Splunk IPO kills, lives up to expectations

Erik Swan of Splunk at Structure:Data 2012
(c) 2012 Pinar Ozger. [email protected]

The widely anticipated Splunk(s splk) IPO has not disappointed, with shares up nearly 90 percent from their opening price at one point Thursday.

This initial excitement is hardly surprising given the interest in big data in general, and Splunk in particular. The term “big data” refers to massive amounts of structured, unstructured and semi-structured data that is generated not only by standard-issue computers but sensors and all manner of devices and machinery not to mention social networks. This is information that many companies want to winnow for useful insights. Splunk’s technology searches, analyses and visualizes that data. Customers include Bank of America(s bac), Comcast(s cmcst), crm) and Zynga(s znga).

Earlier this week, Splunk had expected an opening price range between $11 and $14 per share but it ended up pricing 13.5 million shares at $17 each. At 11:16 a.m. shares were up 87.65 percent to $31.75 per share, prompting one observer to call it a 1999-style spike. The action was so intense it tripped a NYSE circuit breaker designed to curb volatile trading. Reuters reported that nearly 11 million shares had changed hands as of 10:30 a.m.

Splunk, based in San Francisco, lost $11 million on revenue of $121 million for its fiscal year ending in January.

What’s driving this Splunk mania is the belief that, despite all the hype, the era of big data is just beginning, a point that Splunk CTO and co-founder Erik Swan addressed at the GigaOM Structure Data Conference last month.  Big data startups and old-line companies like EMC, IBM and Microsoft agree that there’s a lot of work left to do make that big data searchable, manageable and understandable by mere mortals.