Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)

The Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) is an application-layer protocol that facilitates the exchange of management information between network devices. It is part of the TCP/IP protocol suite. SNMP enables network administrators to manage network performance, find and solve network problems and plan for network growth.

There are two versions of SNMP, v1 and v2. Both versions have a number of features in common, but SNMP v2 offers enhancements, such as additional protocol operations. SNMP version 1 is described in RFC 1157 and functions within the specifications of the Structure of Management Information (SMI).

SNMP v1 operates over protocols such as the User Datagram Protocol (UDP), IP, OSI Connectionless Network Service (CLNS), Apple-Talk Datagram-Delivery Protocol (DDP), and Novell Internet Packet Exchange (IPX). SNMP v1 is widely used and is the de facto network management protocol in the Internet community.

SNMP is a simple request–response protocol. The network management system issues a request, and managed devices return responses. This behaviour is implemented using one of four protocol operations: Get, GetNext, Set and Trap.

The Get operation is used by the network management system (NMS) to retrieve the value of one or more object instances from an agent. If the agent responding to the Get operation cannot provide values for all the object instances in a list, it provides no values.

The GetNext operation is used by the NMS to retrieve the value of the next object instance in a table or list within an agent. The Set operation is used by the NMS to set the values of object instances within an agent. The Trap operation is used by agents to asynchronously inform the NMS of a significant event.

SNMP version 2 is an evolution of the SNMP v1. It was originally published as a set of proposed Internet Standards in 1993. SNMP v2 functions within the specifications of the Structure of Management Information (SMI) which defines the rules for describing management information, using Abstract Syntax Notation One (ASN.1).

The Get, GetNext and Set operation used in SNMP v1 are exactly the same as those used in SNMP v2. However, SNMP v2 adds and enhances some protocol operations. SNMP v2 also defines two new protocol operations: GetBulk and Inform.

The GetBulk operation is used by the NMS to efficiently retrieve large blocks of data, such as multiple rows in a table. GetBulk fills a response message with as much of the requested data as will fit. The Inform operation allows one NMS to send trap information to another NMS and receive a response.

SNMP lacks any authentication capabilities, which results in vulnerability to a variety of security threats. These include masquerading, modification of information, message sequence and timing modifications and disclosure.