What is a Network Traffic Flow?


Network traffic flows (flows) are useful for building a coarse-grained understanding of traffic on a computer network, providing a convenient unit for the measurement and/or treatment of traffic.

Flows can be measured to understand what hosts are talking on the network, with details of addresses, volumes and types of traffic. This view of the network can be useful for troubleshooting, detecting security incidents, planning and billing

But what exactly is a flow, and how is it defined?

This question sounds trivial to answer, however when we dig deeper we find nuances and corner cases that make flows interesting, and ultimately difficult to define. Continue reading