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Table Of Contents  The TCP/IP Guide
 9  TCP/IP Application Layer Protocols, Services and Applications (OSI Layers 5, 6 and 7)
      9  TCP/IP Network Configuration and Management Protocols (BOOTP, DHCP, SNMP and RMON)
           9  TCP/IP Network Management Framework and Protocols (SNMP and RMON)
                9  TCP/IP Internet Standard Management Framework Overview, Architecture, Components and Concepts

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TCP/IP SNMP Operational Model, Components and Terminology.
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Overview and History of the TCP/IP Internet Standard Management Framework and Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)
(Page 2 of 3)

The Two Meanings of "SNMP"

The rationale of the middle two words in the name “Simple Network Management Protocol” is obvious, but the other two words are slightly more problematic. J The word “Protocol” implies that SNMP is just a TCP/IP communication protocol, like other protocols such as DHCP or FTP. Unfortunately, this is both true and untrue: the term “SNMP” is ambiguous.

At a lower level, SNMP does indeed refer specifically to the actual protocol that carries network management information between devices. This is in fact what most people think of when they talk about “SNMP”. However, as defined by the SNMP working group, the TCP/IP network management solution as a whole consists of a number of different elements arranged in an architecture.

This architecture originally had no specific name, but is now called the Internet Standard Management Framework. Oddly, this higher-level framework is not abbreviated “ISMF” or anything like that; it is also called “SNMP”, which means that context is important in understanding that term.

Note: To avoid confusion, I will often use the phrases “SNMP Framework” and “SNMP Protocol” to differentiate these two uses of the term “SNMP”.


Design Goals of SNMP

The word “Simple” in “Simple Network Management Protocol” is another sore spot for me; having researched and written about this technology, I now consider the presence of this term in the name “SNMP” to be almost a taunt. Let's put it this way: if a brain surgeon tells you that something is a “simple procedure”, you probably know to take that with a grain of salt—well, the same applies here. Even in its first iteration it was only somewhat simple; the most current version of SNMP is fairly complicated indeed, with many different standards defining the SNMP Framework, the SNMP Protocol itself, and a number of supporting elements.

So why is it called “simple”? Well, as they say, everything's relative; SNMP is “simple” when compared to other protocols that are even more complex. Some of this can be seen by looking at the basic goals of the Internet Standard Management Framework and the SNMP protocol as a whole:

  • SNMP defines a universal way that management information can be easily defined for any object and then exchanged between that object and a device designed to facilitate network management;

  • SNMP separates the functions of defining and communicating management information from the applications that are used for network management;

  • The actual SNMP protocol is fairly simple, consisting of only a few easy-to-understand protocol operations;

  • The implementation of SNMP is relatively simple for the designers and manufacturers of products.

Since SNMP is a TCP/IP application layer protocol, it can theoretically run over a variety of transport mechanisms. It is most commonly implemented over IP, of course, but the most recent versions also define transport mappings that can allow SNMP information to be carried over other internetworking technologies. Again, my focus will continue to be almost exclusively on TCP/IP.

Key Concept: The Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) defines a set of technologies that allows network administrators to remotely monitor and manage TCP/IP network devices. The term “SNMP” refers both to a specific communication protocol (sometimes called the SNMP Protocol) and an overall framework for Internet management (the SNMP Framework).



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TCP/IP Internet Standard Management Framework Overview, Architecture, Components and Concepts
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TCP/IP SNMP Operational Model, Components and Terminology.
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Version 3.0 - Version Date: September 20, 2005

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