8.2 The Infrastructure for Network Management

We've seen in the previous section that network management requires the ability to "monitor, test, poll, configure, … and control" the hardware and software and components in a network. Because the network devices are distributed, this will minimally require that the network administrator be able to gather data (e.g., for monitoring purposes) from a remote entity and be able to affect changes (e.g., control) at that remote entity. A human analogy will prove useful here for understanding the infrastructure needed for network management.

Imagine that you're the head of a large organization that has branch offices around the world. It's your job to make sure that the pieces of your organization are operating smoothly. How would you do so? At a minimum, you'll periodically gather data from your branch offices in the form of reports and various quantitative measures of activity, productivity, and budget. You'll occasionally (but not always) be explicitly notified when there's a problem in one of the branch offices; the branch manager who wants to climb the corporate ladder (perhaps to get your job) may send you unsolicited reports indicating how smoothly things are running at his/her branch. You'll sift through the reports you receive, hoping to find smooth operations everywhere, but no doubt finding problems in need of your attention. You might initiate a one-on-one dialogue with one of your problem branch offices, gather more data in order to understand the problem, and then pass down an executive order ("Make this change!") to the branch office manager. Implicit in this very common human scenario is an infrastructure for controlling the organization - the boss (you), the remotes sites being controlled (the branch offices), your remote agents (the branch office managers), communication protocols (for transmitting standard reports and data, and for one-on-one dialogues), and data (the report contents and the quantitative measures of activity, productivity, and budget). Each of these components in human organizational management has an exact counterpart in network management.

The architecture of a network management system is conceptually identical to this simple human organizational analogy. The network management field has its own specific terminology for the various components of a network management architecture, and so we adopt that terminology here. As shown in Figure 8.2-1, there are three principle components of a network management architecture: a managing entity (e.g., the boss in our above analogy - you), the managed devices (the branch office), and a network management protocol.

Network management architecture
Figure 8.2-1: principal components of a network management architecture

Although the infrastructure for network management is conceptually simple, one can often get bogged down with the network-management-speak vocabulary of "managing entity," "managed device," "managing agent," and "management information base." Hopefully, keeping the human organizational analogy and its obvious parallels with network management in mind will be of help as we continue through this chapter.

Our discussion of network management architecture above has been generic, and broadly applied to a number of the network management standards and efforts that have been proposed over the years. Network management standards began maturing in the late 1980's, with OSI CMISE/CMIP (the Common Management Service Element/Common Management Information Protocol) [Piscatello 1993, Stallings 1993, Glitho 1998] and the Internet SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) [Stallings 1993, RFC 2570, Stallings 1999, Rose 1996] emerging as the two most important standards. Both are designed to be independent of vendor-specific products or networks. Because SNMP was quickly designed and deployed at a time when the need for network management was becoming painfully clear, SNMP found widespread use and acceptance. Today, SNMP has emerged as the most widely used and deployed network management framework. We cover SNMP in detail in the following section


Copyright 1999. James F. Kurose and Keith W. Ross. All Rights Reserved.