Analyze Cisco's NetFlow for free

* SolarWinds unveils a free tool network managers can download to analyze Cisco's NetFlow

Network traffic data holds a wealth of information about application response time, network usage and bandwidth consumption. Getting at that data in an efficient and inexpensive manner would help network managers better understand and control their networks.

For many, Cisco's NetFlow protocol could unlock some of the mysteries of network performance, but without specific skills or advanced analysis tools that data remains just out of reach for many. This week network management software maker SolarWinds is unveiling a new free tool network managers can download to get started analyzing Cisco's NetFlow data on their networks. (See a slideshow of 20 free software favorites here.) 

The vendor's Real-time NetFlow Analyzer will help network managers more quickly determine why the network is slow. The software continuously captures and analyzes network traffic data to help network managers pinpoint the source of congestion issues.

"Our latest free tool demonstrates SolarWinds’ commitment to giving back to the IT community and allows users who are new to NetFlow to ramp up quickly and gain valuable insight on their network traffic in a matter of minutes," said Josh Stephens, SolarWinds’ Head Geek, in a company statement.

Common causes of slow network performance are insufficient bandwidth and improper network usage, according to SolarWinds, and network managers need to have visibility into the traffic to determine how network resources are being used and by whom. Cisco's NetFlow protocol generates such data by collecting information about IP traffic from devices on the network. NetFlow data can show applications, devices or end users behaving in such a way as to slow down network performance.

SolarWinds is offering this latest free tool in the form of a starter kit. Included in the download is the NetFlow Configurator Tool, which helps network managers configure NetFlow Version 5 via SNMP on supported Cisco devices. This tool can help network managers "establish collectors for Cisco NetFlow data, specify the collectors listening ports and enable monitoring of inbound and outbound (ingress/egress) traffic data per interface," according to SolarWinds.

The free starter kit download also includes traffic analysis features that display network details by conversation, application, domain, endpoint or protocol to hasten troubleshooting efforts. And a personalized traffic display feature helps network managers to configure NetFlow data views with settings such as sample period, display mode, refresh rate and more.

Network managers and others interested in tracking NetFlow data can now download Real-time NetFlow Analyzer to their desktop or laptop here.

Ones to watch: Each year I compile a list of the hottest IT management start-ups to hit the network industry. I have my eye on a few newcomers, and this year, I want to hear from you. What start-up that is about 18 months old has got you interested? Which vendors offer an innovative new approach to an old network headache? Is there a young company tackling a new problem the established vendors can't seem to get their arms around? Please share your thoughts and insight with me.

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