SNMP - Simple Network Management Protocol. One of several protocols for network based management of TCP/IP networks. SNMP is an internet standard. There are three versions of SNMP defined in RFCs 1155-1157(v1), RFCs 1441-1452(v2) and RFCs 1901-1908 (SMNPv2c). There are supersets of SNMPv2c known as SMNPv2 usec and SMNPv2*. RFCs 2571-2575 are the proposed standards for SMNP v3. SMNP programs may require input of command line options specifying which standard to comply with.

SNMP seems to consist of a simple agent at the component to be managed, a simple communications protocol, and a complex set of management tools at the controlling host(s). An Internet Standard Management Information Base (MIB) scheme for describing the entities to be managed is implemented within SMNP. It appears that SNMP is a table oriented management scheme oriented toward 'small' networks. The corresponding (object oriented) schemes for larger networks are TMN and CORBA. Toolsets implementing the SNMP protocol are available from the University of California Davis, Carnegie-Mellon University, and a variety of commercial vendors.

I have found it pretty much impossible to determine what SNMP actually does, how it does it, or why anyone cares. I strongly suspect that SNMP is used for statusing and control of network devices. Many devices such as switches, routers, and servers seem to support SNMP agents. Presumably SNMP can be used in some fashion to collect status information and alter configurations of the controlled devices.

Questionable authentication/security is said to be an significant issue within SNMP.

Note the word "seems" in the previous paragraphs. SNMP has the distinction of being the worst documented major technology I have ever attempted to research. There is abundant documentation. None of it seems to describe what the protocol does or why it does it.

Subsequent to my writing the above in 2002, a Wikipedia article did appear. It is vastly better than anything I found when researching SNMP even though it tends to be a lot better on how SNMP works than on what (if anything) the protocol is useful for. I'd suggest that anyone who needs further information, try there.

Return To Index Copyright 1994-2002 by Donald Kenney.