TV Studios, Airborne Military Platforms, James Bond … and SNMP

Larry R Walsh
Larry R. Walsh

Do you know what the following have in common: television broadcast studios, automated fare collection systems, airborne military platforms, energy distribution systems, and emergency radio networks? It’s SNMP, a protocol designed to manage a diverse set of networked equipment.

SNMP, short for Simple Network Management Protocol, depends on centralized Managers (software) managing Agents (also software) on distributed devices, based on data defined in MIB (Management Information Base) text documents.  Managers use the protocol to “get” data from Agents and to “set” read-write data to Agents.  Agents are also able to send unsolicited alarms (called “traps”) to Managers.

SNMP was originally designed with the thought that it would be an interim standard.  However, the design of more sophisticated standards took longer than anyone thought.  Moreover, many users find the simplicity of SNMPv1 to be quite attractive.  Consequently, SNMP is still around and growing in use and popularity.

SNMP Management was initially aimed primarily at the network appliances, but a variety of industries quickly realized that it could be used to manage and monitor nearly any kind of device, so the use of SNMP has now literally exploded.

As do most technologies, SNMP has its own unique terminology, some of which is quite intriguing.  Here are some examples: managing agents, agent control, shared secret keys, view access control, passwords, trivial security, and on occasion the need to “kill an agent”. Armed with this new vocabulary, your friends’ image of you could quickly change from Dilbert to something more like James Bond!

Despite Simple in its name, and indeed the building blocks of SNMP are simple enough to understand, the totality of SNMP can take six months or more to learn.  But there’s help!  For starters, you can check out our SNMP tutorial. We also offer a comprehensive set of courses on SNMP.  Mastering SNMP can be that Simple! Sorry, could not resist it. 🙂