Thursday, May 19, 2016

Mininet flow analytics

Mininet is free software that creates a realistic virtual network, running real kernel, switch and application code, on a single machine (VM, cloud or native), in seconds. Mininet is useful for development, teaching, and research. Mininet is also a great way to develop, share, and experiment with OpenFlow and Software-Defined Networking systems.

This article shows how standard sFlow instrumentation built into Mininet can be combined with sFlow-RT analytics software to provide real-time traffic visibility for Mininet networks. Augmenting Mininet with sFlow telemetry realistically emulates the instrumentation built into most vendor's switch hardware, provides visibility into Mininet experiments, and opens up new areas of research (e.g. SDN and large flows).

The following papers are a small selection of projects using sFlow-RT:
In order to make it easier to get started, the latest release of sFlow-RT includes a Mininet helper script that automates sFlow configuration. The following example shows how to use the script and build a simple application in Python.

Install sFlow-RT on the Mininet host:
tar -xvzf sflow-rt.tar.gz
cd sflow-rt
In a second terminal, add the --custom argument to the Mininet command line. For example, the following command builds a depth 2 tree topology with link bandwidths of 10Mbit/s
cd sflow-rt
sudo mn --custom extras/ --link tc,bw=10 --topo tree,depth=2,fanout=2
The script extends Mininet, automatically enabling sFlow on each of the switches in the topology, and posting a JSON representation of the Mininet topology using sFlow-RT's REST API.

Traffic engineering of large "Elephant" flows is an active area of research. The following Python script,, demonstrates how Elephant flows can be detected using sFlow-RT REST API calls:
#!/usr/bin/env python
import requests
import json

rt = ''

flow = {'keys':'link:inputifindex,ipsource,ipdestination','value':'bytes'}

threshold = {'metric':'pair','value':1000000/8,'byFlow':True,'timeout':1}

eventurl = rt+'/events/json?thresholdID=elephant&maxEvents=10&timeout=60'
eventID = -1
while 1 == 1:
  r = requests.get(eventurl + "&eventID=" + str(eventID))
  if r.status_code != 200: break
  events = r.json()
  if len(events) == 0: continue

  eventID = events[0]["eventID"]
  for e in events:
    print e['flowKey']
Some notes on the script:
  • The link:inputifindex function in the flow definition identifies the link in the topology associated with the ingress port on the Mininet switch, see Defining Flows
  • The script defines an Elephant flow as a flow that consumes 10% of the link bandwidth. In this example Mininet was configured with a link bandwidth of 10Mbit/s so an Elephant is a flow that exceeds 1Mbit/s. Since the specified flow measures traffic in bytes/second the threshold needs to be converted by bytes/second (dividing by 8).
  • The sFlow-RT REST API uses long-polling as a method of asynchronously pushing events to the client. The events HTTP request blocks until there are new events or a timeout occurs. The client immediately reconnects after receiving a response to wait for further events. 
See Writing Applications for additional information.

Start the script:
$ ./
Run an iperf test using the Mininet CLI:
mininet> iperf h1 h3
*** Iperf: testing TCP bandwidth between h1 and h3
*** Results: ['9.06 Mbits/sec', '9.98 Mbits/sec']
The following results should appear as soon as the flow is detected:
$ ./ 
The output identifies the links carrying the flow between h1 and h3 and shows the IP addresses of the hosts.
The sFlow-RT web interface provides basic charting capabilities. The chart above shows a sequence of iperf tests.

The Python script can easily be modified to address a number of interesting use cases. Instead of simply printing events, a REST call can be made to an OpenFlow controller (POX, OpenDaylight, Floodlight, ONOS, etc) to apply controls to mark, mirror, load balance, rate limit, or block flows.


  1. Please Help me, i face this error " Caught exception.Cleaning up.... SyntaxError: invalid syntax (, line 25) , when i run "sudo mn --custom extras/ --link tc,bw=10 --topo tree,depth=2,fanout=2" .

    1. I just tried it with sFlow-RT version 2.0-r1121 on an Ubuntu 14.04 system running Mininet 2.1.0 and Python 2.7.6 without any error. What is your setup?