[ih] inter-network communication history

Peter Schow pschow at gmail.com
Sat Nov 9 14:03:32 PST 2019

A few comments on SNMP from the trenches, back in the late 80's to the

* SNMP made the conscious choice to use only a limited subset of the ASN.1
constructs, CMIP/CMOT required the full language thus increasing memory
requirements, CPU cycles, etc.

* SNMP the protocol was well-fielded and did very well in its golden
years.  It was definitely a RFP-checkoff item for any device manufacturer
that wanted to sell its gear.  At it's peak, it excelled as a *monitoring*
protocol and some very useful commercial and FOSS software (e.g. MRTG)
became available that did some good things with just MIB-II interface data.

* Relational databases were certainly attempted in the late 80's as the
backing store for management platforms.  The problem was that their memory
and CPU demands were too high for the turnkey systems that we were trying
to ship.  For instance, we attempted to run Oracle RDBMS 3 (and then
migrated to 4) on both a MicroVax II and then a DECStation 3100 (MIPS) but
neither could keep up with the demands of large-scale (thousands of
elements) network management.

* Where SNMP had problems was in MIB interoperability.  The MIB files
themselves were hardly ever portable between all of the MIB importers out
there, they usually had to be tweaked and thus management platform vendors
had to ship their own collections of MIBs, massaged to make them
importable.   A regular MIB bakeoff event would have been useful but as has
already been mentioned, device vendors for the most part weren't too
interested in having a third-party management platform control their
devices and not all them made their MIBs publicly available which was
definitely against the spirit of SNMP and open internetworking management.

* Finally, it is helpful to see what type of *management* interface was
actually preferred.  One emerging router company, named after a Cape Cod
town, based their management platform on SNMP w/full-featured MIBs and
shipped a UI that used underlying SNMP operations to configure the router.
 The leading router vendor at the time also offered SNMP as a monitoring
interface but their primary configuration interface was command-line, with
the entire router configuration captured in a text file.  These text files
were handily swapped, quoted, and cut/pasted regularly between network
admins, for troubleshooting and training purposes.  The first router vendor
eventually did offer a CLI but it was too late.
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