Posts Tagged ‘switch’

Flying Blind on Your Network

November 30, 2009

Many network administrators are satisfied with a limited view of their network.  They ping their routers and switches and configure utilization monitoring of their WAN links and that’s as far as they go.

What’s terrible is that they paid for some really nice enterprise-grade switches and routers that have some serious smarts built in.  Too bad they aren’t getting the full value out of these devices.

The problem lies in the fact that the “smarts” for these devices are trapped inside the SNMP agents and require a lot of programming & configuration to extract the information, then you have to do some manual analysis to make sense out of the information.

This is what frustrated me a long time ago.  I knew that the routers & switches in my network new where the problems were, but getting them to disclose this information took a lot of work and thinking.

If only there was a solution that would disclose the information in a useful, plain-English format…

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“There’s gold in them thar hills!”

February 21, 2008

As I drive down highway 101 through Silicon Valley, I look at the buildings around me and think about the switches and routers running each company’s network.  They each are continuously collecting statistics about their operation, yet nobody who works for the companies have any knowledge of these health indicators until something crashes.

Most network switches and routers support SNMP, but very few companies are able to gain any benefit from this capability.

There are three main reasons for this:

  1. Training required to understand how SNMP works
  2. Research required to determine which specific OIDs should be monitored
  3. Massive amount of bugs that exist in device SNMP implementations

Many network engineers never achieve understanding of SNMP due to its complexity.  They are tasked with a multitude of business driven projects, but are rarely able to focus on improving their network’s management infrastructure so their network runs smoother.

Once SNMP as a technology is understood, one would need to determine which MIB files a specific device running a specific OS version supports.  Then, the OIDs from ASN.1 formatted MIB files need to be determined.  Even with a MIB browser, it can still be difficult to determine which variable is going to provide the information you want.  (Gaaaacckkk!!!  Too many three letter acronyms!)

Now that you know which variables to query, you run straight into the bugs that exist in SNMP.  Various equipment manufacturers have taken liberties with the SNMP standards to their benefit.  Sometimes it’s as simple boastful marketing, like “Yes, we do currently support the BRIDGE-MIB, but it’s going to be released in a future release.”  (ie: they don’t current support it, but they’re saying they do).

Sometimes there are bugs that at best make your job tougher, and at worst crashes the box.

Occassionally there are manufacturers who decide that they don’t want to fully support a MIB the way it’s defined and they change the rules to suit their own needs.

With all of these difficulties, its no wonder that more companies have difficulty getting valid information on their network.