarios. For example, vendor identification on invoices, purchase orders, and other documents.  Another common use case is the use of vendor-specific attributes or descriptive flex fields (dffs) defined in Cloud ERP.  These attributes can be easily maintained by the business in the Fusion interface and leveraged in an external application to drive automation such as account coding or workflow routing as described previously.
  • Validation data: More than likely, your application will need to be able to validate that the data on the document or object is correct before allowing it to proceed. The information needed to perform this validation is typically stored in Cloud ERP.  For example, validating whether a purchase order had enough open balance available for a line item.  BI reports provide a way to perform these validations, simply by taking input parameters from the external application and returning corresponding data from cloud Fusion.
  • Reporting data: Reporting options within Fusion Applications and Oracle Business Intelligence platform can be limited. These reporting capabilities can be supplemented by an external reporting tool.  BI reports provide a way to extract data out of Oracle for analysis and reporting in an outside application.

 

 Considerations when creating Oracle BI Reports:

When designing and creating Oracle BI reports for integration with an external application, there are many considerations including:

  • Data Structure: Design a reusable format for your BI reports so that data is returned in a consistent structure. This will simplify integration points with the reports.
  • Data return type: What return data type will your application require? XML? CSV?
  • Catalog folder structure: Consider how to organize your catalog folder structure. Which reports function together and should be grouped together?  Which reports should be promoted together between environments?  The easiest way to migrate reports is to use the Archive/Unarchive function on an entire folder.  It is important to consider which reports should be archived together.
  • Testing options: The most basic way to test the BI reports is through the Fusion Catalog Manger. This provides a good baseline test.  More than likely, the reports will be called via web service, so the next layer of testing should be done using a tool such as SOAP UI that will allow you to test calling web services.  This will allow you to call the web service and view responses as they will be received by the external application.  Keep in mind that all responses must be decoded before they can be consumed.

 

Interested in getting more out of your Cloud ERP data?  Contact TekStream to learn about how we can assist with your Cloud Fusion integration needs!

Working with Multivalue Fields in Splunk

By: Yetunde Awojoodu | Splunk Consultant

 

Have you ever come across fields with multiple values in your event data in Splunk and wondered how to modify them to get the results you need? Each field in an event typically has a single value, but for events such as email logs you can often find multiple values in the “To” and “Cc” fields. Multivalue fields can also result from data augmentation using lookups. To properly evaluate and modify multivalue fields, Splunk has some multivalue search commands and functions. If you ignore multivalue fields in your data, you may end up with missing and inaccurate data, sometimes reporting only the first value of the multivalue field(s) in your results.

In this article, I have applied a simple scenario to illustrate how different multivalue commands and functions can be used individually or combined to meet different use cases. I will cover some common search commands and functions that work with multivalue fields. Note that multivalue functions can be used with eval, where or fieldformat search commands. In my illustrations, I employed the “makeresults” command to generate hypothetical data for my searches so that anyone can recreate them without the need to onboard data. Read more on the makeresults command.

 

Scenario

Within one purchase transaction, Mary bought eggs, milk and bread. She paid for the eggs with cash and covered the remaining items using her credit card. We can assume that this purchase transaction is equivalent to a log event. The values for each multivalue field are separated by the comma delimiter.

Example 1:

Please note that in all the results, I have deliberately excluded the default field, “_time” which is a default field generated when the makeresults command is used.

 

Makemv (Command)

This command is used to split the values of a field that appear like a single value into multiple values within an event based on the delimiter. A delimiter specifies the boundary between characters.

Example 2:

The values in the “groceries” field have been split within the same event based on the comma delimiter. The values in the “payment” field remain the same. The report shows the method of payment for all three grocery items but it does not specify the actual payment method used for each item. To expand the event into three separate events, one for each item and show the exact payment for each grocery item, we will need a combination of commands and functions.

 

Mvzip (Function)

The mvzip function is used to tie corresponding values in the different fields of an event together. This helps to keep the association among the field values. This function takes two multivalue fields, X and Y, and combines them by stitching together the first value of X with the first value of field Y, then the second with the second, and so on.

Example 3:

The new field, “zipped” is the result of the mvzip function. The values of the groceries and payment fields are properly zipped together before expanding into separate events. Note that at this point, the results are still within one event.

 

Mvexpand (Command)

This command expands the values of a multivalue field into separate events, one event for each value in the multivalue field. All other single field values and unexpanded multivalue field values will remain the same in each new event.

Example 4:

Mvexpand works great at splitting the values of a multivalue field into multiple events while keeping other field values in the event as is but it only works on one multivalue field at a time. For instance, in the above example, mvexpand cannot be used to split both “zipped” and “payment” fields at the same time. The next function will come in handy to accomplish this.

 

Mvindex (Function)

Having zipped the values and created one field, “zipped”, you can now expand the “zipped” field into multiple events. The mvindex function is a little more intricate. To further tie field values together so that accurate associations are made in the process of expanding the values into separate events, mvindex will separate the existing multivalued field into two chosen fields using index values. Indexes can start at zero if labeling from the first value. For example, if values= a,e,i,o,u; a=0 e=1 i=2 o=3 u=4. You could also label from the last character with -1; a=-5 e=-4 i=-3 o=-2 u=-1 or you could choose to have a combination of both index patterns; a=0 e=1 i=2 o=-2 u=-1.

Example 5:

Mvindex was used to assign index 0 to the first value in the group which represents groceries and index 1 to the second value representing payment method so that when the fields are split, the values will not get mixed up. The “split” command was used to separate the values on the comma delimiter. Using mvindex and split functions, the values are now separated into one value per event and the values correspond correctly.

Tip – The stats command can also be used in place of mvexpand to split the fields into separate events as shown below:

Example 6:

 

Mvcount (Function)

This function can be used to quickly determine the number of values in a multivalue field using the delimiter. If the field contains a single value, the function returns 1 and if the field has no values, the function returns NULL.

Example 7:

As with single value fields, keep in mind that you may need a combination of multivalue commands/functions to get your report in the required format that will meet your specific use case.

Note: If there are situations in your data where a field is sometimes multivalue and other times null, refer here

 

Want to learn more about working with multivalue fields in Splunk? Contact us today!

 

A Use Case for Ingest Time Eval

By: Zubair Rauf | Senior Splunk Consultant

 

A few days ago, I came across an interesting challenge that a customer put in front of me. They had been facing this for some time now. The customer works with an app that logs all of its events 7 hours ahead of Eastern time, irrespective of daylight savings time. The server clock reset to midnight when Eastern time was 5:00 PM all year round. To work around this problem and make sure the events were always synced with the correct time zone, they adjusted the sourcetype for those logs every time daylight savings time started or ended.

When presented with this problem, I spent a good amount of time to find a time zone that would change with eastern time when daylight savings time changed and have the same time offset as those logs. Not having any success on that front, I started looking at alternatives to help my customer overcome their issue and I came across this powerful way to solve the problem with a one-time fix with the sourcetype.

Splunk introduced Ingest time evals with Splunk Enterprise 7.2. Ingest time evals are similar to search time evals that have helped Splunk be the powerful tool that it always has been. Ingest time evals allow you to write an EVAL formula that is executed at ingestion time to create a new indexed field or to update a field’s value. They give you more control over Splunk index time fields as well. In my particular case, having control over and being able to manipulate index time fields helped me just do the trick for my customer.

For starters, _time is an index time field that is parsed from the raw log event. If the event does not have a time, the indexer will assign it with a current time when the event is ingested. In my particular challenge, the _time field needed a fixed offset by five hours as it was five hours ahead of eastern time.

To setup ingest time evals, we have to work with transforms.conf, props.conf, and fields.conf (only if creating new fields at ingest time). To further elaborate on the process of setting up ingest time evals to create new index time fields or manipulate existing fields at index time, we have used a sample log from a Cisco device.

To do a comparison, I ingested the log file with a custom sourcetype I created to parse the events.

With the above sourcetype, the following events were ingested.

If you look closely, the date/time was parsed exactly as it appears in the raw log event. Now if the raw event had a timestamp that needed to be offset, we could change the _time field at ingest time using ingest time eval.

To make my required changes, I will have to add an INGEST_EVAL expression in a transforms stanza in transforms.conf to update the _time field at ingest time after it has been parsed out from the actual event.

In the above example, I have used INGEST_EVAL to update my _time field to add 7200 seconds to it. This translates into 2 hours. I have also used the “:=” instead of “=” so that Splunk updates the _time field and not create another _time value resulting in a multivalued _time field in the final event. In this case, “:=” will overwrite the existing value in the field.

The above screenshot shows the updated _time field after the same log file has been ingested with the updated props and transforms. If you closely look at the Time column in the above screenshot in the first event it shows the timestamp being parsed as 01/16/20 1:43:43 PM but the timestamp in the event is 01/16/2020 11:43:31 AM. This tells us that the INGEST_EVAL expression in our transforms.conf successfully worked.

At this point, I would caution you to thoroughly test your INGEST_EVAL on a dev Splunk server so that you are sure that your eval works.

Ingest time eval can also be used to create new index time fields. While updating the _time field to offset the time difference, I thought about creating some custom index fields for demonstration purposes. This would further demonstrate how powerful ingest time evals are and how they can be useful.

Considering I was updating the _time field with my new timestamp, I figured it would be good to have a field that still parses and stores the original time. I named that field orig_time. This field is basically derived from the original _time field that was parsed before it was changed into the new timestamp.

I also thought it would be good to calculate the raw length of the event at ingest time, as that would create a field for me to calculate the size of the ingested data later. I particularly leaned towards demonstrating this, because not too long ago, I was also faced with the challenge to report host-level licensing information for every index. This helps Splunk users in an organization understand how much data their hosts are sending to Splunk.

Now, this is an easy fix if your environment is small. In that case, you can use the license_usage.log file available in the _internal index to calculate your license usage by index, sourcetype, source, or host. It definitely does become a problem when your environment grows too large. When the unique tuples cross 2000 by default, the license manager starts squashing source/host values and only index, sourcetype values remain in license_usage.log.

To work with this issue, I set up a daily license usage search which calculates the length of _raw for the past day for all the indexes and stores it in a summary index. This search runs at off-peak hours when the system is not being used by other users. That helps me populate my dashboards on demand for the users who want to see this data the next day.

Having raw event size calculated for every event at index size will definitely help me rid myself of those expensive searches that need to be run every night, these searches can be less reliable in case the search head that runs the summary generating search crashes. At index time I create a new field “event_size” using INGEST_EVAL in transforms.conf. The settings used to do this are as below;

If you look closely at the settings;

Transforms.conf

I have added two new stanzas to the transforms.conf to create the evals for the new fields, orig_time, and event_size.

Fields.conf

As we are creating two new fields at ingest time, we add their names as stanzas in fields.conf and make sure these fields are indexed by adding the parameter “INDEXED = true”.

Props.conf

I have updated the TRANSFORMS parameter in the relevant sourcetype. If you notice, the order of the TRANSFORMS stanza actually dictates which transform will be applied first to the data being parsed. In this particular case, the stanza is:

TRANSFORMS = orig-time,time-offset,event-size

In this specific transform the order will be as follows:

  • orig-time will preserve the original parsed time into the orig_time
  • time-offset will update the existing _time field to be offset by 02 hours.
  • event-size will calculate the total length of the event and create a new event_size field.

If you look at the final screenshot (above) closely on the left under “Interesting Fields” you will see that there are two new fields that you can see. These include orig_time and event_size

Now to calculate the total license usage by any measure, you can use your event_size with a | tstats search which will be many folds faster than a regular search.

There can be many other uses for Ingest Time Evals, one of which is listed on the documents page. To find out more, please visit Splunk documentation at https://docs.splunk.com/Documentation/Splunk/8.0.2/Data/IngestEval#Why_use_ingest-time_eval.3F

 

If you want to learn more or have TekStream help with implementing some Splunk use cases, contact us today!

Splunk Phantom Workbooks

By: Joe Wohar | Senior Splunk Consultant

 

Splunk Phantom is an amazing software used to automate cybersecurity processes, however, many companies do not know that they could also be using Phantom for case management. Arguably the most powerful, yet unknown to many, case management feature of Phantom is the ability to create and use workbooks.

If you’re familiar with Phantom, then you know that Phantom playbooks are repeatable processes that Phantom runs through against events. Phantom workbooks are repeatable, defined processes that analysts run through against events. However, they’re typically only used when an analyst needs to get involved. When an event is determined to be a threat that needs to be investigated by an analyst, the event should be promoted to a case. This can be done with a manual change done on the event (by clicking the toolbox icon button) or by having the conditions specified in a playbook that can then turn the event into a case.

Image 1: A workbook must be selected when converting an event to a case.

 

One of the biggest advantages of workbooks is that it’s a great way of ensuring that your analysts (new or old) are following the same set of steps when working cases. SOPs help define processes for your analysts to follow, but workbooks put those processes right into the case and make the work easily trackable. Workbooks are made up of 2 trackable components: phases and tasks.

 

Phases

Phases split the investigation into different sections, such as identification, acquisition, analysis, and reporting. Individual SLAs can be set for each phase of a workbook. When SLAs are missed/breached, there is a panel on the Phantom home page for tracking that:

Image 2: Home page SLA breach tracker.

 

Phases are made up of tasks, which are where the specific steps for investigations are listed.

Image 3: Adding new phases/tasks to a workbook.

 

Tasks

Tasks are very customizable, so they can be pretty general with few trackable requirements or be very specific with many tracked steps. First, tasks can have a default owner assigned to them, which could be useful if you want to have a “review” task so that a more experienced analyst can review a newer analyst’s work, however, I think most often you’d want to leave that blank so that tasks can be assigned to the analyst working the case. The description section of the task is where you can describe the specific things that should be done in the task. If you don’t want to track specific steps, you can simply use this section to create a list of steps for analysts to follow. However, if you have very specific steps involved in a task, you may want to use the description just for describing the process and then have the steps listed as actions or playbooks. This brings us to the next part of tasks, adding actions and playbooks.

Actions and playbooks are Phantom automation being added to the human process. The actions and playbooks added to a task are limited to the actions available in your configured apps and the playbooks that you have available in your Phantom instance. Then, when an analyst goes to run the action from the investigation screen, the action is already pulled up and they just need to enter the details.

Image 4: Workbook opened in a case with 2 tasks.

 

Image 5: Pop-up window from clicking the “run query” action in the workbook.

 

Running a playbook from a workbook is even simpler. Just click the playbook and click the “Run Playbook” button.

Image 6: Pop-up window from clicking the “Disabled User” playbook in the workbook.

 

As analysts move through the tasks and complete them, the phase’s tracker will be updated to show completion and whether or not tasks were completed on time and if the phase was completed on time.

Images 7 & 8: First task complete and then both tasks completed.

 

If you’re not using Phantom for case management, then you’re likely using Phantom to create tickets and add details to them in another software, which is costing you more in hardware and licensing. By using Phantom for case management, you’ll save the cost of another software and its hardware while using software you’ve already bought at no additional cost.

Not sure how to get started with workbooks? Try taking one of your best defined SOPs and make a workbook for it. If you’re not currently a Phantom customer and would like to try it out, you can download the OVA by registering here: https://my.phantom.us/

 

Want to learn more about Phantom workbooks? Contact us today!

 

The Bin Command

By: Forrest Lybarger | Splunk Consultant

 

The bin command is a relatively uncommon, but incredibly useful tool in Splunk. How it works is a user gives it a field (the field must be numeric) then Splunk groups the events by the specified field. The next important thing to know about bin is that the time chart command calls the bin command behind the scenes, so only use the bin command if the time chart command can’t perform the task. Below I will go through the options for the bin command and examples of how to use it.

At its most basic level, the bin command will group events in groups based on intervals. For example: “…| bin GB as bin_size” will create the bin_size field and assign a range to the event such as 0-10 or 10-20. The result looks like the screenshot below.

Without the “as bin_size” part of the command the range value will be assigned to the GB field instead. So long as the field is numeric, the bin command can group events along ranges, but utilizing the command’s options will give users more control over the results.

 

Bins

The bins option is very simple in application. It limits the number of buckets the command can create by establishing a maximum. For example: “…| bin bins=20 linecount as bin_size” will limit bin_size to only having 20 different values, but it might not reach 20 values. The results could look something like the screenshot below.

Splunk determines the size of the buckets on its own here, but there is a way to control the bucket size with other options.

 

Minspan

The minspan option lets a user set the minimum size of buckets. This means that you can prevent a bucket from being too granular for your use case. For example: “…| bin minspan=100 linecount as bin_size” prevents the results from grouping into anything smaller than a 0-100 bucket.

 

 

Span

The span option is by far the most useful option in the bunch. It allows you to control the size of the buckets, which, when combined with the other options, gives users much more control over the bin command’s results. For example: “…| bin span=5 linecount as bin_size” creates buckets with a size of 5. The span value can be numeric, time-based, or logarithmic.

 

 

Start/End

The end option also controls the size of buckets, but in an indirect way. When given a value, the end option causes the bin command to change the way it automatically calculates bucket sizes by having it use the end value as the highest value. For example: “…| bin end=1000 linecount as bin_size” causes the bin command to make one large bucket of size 0-100 because the bin command thinks results range 0-1000 and then it wants to break the results into buckets of 100.

The span option overrides end.

The start option does a similar operation, but on the beginning value and is also overridden by the span option.

 

Aligntime

The aligntime option is last and is only valid when dividing events by _time. This option can offset the bucket partitioning and is ignored if span is in days, months, or years. Aligntime is almost always used in conjunction with span in order to set the bucket size. For example: “…| bin span=2h aligntime=@d+1h _time as bucket” will build 2h buckets with a 1hr offset, meaning the buckets cover times between odd hours.

 

Conclusion

While the bin command isn’t the most common search command in SPL, it is very powerful in specific circumstances. If you ever encounter data that you want to group but might not want to use a transforming command or many other niche cases, you can use the bin command to group events. Since it is also a very underutilized command, you can possibly save someone else a lot of time with this added knowledge.

Want to learn more about the bin command? Contact us today!

Masking Important Data in Your Splunk Environment

By: Aaron Dobrzeniecki | Splunk Consultant

 

If you have problems or questions regarding masking important data when it gets ingested into Splunk, this is the blog for you. Common use cases include masking credit card numbers, SSN, passwords, account IDs, or anything that should not be visible to the public. When masking data before it gets indexed into Splunk, you want to make sure you (if applicable) test it in a dev environment. A great website to use is www.regex101.com.

The overall methodology of how the two approaches work specifically relies on the correctness of your regular expression. Splunk will look for strings that match the defined regex pattern. You can then tell Splunk to strip out, replace the matching string, or replace part of the string. Both of the methods below do the same exact thing – match a regex and replace the values – but both methods do it in a slightly different manner.

In the example data below, I will be masking the account IDs to only show the last four digits of the account ID. There are two ways you can mask data before it gets ingested into Splunk.

Method 1:

Using props.conf and transforms.conf to modify the data so that the first 12 characters of the account ID turn into “x”‘s.

One sample event:

[02/Nov/2019:16:05:20] VendorID=9999 Code=D AcctID=9999999999999999

When ingested into Splunk using the below props.conf and transforms.conf the event will be indexed as so:

[02/Nov/2019:16:05:20] VendorID=9999 Code=D AcctID=xxxxxxxxxxxx9999

props.conf

[mysourcetype]

TRANSFORMS-data_mask=data_masking

 

transforms.conf

[data_masking]

SOURCE_KEY=_raw

REGEX=(^.*)(\sAcctID=)\d{12}(\d*)

FORMAT=$1$2xxxxxxxxxxxx$3

DEST_KEY=_raw

Specify the field you want Splunk to search for the matching data in using the SOURCE_KEY parameter. Splunk will attempt to match the regex specified in the REGEX setting. If it matches, Splunk will replace the matching portion with the value from FORMAT and then write the transformed value to the field specified in DEST_KEY (which is the same in this example). The values for FORMAT are as followed. The dollar sign digit relates to the capture groups. In the example above you can see that there are 3 total capture groups: (^.*) is the first capture group; (\sAcctID=) is the second capture group; and finally (\d*) is the third capture group (I included a third capture group to specify extra digits, if they exist in the event or not). See how we did not include the \d{12}? This is because THAT regex string is what we want to mask.

The basis behind masking your important data is to make sure that you have created the correct regex. In the example above I created the entire regex string that encompasses an entire event. In doing so, we are able to bring back the entire event using the capture groups and ridding the event of the data to be masked.

Another way to mask important data from being ingested into Splunk is to use the SEDCMD to replace the desired texts with X’s or whatever you want to show that the data has been masked. Using the same sample event above we will get the same results as above, but using a different method.

Method 2:

props.conf

[mysourcetype]

SEDCMD-replace=s/AcctID\=\d{12}/AcctID=xxxxxxxxxxxx/g

The above props.conf will mask the data as desired. The key here is to make sure that your regex string (the one that is replacing the original regex string) includes the part that you want to keep and does not include the string that you want to get rid of. With SEDCMD, Splunk replaces the current regex with the regex you specify in the third segment of the SEDCMD.

In conclusion, there are two ways to anonymize data with Splunk Enterprise:

Use the SEDCMD like a sed script to do replacements and substitutions. The sed script method is easier to do, takes less time to configure, and is slightly faster than a transform. But there are limits to how many times you can invoke SEDCMD and what it can do.

Use a regular expression transform (method 1). This method takes longer to configure, but is easier to modify after the initial configuration and can be assigned to multiple data inputs more easily.

Want to learn more about masking important data in your Splunk environment? Contact us today!

Create Splunk Indexes and HEC Inputs with Ansible

By: Brandon Mesa | Splunk Consultant

Managing Splunk .conf files is a day to day routine for most, if not all, Splunk admins. As your Splunk environment matures, you’ll find yourself making constant .conf changes to improve operational efficiency. For example, as new data sources are onboarded, new indexes and parsing settings are implemented to maintain efficiency and the appropriate data segregation controls in place. To access this new data or index you might also have to create a new role or manage an existing one in order to set the appropriate data permissions to a specific set of users. You may also explore alternate data inputs such as making use of the HTTP Event Collector.

Manually completing these tasks can become time-consuming and error-prone. While you can’t automate every change on the back end, you may be able to standardize some of the common configuration changes. For example, common tasks include creating a new index, role, HEC token, and many more. You can use a variety of automation tools to manage your .conf files and reduce time spent making manual .conf changes. This blog will show you how to use Ansible playbooks to automate common Splunk tasks including index and HEC input creation.

To keep this blog simple, examples will be applied to a local standalone instance in the $SPLUNK_HOME/etc/system/local path. The location of .conf changes will vary depending on your specific environment.

The following Ansible playbooks are used in this blog:

create_index.yaml

 

create_hec_token.yaml

 

Create an Index

To create a new index with Ansible playbooks, run the following command:

% ansible-playbook create_index.yaml -e ‘{“index_name”:”ansible_index”}’

Shown below, you can see the new index “ansible_index” has now been created on the indexes.conf.

 

If you run the playbook again to create a new index with an existing index name, an error will be returned and escape the playbook execution. For example, if we try to create the “ansible_index” index a second time, the playbook escapes execution and returns the following message:

“ansible_index – Index string already found in indexes.conf”

 

Take a look at the returned message for the “Confirm if index already exists” task. The playbook reads the indexes.conf file and looks for the index_name variable passed at the time the CLI command is run. If the string is found in the file, the playbook skips the stanza creation.

 

Create a HEC Token

We’ve created a new index for all the Ansible related data. Now let’s create a new HEC input that will constraint incoming data to the new index. To create a new HEC token, run the following Ansible playbook:

% ansible-playbook create_hec_token.yaml -e ‘{“username”:”admin”,”password”:”Pa$$w0rd”,”token_name”:”ansible_token”,”index”:”ansible_index”,”indexes”:”ansible_index”}’

Playbook execution will look something like this:

 

Now let’s validate our token has been created:

 

Automation tools can facilitate day-to-day operations related to your Splunk infrastructure. It’s not likely that all .conf changes will be automated in your environment as you’ll come across unique use cases that will require specific configurations. However, you can automate some of the common manual tasks, like the ones shown above, to reduce time spent and avoid any silly mistakes.

Want to learn more about creating Splunk indexes and HEC inputs with Ansible? Contact us today!