sFLow was originally developed by inMon to address the need for a common, universal standard of export for Internet Protocol (IP) flow information from switches, routers, probes and other network devices. An sFlow collector is one of three typical functional components used for sFlow analysis:
An sFlow collector’s main functions include:
sFlow Collector and Analyzer applications are two functions of a sFlow analysis system or product. In some cases, the sFlow analysis product implements both functions on the same server. This is appropriate when the volume of flow data being generated by exporters is relatively low and localized. In cases where flow data generation is high or where sources are geographically dispersed, the collector function can be run on separate and geographically distributed servers (such as rackmount server appliances). In these cases, collectors then synchronize their data to a centralized analyzer server.
Historically, the most common way to run sFlow collectors was on a physical, rackmounted Intel-based server running a Linux OS variant. More recently, flow collectors have been deployed on virtual machines. Unfortunately, in either case, compute and storage is severely limited the amount of detailed data that could be retained or analyzed.
Most recently, a unified, cloud-scale approach to sFlow collector and analyzer architecture has emerged. In this architecture, a horizontally scalable big data system replaces physical or virtual collector and analyzer appliances. Big data systems allow for dramatically high volumes of ingest, greater data retention, deeper analytics and more powerful anomaly detection.