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Introducing VPC Flow Logs—network transparency in near real-time

April 5, 2018
Ines Envid

Group Product Manager

Logging and monitoring are the cornerstones of network and security operations. Whether it’s performance analysis or network forensics, logging and monitoring let you identify traffic and access patterns that may present security or operational risks to the organization. Today, we’re upping the ante for network operations on Google Cloud Platform (GCP) with the introduction of VPC Flow Logs, increasing transparency into your network and allowing you to track network flows all the way down to an individual virtual interface, in near-real-time.

If you’re familiar with network operations, think of VPC Flow Logs like NetFlow, but with additional features. VPC Flow Logs provides responsive flow-level network telemetry for GCP environments, creating logs in five-second intervals. It also allows you to collect network telemetry at various levels. You can choose to collect telemetry for a particular VPC network or subnet or drill down further to monitor a specific VM Instance or virtual interface.


VPC Flow Logs can capture telemetry data from a wide variety of sources. It can track:

  • Internal VPC Traffic 
  • Flows between your VPC and on-premises deployments over both VPNs and Google Cloud Interconnects 
  • Flows between your servers and any internet endpoint 
  • Flows between your servers and any Google services

The logs generated by this process include a variety of data points, including a 5-tuple definition and timestamps, performance metrics such as throughput and RTT, and endpoint definitions such as VPC and geo annotations. VPC Flow Logs natively lets you export this data in a highly secure manner to Stackdriver Logging or BigQuery. Or using Cloud Pub/Sub, you can export these logs to any number of real-time analytics or SIEM platforms.


Better network and security operations

Having VPC Flow Logs in your toolbox can help you with a wide range of operational tasks. Here are just a few.

  • Network monitoring - VPC Flow Logs allows you to monitor your applications from the perspective of your network. From performance to debugging and troubleshooting, VPC Flow Logs can tell you how your applications are performing, to help you keep them up and running, and identify what changed should an issue arise.
  • Optimizing network usage and egress - By providing visibility into both your application’s inter-region traffic and your traffic usage globally, VPC Flow Logs lets you optimize your network costs by optimizing your bandwidth utilization, load balancing and content distribution.
  • Network forensics and security analytics - VPC Flow Logs also helps you perform network forensics when investigating suspicious behavior such as traffic from access from abnormal sources or unexpected volumes of data migration. The logs also help you ensure compliance.
  • Real-time security analysis - With the Cloud Pub/Sub API, you can easily export your logs into any SIEM ecosystem that you may already be using.

All this happens with near real-time accuracy (updates every 5 seconds vs. minutes), with absolutely no performance impact on your deployment.

Partner Eco-system

One of our key goals with VPC Flow Logs was to allow you to export your flow logs to partner systems for real-time analysis and notifications. At launch, we integrate with two leading logging and analytics platforms: Cisco Stealthwatch and Sumo Logic.

Our integration with VPC Flow Logs lets customers send their network and security telemetry into Cisco Stealthwatch Cloud without deploying agents or collectors, thereby providing exceptionally fast and easy access to Stealthwatch multicloud security services and a holistic security view across on-premises and public cloud. This integration provides customers with excellent security visibility and threat detection in their GCP environment, and is the latest example of how we are partnering with Google to deliver great value to our joint customers.

Jeremy Oakey, Senior Director, Product Management, Cisco Cloud Platform and Solutions Group.

To learn more about VPC Flow Logs, including how to get started and pricing, please visit the documentation and product page.

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