Monday, August 6, 2007

Simple Network Management Protocol

Simple Network Management Protocol
Since its introduction in 1988, the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)has become the most popular network management protocol for TCP/IP based networks.The IETF created SNMP to allow remote management of IP based devicesusing a standardized set of operations. It is now widely supported by servers, printers,hubs, switches, modems, UPS systems, and (of course) Cisco routers.The SNMP set of standards define much more than a communication protocol usedfor management traffic. The standards also define how management data should beaccessed and stored, as well as the entire distributed framework of SNMP agents andservers. The IETF has officially recognized SNMP as a fully standard part of the IPprotocol suite. The original SNMP definition is documented in RFC 1157.In 1993, SNMP Version 2 (SNMPv2) was created to address a number of functionaldeficiencies that were apparent in the original protocol. The added and improvedfeatures included better error handling, larger data counters (64-bit), improved efficiency(get-bulk transfers), confirmed event notifications (informs), and most notably,security enhancements. Unfortunately, SNMPv2 did not become widelyaccepted because the IETF was unable to come to a consensus on the SNMP securityfeatures.

So, a revised edition of SNMPv2 was released in 1996, which included all of the proposedenhancements except for the security facility. It is discussed in RFCs 1905,1906, and 1907. The IETF refers to this new version as SNMPv2c and it uses thesame insecure security model as SNMPv1. This model relies on passwords calledcommunity strings that are sent over the network as clear-text. SNMPv2c neverenjoyed widespread success throughout the IP community. Consequently, mostorganizations continue to use SNMPv1 except when they need to access the occasionallarge counter variable. The IETF recently announced that SNMPv3 would bethe new standard, with SNMPv1, SNMPv2, and SNMPv2c being considered purelyhistorical.

The compromise that became SNMPv2c left the management protocol without satisfactorysecurity features. So, in 1998, the IETF began working on SNMPv3, which isdefined in RFCs 2571–2575. Essentially, SNMPv3 is a set of security enhancementsto be used in conjunction with SNMPv2c. This means that SNMPv3 is not a standalonemanagement protocol and does not replace SNMPv2c or SNMPv1.SNMPv3 provides a secure method for accessing devices using authentication, messageintegrity, and encryption of SNMP packets throughout the network. We haveincluded a recipe describing how to use the SNMPv3 security enhancements

SNMP Management Model
SNMP defines two main types of entities, managers and agents. A manager is a serverthat runs network management software that is responsible for a particular network.These servers are commonly referred to as Network Management Stations (NMS). There are several excellent commercial NMS platforms on the market. Throughoutthis book we will refer to the freely distributed NET-SNMP system as a reference NMS.
An agent is an embedded piece of software that resides on a remote device that youwish to manage. In fact, almost every IP-capable device provides some sort of built-inSNMP agent. The agent has two main functions. First, the agent must listen forincoming SNMP requests from the NMS and respond appropriately. And second, theagent must monitor internal events and create SNMP traps to alert the NMS thatsomething has happened. This chapter will focus mainly on how to configure the router’s agent.

The NMS is usually configured to poll all of the key devices in the network periodically using SNMP Get requests. These are UDP packets sent to the agent on the wellknown SNMP port 161. The SNMP Get request prompts the remote device to respond with one or more pieces of relevant operating information. However, because there could be hundreds or thousands of remote devices, it is often not practical to poll a particular remote device more often than once every few minutes (and in many networks you are lucky if you can poll each device more than a few times per hour). On a schedule like this, a remote device may suffer a serious problem that goes undetected—it’s possible to crash and reboot in between polls from the NMS. So, on the next poll, the NMS will see everything operating normally and never know that it completely missed a catastrophe.
Therefore, an SNMP agent also has the ability to send information using an SNMP trap without having to wait for a poll. A trap is an unsolicited piece of information, usually representing a problem situation (although some traps are more informational in nature). Traps are UDP packets sent from the agent to the NMS on the other well-known SNMP port number, 162. There are many different types of traps that an agent can send, depending on what type of equipment it manages. Some traps represent non-critical issues. It is often up to the network administrator to decide which types of traps will be useful.The NMS does not acknowledge traps, and since traps are often sent to report network problems, it is not uncommon for trap reports to get lost and never make it to the NMS. In many cases, this is acceptable because the trap represents a transient transmission problem that the NMS will discover by other means if this trap is not delivered. However, critical information can sometimes be lost when a trap is not delivered.
To address this shortcoming, SNMPv2c and SNMPv3 include another type of packet called an SNMP inform. This is nearly identical to a standard trap, except that the SNMP agent will wait for an acknowledgement. If the agent does not receive an acknowledgement within a certain amount of time, it will attempt to retransmit the inform.
SNMP informs are not common today because SNMPv2c was never widely adopted. However, SNMPv3 also includes informs. Since SNMPv3 promises to become the mainstream SNMP protocol, it seems inevitable that enhancements such as SNMP informs will start to be more common.

MIBs and OIDs
SNMP uses a special tree structure called a Management Information Base (MIB) to organize the management data. People will often talk about different MIBs, such as the T1 MIB, or an ATM MIB. In fact, these are all just branches or extensions of the same global MIB tree structure. However, the relative independence of these different branches makes it convenient to talk about them this way. A particular SNMP agent will care only about those few MIB branches that are relevant to the particular remote device this agent runs on. If the device doesn’t have any T1 interfaces, then the agent doesn’t need to know anything about the T1 branch of the global MIB tree. Similarly, the NMS for a network containing no ATM doesn’t need to be able to resolve any of the variables in the ATM branches of the MIB tree.
The MIB tree structure is defined by a long sequence of numbers separated by dots, such as . This number is called an Object Identifier (OID). Since we will be working with OID strings throughout this chapter, it is worthwhile to briefly review how they work and what they mean. The OID is a numerical representation of the MIB tree structure. Each digit represents a node in this tree structure. The trunk of the tree is on the left; the leaves are on the right. In the example string, ., the first digit, .1, signifies that this variable is part of the MIB that is administered by the International Standards Organization (ISO). There are other nodes at this top level of the tree. The International Telephone and Telegraph Consultative Committee (CCITT) administers the .0 tree structure. The ISO and CCITT jointly administer .2. The first node under the ISO MIB tree of this example is .3. The ISO has allocated this node for all other organizations. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is designated by the branch number .6. The DOD, in turn has allocated branch number .1 for the Internet Activities Board (IAB). So, just about every SNMP MIB variable you will ever see will begin with . There are four commonly used subbranches under the IAB (also called simply “Internet”) node. These are designated directory (1), mgmt (2), experimental (3) and private (4). The directory node is seldom used in practice. The mgmt node is used for all IETF-standard MIB extensions, which are documented in RFCs. This would include, for example, the T1 and ATM examples mentioned earlier. However, it would not include any vendor-specific variables such as the CPU utilization on a Cisco router. SNMP protocol and application developers use the experimental subtree to hold data that is not yet standard. This allows you to use experimental MIBs in a production network without fear of causing conflicts. Finally, the private subtree contains vendor specific MIB variables. Before returning to the example, we want to take a brief detour down the private tree, because many of the examples in this book include Cisco-specific MIB variables.
A good example of a Cisco MIB variable is ., which gives the amount of free memory in a Cisco router. There is only one subtree under the private node, and it is called enterprises, . Of the hundreds of registered owners of private MIB trees, Cisco is number 9, so all Cisco-specific MIB extensions begin with .
Referring again to the previous example string (., you can see this represents a variable in the mgmt subtree, . The next digit is .1 here, which represents an SNMP MIB variable. The following digit, .1, refers to a specific group of variables, which, in the case of mgmt variables, would be defined by an RFC. In this particular case, the value .1 refers to the system MIB, which is detailed in RFC 1450.
From this level down, a special naming convention is adopted to help you to remember which MIB you are looking at. The names of every variable under the system node begin with “sys”. They are sysDescr (1), sysObjectID (2), sysUpTime (3), sys-Contact (4), sysName (5), sysLocation (6), sysServices (7), sysORLastChange (8), and sysORTable (9). You can find detailed descriptions of what all of these mean in RFC1450.
In fact, reading through MIB descriptions is not only an excellent way to understand the hierarchical structure of the MIB, but it’s also extremely useful when you are trying to decide what information you can and should be extracting from your equipment.
In the example string, ., the value is .4, for sysContact. The following .0 tells the agent to send the contents of this node, rather than treating it as the root of further subtrees. So the OID string uniquely identifies a single piece of information. In this case, that information is the contact information for the device.

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