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Going with the sFlow: It’s cool. It’s free. It’s for your network.

Unified access layer for wired and wireless LAN with HP - Part 7

 

By Chris Young, Solutions Architect, HP Networking

 

cy.jpgI’ve always been a go with the flow kinda guy. Sorry I couldn’t resist. But how else could I start a new blog post about one of my favorite topics: Flow Analysis. Netflow. sFlow. Netstream. ipFix. In some circles, mentioning a preference for one or the other has been known to cause serious wars. I love them all.

 

My mom used to tell me: “A place for everything and everything in its place.” I think that’s the same with any of the flow analysis technologies. But I will admit that sFlow does have a special place in my heart, because sFlow’s place is not restricted to any particular place in your network.

 

What is sFlow? And why is it so cool?

 

sFlow is a packet sampling technology that allows network operators to see what protocols and applications are running on their networks. Nowadays, it’s controlled by a company named InMon who also runs the sFlow.org site. It’s a little known fact though that sFlow has its roots in HP Labs. HP first demonstrated network-wide monitoring using packet sampling at the University of Geneva and CERN at Telecom 91. Shortly thereafter, HP Labs released this paper, Traffic estimation for the largest

sources on a network, using packet sampling with limited storage that forms the basis for what 10 years later became RFC 3176—the sFlow standard.

 

Hard to believe that 20 years have gone by and many people are still unaware of how cool a technology sFlow really is. Why is it cool?  Well , I’m glad you asked. 

 

sFlow allows network operators to gain critical visibility into the traffic that’s going over their networks. This visibility gives them the extra information they need to gain insights on all facets of their network operations, from performance and capacity management, to security and quality of service monitoring. And the best thing of all about sFlow?  It’s supported directly in the hardware, which means it scales from 100Mb to 40Gb and beyond.

 

The best way to give you an idea of what sFlow gives you is with these questions and charts:

 

If you are trying to troubleshoot a performance issue with one of your WAN links would you rather see:

 

1. How much bandwidth was running over the link?

 

cy_1.jpg

HP IMC reporting on SNMP counters from HP 5500EI

 

2. Or be able to break that traffic down into the different applications? 

 cy_2.jpg

cy_3.jpg

HP Intelligent Management Center Network Traffic Analysis module reporting on sFlow from HP 5500EI

 

 

You get the ability to look into the unknown traffic types and create custom definitions for the traffic that’s running over YOUR network: 

 cy_5.png

HP Intelligent Management Center Network Traffic Analysis module creating custom application definition for TCP port 5353 – Multicast DNS

 

 

And look at exactly who was consuming the bandwidth: 

 cy_5.png

HP Intelligent Management Center Network Traffic Analysis reporting on host with Multicast DNS traffic (TCP port 5353)

 

I know, sFlow is cool, right? So the next obvious question is:

 

What is sFlow supported on?

 

Let’s just say that we strongly believe that visibility is important in every part of the network.  We have you covered with sFlow-enabled products our FlexFabric, FlexCampus and FlexBranch families including:

 

 

And the best part about sFlow? IT’S FREE!

 

sFlow is included in all of these HP products at no additional charge.  If you haven’t seen what sFlow has to offer, I highly recommend that download the HP Intelligent Management Center Enterprise Edition that comes bundled with the Network Traffic Analysis module and turn it on in your HP switches today!

 

And if you need a hand setting it up, we’ve got that covered too! Just check out this sFlow on 5500EI and Network Traffic Analysis tutorial on the HP IMC YouTube channel.

 

 

Follow our blog series: Unified access layer for wired and wireless LAN with HP

 

HP unified access solution helps you address your security, scalability, management and WLAN design challenges. Now through the end of the year, we’ll be discussing the hot topics, challenges, benefits, technologies and innovations related to unified access. Join us!

 

Up next: PoE solutions

 

 

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