Apple and Facebook may be grabbing the headlines, but investors should also keep an eye on lesser-known software maker Splunk.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Apple(:AAPL) and Facebook(:FB) may be grabbing the headlines as tech stocks enjoy a brisk start to 2013, but investors should also keep an eye on lesser-known software maker Splunk(:SPLK).

The San Francisco-based firm, which went public last year, describes itself as "the Google(:GOOG) of big data, a key trend for the coming 12 months. Big data refers to the management of vast quantities of unstructured data, or information that is outside the realm of traditional databases. Splunk targets "any machine data,"which encompasses a wide array of technologies such as applications, security devices, Web servers and even RFID sensors.

Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White, best known for his bullish stance on Apple, identified Splunk as his top small-cap pick for 2013 on Wednesday.

"Splunk is an emerging software platform vendor focused on turning machine data into real-time operational intelligence, which we believe represents an exciting play on the trend toward Big Data and a potential disruptive force in the IT industry," he wrote, in a note. "Big Data remains in the early stages of development and most similar to the nascent stages of cloud computing a few years ago."

Within five months of its April IPO, Splunk's shares had climbed to a high of $39.75, but like much of the tech sector pulled back during the final months of 2012. The company's stock, which is currently trading at $29.09, is down more than 19% since it made its public debut.

Nonetheless, Topeka's White said he believes that Splunk has plenty to offer investors in 2013. "After our recent meetings with current Splunk customers, prospective customers and partners in December, we walked away with the feeling that that this could be the 'next big thing' in IT," he wrote.

The analyst initiated coverage of Splunk last month with a buy rating and a 12-month price target of $38.25. One of White's contacts even compared Splunk's momentum to the rise of highly successful virtualization trailblazer VMware(:VMW), which is now majority owned by storage giantEMC(:EMC).

Splunk has also caught the attention of TheStreet's Chris Ciaccia, who recently speculated that the firm could prove an attractive target for any companies looking to bolster their big data arsenals at a time when businesses are wrestling with info overload.

Splunk shares gained 0.24% during Wednesday's trading.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

Follow @jamesjrogers

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