Splunk CEO Doug Merritt tries not to show it but he’s clearly a little frustrated with Wall Street. The 18-year-old enterprise software company’s stock has dropped 30% since last fall, wiping out all its gains earlier in 2020, even as Splunk’s cloud-based software sales soared thanks to the impact of remote work on corporate software buys. Merritt says cloud software will soon account for half of the company’s revenue, compared to a quarter when the pandemic was beginning.
Splunk, which makes software that analyzes server and application data to identify performance issues, is in the middle of a transition away from its traditional business of selling software that runs in companies’ private data centers. It’s a shift that other big enterprise software firms like Microsoft and Oracle have gone through over the past few years. And it’s a painful transition. Revenue appears to shrink because sales of old-fashioned software sales go on the record all at once while sales of cloud software hit a company’s books over time. Splunk’s reported revenues last year fell 5%, although growth has rebounded this year.
Merritt thinks investors, who he says “control a degree of the narrative,” are distracted by that accounting issue. He would prefer an investor focus on Splunk’s cloud revenue growth, which has exceeded 70% for ten consecutive quarters, including 73% in the three months to July 31.