Overview and History of the TCP/IP Internet Standard Management Framework and Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)
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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.
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 saltwell, 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:
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.
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