The story behind the IETF's sFlow standard for switched network monitoring

HP Labs alum explains how sFlow came to be

HP has developed quite a reputation in recent years for being a prime buyer of management software companies, from its $1.6 billion buyout of Opsware in 2007 to its more recent $1.5 billion purchase of ArcSight, a maker of security and information event management products. But HP Labs has also been known to spawn a management start-up or two as well.

One of these companies is InMon, whose president, Peter Phaal, invented HP's Extended RMON technology among other technologies. Phaal this week returned to HP, in a way, by blogging on partner HP's website about the history of sFlow, a technology for monitoring high-speed switched networks that emerged about 10 years ago.

Network World has called sFlow (which is often compared and contrasted with Cisco's NetFlow) one of the best router/switch features that people tend to overlook.

Phaal writes that sFlow came in part out of work HP Labs did with CERN as well as work to help HP itself get a better handle on ever faster Ethernet networks used internally. InMon spun out of HP in 1999 and worked on sFlow products for multivendor networks. HP and Foundry Networks were the first vendors to embrace the technology on their products.

InMon later open sourced sFlow to ensure it could be used across networks based on multiple vendors' switches.

Phaal writes that sFlow's work isn't done yet in light of the rejiggering of data centers via virtualization and cloud computing.

"To complete the picture, InMon is working with HP and other industry partners to extend sFlow monitoring into servers; providing visibility into the performance of virtual switches as well as physical and virtual servers. By unifying network, storage and server performance monitoring, sFlow dramatically simplifies data center operations, breaking down management silos and laying the foundation for automation and optimization," he writes.

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Related: Inside the labs at HP, Microsoft and IBM

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