Skip to Content
[CAIDA - Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis logo]
Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis
Flow Types
Traffic flow has been defined in many different ways. This page presents a taxonomy diagram, showing how the different flow definitions relate to each other.

In general, flows are a ``set of packets which share a common property.'' However, the most important such properties are the flow's endpoints. For example, the simplest type of flow is a 5-tuple, with all its packets having the same source and destination IP addresses and port numbers. Furthermore, 5-tuple flows are unidirectional, i.e.all their packets travel in the same direction. Such 5-tuple flows are commonly referred to as microflows.

Flows may have two endpoints, (TCP from host A to host B), or only one (all UDP flows from host C). Endpoints may also be more general, for example `TCP from network X/20 to network Y/24,' The above diagram shows the various types of flows arranged in terms of their endpoints. The dates given indicate the time each flow definition appeared.

A flow begins when a its first packet is observed, but one should state how to recognise the end of a flow. The most common method is to specify a fixed timeout, alternatively one can specify a dynamic timeout algorithm. On the diagram the timeout method is shown as F or D.

The flow types are:

  CPB   Claffy, Polyzos and Braun, 1994
  CoralReef  Supported by CAIDA's CoralReef analysis package
  NetFlow v5  Early versions of Cisco's NetFlow.  5-tuples with extra attributes such as AS number
  NetFlow v8  More recent version of NetFlow,  supports aggregation
  RTFM  Bi-directional, general flows. Endpoints defined in SRL RFC 2722
  NeTraMet stream  Bi-directional 5-tuples providing fine structure of RTFM flows. Brownlee and Murray, 2001
  Last Modified: Tue Oct-13-2020 22:21:55 UTC
  Page URL: