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In the last decade, we have witnessed an intense spread of computer networks that have been further speeded up with the introduction of wireless networks. At the same time, this growth has significantly enhanced network management issues. In small organizations, where there is no discussion on what is SNMP in computer network science and there is no specialized personnel assigned to these tasks, the management of such networks is often complex and breakdowns can have significant impacts on their businesses.

What Is SNMP in Computer Network Science and How Does It Work?

A possible solution for network management is the adoption of the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). But what is SNMP in computer network science? SNMP is a standard protocol used to exchange network management information. It is part of the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) protocol suite. SNMP provides a tool for network administrators to manage network performance, find and solve network issues, and plan for network growth.

But just how “simple” is the Simple Network Management Protocol? Since SNMP is a set of protocols for network monitoring and management, it’s supported by network devices such as routers, switches, servers, workstations, printers, and other network components and devices. These devices are all network-attached items that must be monitored to detect conditions. These conditions must be addressed for proper, appropriate and ongoing network administration.

According to Technopedia,

SNMP standards include an application layer protocol, a set of data objects and a methodology for storing, manipulating and using data objects in a database schema.

Defining SNMP Components

The biggest value of an SNMP is when it’s used in larger networks. With SNMP, a network administrator can manage and monitor all SNMP devices from a single interface. These are the main runtime components in an SNMP-enabled environment:

  • The SNMP Agent – This software runs on the hardware or service being monitored by SNMP, collecting data on various metrics like CPU usage, bandwidth usage, or disk space. When requested by the SNMP manager, the agent finds and sends this information back to SNMP management systems.
  • Network Devices and Resources – This component represents all the devices and network elements on which an agent runs.
  • The SNMP Manager (also known as SNMP server) – This component functions as a centralized management station running an SNMP management application on different operating system environments. The SNMP Manager requests agents to send SNMP updates on a regular basis.
  • The Management Information Base (MIB) – SNMP agents collect and maintain network device information which is stored in the MIB database and used to supply the response to a Manager request. This data structure is a text file (with a .mib file extension) that describes all data objects used by a particular device that can be queried or controlled using SNMP including access control.

It’s important to mention that SNMP is among the most deployed networking industry protocols and is supported on a variety of hardware—from common network elements like routers, switches, and wireless access points to endpoints such as printers, scanners, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. In addition to hardware, SNMP can be used to monitor Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) configuration services.

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SNMP Protocol Data Units

When discussing what is SNMP in computer network science, we need to take into consideration Protocol Data Units (PDUs). When commands or messages are sent between an SMNP manager and an SNMP agent, they are transported via User Datagram Protocol (UDP) or Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) and are known as protocol data units.

The SNMP protocol data units are as follows:

#1. GetRequest

This request is sent by the SNMP manager to the managed device. By performing this command, you can retrieve one or more values from the managed device.

#2. GetNextRequest

This request retrieves the value of the next Object Identifier (OID) in the MIB tree.
An object identifier is used to name and point to an object in the MIB hierarchy. Each network device has its own MIB (including information system status, availability, and performance information). Each piece of this information is known as an object and identified by a specific OID.

#3. GetBulkRequest

In general, this operation is used for retrieving a large amount of data, particularly from large MIB tables.

#4. Set Request

The SNMP SET operation is used by the managers to modify or assign the value of the managed device.

#5. Traps

TRAPS are alert messages sent to the SNMP manager by the agent when an event occurs.

#6. InformRequest

This feature allows SNMP agents to send inform requests to SNMP managers. While this sounds similar to SNMP TRAPS, there is no way of knowing whether an SNMP TRAP has been received by the SNMP manager. However, in this case, the inform requests are sent continuously till an acknowledgment of reception is triggered by the SNMP manager.

#7. Response

This request is used to carry back the values or signal of actions directed by the SNMP manager.

Wrapping It Up

The purpose of SNMP is to provide a similar communication language to devices for exchanging information among network information systems. It is a simple and flexible network protocol allowing the network admins to efficiently manage the organization’s network.

At the moment, there is no other monitoring protocol standard like SNMP. Almost all network devices and data center equipment support it. As it is a common standard, SNMP has to be supported by any monitoring system today.
I hope that through this quick guide I provided you with everything you needed to know about what is SNMP in computer network science.

What are your thoughts on SNMP? Do you think SNMP is still relevant? Let me know in the comments below!

Author Profile

Cezarina Dinu

Head of Marketing Communications & PR

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Cezarina is the Head of Marketing Communications and PR within Heimdal® and a cybersecurity enthusiast who loves bringing her background in content marketing, UX, and data analysis together into one job. She has a fondness for all things SEO and is always open to receiving suggestions, comments, or questions.

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