Thursday, September 6, 2007

The SNMP Management Information Base (MIB) [SNMP]

A Management Information Base (MIB) describes a set of managed objects. An SNMP management console application can manipulate the objects on a specific computer if the SNMP service has an extension agent DLL that supports the MIB.
Each managed object in a MIB has a unique identifier. The identifier includes the object's type (such as counter, string, gauge, or address), the object's access level (such as read or read/write), size restrictions, and range information.


SNMP uses the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) as the transport protocol for passing data between managers and agents. UDP, defined in RFC 768, was chosen over the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) because it is connectionless; that is, no end-to-end connection is made between the agent and the NMS when datagrams (packets) are sent back and forth. This aspect of UDP makes it unreliable, since there is no acknowledgment of lost datagrams at the protocol level. It's up to the SNMP application to determine if datagrams are lost and retransmit them if it so desires. This is typically accomplished with a simple timeout. The NMS sends a UDP request to an agent and waits for a response. The length of time the NMS waits depends on how it's configured. If the timeout is reached and the NMS has not heard back from the agent, it assumes the packet was lost and retransmits the request. The number of times the NMS retransmits packets is also configurable.
At least as far as regular information requests are concerned, the unreliable nature of UDP isn't a real problem. At worst, the management station issues a request and never receives a response. For traps, the situation is somewhat different. If an agent sends a trap and the trap never arrives, the NMS has no way of knowing that it was ever sent. The agent doesn't even know that it needs to resend the trap, because the NMS is not required to send a response back to the agent acknowledging receipt of the trap.
SNMP uses the UDP port 161 for sending and receiving requests, and port 162 for receiving traps from managed devices.