I remember when the Google boys came to visit BW the first time, hopped up on ideas, pitching a new way to search the Web. Boy were they right. The folks from a new kind of search company, Splunk Technology, can only hope they do one-tenth as well. The tiny San Francisco startup is out to search not the World Wide Web but the contents of corporations' vast and complex data centers. The name is a takeoff on spelunking, the exploration of caves. The company's founders decided to take the name after they heard from early testers of their technology that it was like diving into the dark depths of the data center and poking around. They took their own cave exploration trip to test out the metaphor, and the name stuck.

The company was formed a little over a year ago by three serial entrepreneurs who earned their stripes at the likes of Yahoo!, Infoseek, eBay, and Bank of America. Their aim was to tame the complex technology beast. Their product, which is to be released in August, combs the datacenter real time, discovers what's going on (or wrong), and explains it to datacenter operators so they can optimize or fix things. "We turned our search engine roots on the datacenter rather than the Net," says CEO and Chief Splunker Michael Baum.

Splunk is one of a bunch of startups who hope to help the industry fulfill its vision of making computing as simple and reliable as electricity. Virtualization technologies are all the rage these days, but, by putting a cloud of software abstraction between applications and the hardware that handles them, another layer of complexity is added to the task of understanding and managing big computing systems. "All of this stuff about virtual computing and utility computing," says Baum. "Every tech vendor is running around saying, 'We're going to eliminate your complexity.'But it pops up elsewhere."

Splunk raised $5 million last December from August Capital and Sevin Rosen. The VCs were so enamored with the founders that they even went on a spelunking trip with them (Moaning Cavern, Calif.). A new extreme in VC risk taking.

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