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LISA 2000 Abstract

FlowScan: A Network Traffic Flow Reporting and Visualization Tool

Dave Plonka, University of Wisconsin. Madison


Internet traffic flow profiling has become a useful technique in the passive measurement and analysis field. The prerequisites for flow-based measurements are now available within the network infrastructure - particularly, in popular Cisco network devices. The integration of this feature has enabled the ``flow'' concept to become a valuable tool for the network administrator, as it had been in the past for the researcher.

This paper describes FlowScan, a software package for open systems that is freely available under the terms of the GNU General Public License. FlowScan analyzes and reports on flow data exported by Internet Protocol routers. It is an assemblage of perl scripts and modules and is the glue that binds together other freely available components such as a flow collection engine, a high performance database, and a visualization tool. Once assembled, the FlowScan system produces graph images, suitable for use in web pages. These provide a continuous, near real-time view of the network traffic through a network's border.

Although there are now a number of tools available that collect and process flow data, there is a dearth of visualization tools. By utilizing freely available software tools, FlowScan can be readily deployed in most modern educational institution, corporate, and ISP networks. The information presented by FlowScan assists in understanding the nature of the traffic that your network is carrying. It can be useful in the identification and investigation of anomalies such as poor performance and attacks on hosts. It can provide a foundation on which to develop usage-based billing or to verify the effectiveness of Quality-of-Service policies. By understanding the flows of traffic carried by the network, your institution should be able to make informed network management and bandwidth provisioning decisions.

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Last changed: 16 Jan. 2002 ml
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