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The authors consider a router on the Internet analyzing the statistical properties of a TCP/IP packet stream. A fundamental difficulty with measuring traffic behavior on the Internet is that there is simply too much data to be recorded for later analysis, on the order of gigabytes a second. As a result, network routers can collect only relatively few statistics about the data. The central problem addressed here is to use the limited memory of routers to determine essential features of the network traffic stream. A particularly difficult and representative subproblem is to determine the top k categories to which the most packets belong, for a desired value of k and for a given notion of categorization such as the destination IP address.
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