NetFlow Version 9- What's in the Postman's Bag
Trying to monitor a network without NetFlow is a lot like weighing a postman's bag. That is to say, you can tell roughly how many letters and parcels are being sent, but you have no idea of how big they are, where they are going, or what they contain (especially during the Holiday season when it is bound to be bursting at the seams!). This is exactly the level of insight you get when using NetFlow to examine your network.
Our recent network manager blog discussed the role that NetFlow can play in alleviating the pain of trying to manage a huge number of devices and interfaces. This is achieved by giving network managers an insight into the applications being used at any given time, and the amount of data traffic generated by each of those applications.
But while the current system is good – very good, in fact – it is not perfect. And with the advent of NetFlow Version 9 and aptly named Flexible NetFlow, the technology has started to address some of the remaining issues, building significantly on functionality and customization. Most notably, users can now choose from more than 200 different fields to generate customized reports that can be monitored and reported on in order to meet their unique requirements – these fields include interesting information about VLANs and service provider-grade MPLS networks.
One of the more significant improvements that Cisco has made to Version 9 of its NetFlow protocol is the inclusion of user-definable fields for collection templates. In order to fully utilize this new power of NetFlow reporting, administrators need a platform which can turn that data into compelling, easy to grasp documents, which can be detached, and then appended to a unified reporting document generated on-the-fly and based on each user's specifications. This capability allows the rapid creation of a report, and enables network managers to analyze, slice, and reconfigure data as required, as well as convert it to a PDF or schedule it for delivery via email. Very often it's the smallest reporting detail which can make the greatest impact.
What is beyond doubt, is that such a system will save any network manager an incalculable amount of blood, sweat, and tears, and probably a sleepless night or two as well. Do you have a war story to share with us on how NetFlow has saved you? Leave a comment below. We would like to hear from you.
Nicholas Reid is Director of Product Design for SevOne