We purchased Splunk, Inc. (NASDAQ:SPLK) as the stock came back in from its mid-summer high when many software and internet stocks sold off after Election Day. Splunk is one of the leading “big data” businesses, providing a real-time operational intelligence software platform that enables its customers to search, monitor, analyze, and visualize machine-generated data coming from websites, applications, servers, networks, sensors, and mobile devices. Its software transforms machine generated data into valuable insights in areas such as security and fraud, IT operations, log management, business analytics, and application delivery. Splunk’s growth is being propelled by the explosion of “big data”–data volumes are growing at roughly a 50% rate (with machine-generated data growing closer to 80%) and this data can now be captured, stored, and analyzed to extract actionable business intelligence. Growth in the frequency and severity of cybersecurity breaches are accelerating demand for security monitoring software, which represents around 40% of Splunk’s bookings, as many customers have made Splunk the “nerve center” of their security operations. The emerging Internet of Things should dramatically accelerate the growth and analysis of machine data. Splunk is undergoing a transition from a perpetual software license model– where the software is paid for upfront and loaded behind a customer’s firewall–to cloud-delivered and ratable pricing models. This has caused a lot of confusion for Wall Street, and has led to what we believe is Splunk’s attractive valuation in light of its free cash flow generation and long-term growth opportunity.
From Baron Funds' Baron Opportunity Fund fourth quarter 2016 commentary. Continue Reading »