OpenFlow Versus NetFlow

In the recent past, there have been a lot of questions about OpenFlow especially in the context of how different is it from NetFlow.

In reality, OpenFlow and NetFlow are two different technologies that serve different purposes. For better understanding, the differences have been explained in detail through this blog post.

What is OpenFlow?

OpenFlow is a methodology used to forward packets across network devices like routers or switches. OpenFlow provides an open protocol to design the flow table in switches and routers. It is helps in research on flows and control them.

OpenFlow helps design a high speed, reliable network with accurate packets forwarding to desired receivers.

What is NetFlow?

NetFlow is a Cisco proprietary protocol which helps in network audit of transactions (Traffic) that took place in network devices. NetFlow(and other flow formats like sFlow, IPFIX) helps in identifying top talkers on the network, top applications, port and protocol utilizing the bandwidth. The benefits of using NetFlow  export are as follows:

  • Traffic Analytics
  • Network Forensics
  • Bandwidth Monitoring
  • Capacity Planning
  • Trend Analysis
  • Application performance monitoring

Where does the confusion arise?

The confusion arises in the nomenclature since both these technology uses the term ‘flow’ on their name and also use the flows on the devices to achieve their goal.

OpenFlow uses fields like Source Address, Destination, Soruce MAC, Destination MAC, port, protocol to perform effective packet forwarding across switches.

Whereas the NetFlow uses the flows with above mentioned fields for traffic monitoring, auditing and capacity planning.

The purpose is entirely different.

If you are looking for an effective packet forwarding technique on the network , the right option would be OpenFlow. If traffic monitoring and security analytics is your goal, the NetFlow based analysis is the answer for you.



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Praveen Kumar

NetFlow Analyzer Technical Team

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The original article/video can be found at OpenFlow Versus NetFlow

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