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How Can You Use SNMP GetBulk Requests for Remote Site Monitoring & Management?

By Andrew Erickson

April 6, 2024


Today, we're diving into a practical yet underexplored aspect of remote network management: SNMP GetBulk requests.

SNMP, or Simple Network Management Protocol, is a crucial framework used in managing and monitoring network devices. Most network professionals are already familiar with common SNMP operations like TRAPs, SETs, and simple GETs.

SNMP GetBulk requests offer a significant efficiency boost that can enhance how we manage large-scale networks.

Understanding Basic SNMP Message Types

To fully appreciate the benefits of GetBulk requests, let's briefly recap the basics of SNMP:

In any SNMP-based system, there are two key components. These are the "manager" and the "agent":

  • The manager is the central system that oversees and communicates with various network devices, which are the...
  • Agents collect and store data about their operational status and report this back to the manager.

Typically, the interaction between managers and agents involves several types of messages. Traps are unsolicited alerts sent from agents to the manager about significant events or changes.

Conversely, the manager actively queries agents using GET requests to retrieve specific data points, like temperature readings or error rates. When a manager sends a GET request, the agent responds with the requested information.

NOTE: In modern SNMP implementations, managers focus more on GETs to gain the advantages of polling (vs. synchronicity).

From Simple GET to GetBulk

In scenarios where the manager needs to gather multiple data points, continuously sending individual GET requests (one for each data point) is inefficient. This is where GetNext and GetBulk requests come into play.

SNMP versions comparison
Comparison between SNMP protocol versions.

The GetNext request allows the manager to sequentially request the next piece of data after the current one, enabling the manager to 'walk' through all data points on an agent. However, this still requires multiple round-trips to collect extensive data, which is where GetBulk requests shine.

What is an SNMP GetBulk Request?

An SNMP GetBulk request is specifically designed to improve the efficiency of network information retrieval. This request allows the manager to fetch substantial blocks of data in one go rather than sequentially querying each data point.

Here's how it works: The manager sends a single GetBulk request specifying a range of data items it needs, and the agent responds with all the requested data in one consolidated message.

This method drastically reduces the number of messages sent across the network, minimizing bandwidth usage and reducing the load on both the manager and the agents.

Advantages of SNMP GetBulk Requests

The primary advantage of using SNMP GetBulk requests lies in their ability to reduce network traffic - a crucial factor in managing large, complex networks.

By consolidating multiple SNMP queries into a single request, GetBulk reduces the number of packets sent over the network. This not only speeds up data retrieval but also alleviates the processing demand on network devices. This efficiency is particularly beneficial in networks with large density of devices or where network bandwidth is limited.

Another significant benefit is the streamlined management process. With GetBulk requests, network administrators can receive comprehensive data updates quickly, allowing for faster decision-making and troubleshooting.

This is especially useful in dynamic environments where timely information is critical to maintaining network performance and reliability.

Implementing SNMP GetBulk Requests

Implementing SNMP GetBulk requests into your network management strategy requires some preparation and understanding of your network's specific needs.

The first step is to ensure that your SNMP manager and agents support GetBulk operations. While most modern SNMP tools do, it's important to verify this capability to avoid compatibility issues.

The next step involves configuring your SNMP manager to utilize GetBulk requests effectively. This typically includes setting parameters like the non-repeaters and max-repetitions options, which control the behavior of the GetBulk request.

Non-repeaters indicate how many objects are to be retrieved exactly once, while max-repetitions specify the number of following objects the request should attempt to retrieve.

Adopting SNMP GetBulk requests can lead to substantial improvements in the way network data is collected and analyzed. However, it's crucial to test these settings in a controlled environment to optimize performance without overwhelming your network devices with extensive data requests.

Implementing SNMP GetBulk requests can transform the efficiency of network management tasks, allowing for rapid data retrieval and significantly reduced network traffic.

Next, I'll guide you through the practical steps and considerations in deploying GetBulk requests effectively in your network operations, ensuring you make the most out of your SNMP setup.

Factors Affecting the Cost of SNMP Managers and Agents

When you're planning to invest in SNMP management tools, understanding the factors that affect their pricing is crucial. The cost of SNMP managers and agents can vary significantly based on several key elements:

  1. Software vs. Hardware Solutions: Some vendors offer software-based solutions that run on standard hardware, while others provide dedicated SNMP devices. The type of solution you choose can significantly impact costs. This will vary based on your company's expertise in general server administration, virtualization, cloud architecture, etc. At DPS, our NetGuardians are hardware devices because they have to be. You can't have an RTU without hardware. With our master station, T/Mon, we've made a conscious decision to build it as a hardware+software appliance. This reduces the expertise you need to install and use it, simplifying your rollout.
  2. Software Features and Scalability: The more sophisticated the software, particularly in terms of features that support advanced operations like GetBulk requests, the higher the cost. Scalability is another price driver. Systems that support more devices without slowing down usually cost more, but they're crucial for growing networks.
  3. Vendor Reputation and Support: Established vendors with a proven track record may offer their products at a premium. This cost often includes reliable customer support, regular updates, and robust security features, which are critical for maintaining network health and security. At DPS, designing and building in the United States isn't the cheapest decision we could have made. It has paid off in quality, however, leading to a lot of happy letters from clients. We post these on our walls and include them when you request a price quote.
  4. Compatibility with Existing Systems: Choosing SNMP managers and agents that seamlessly integrate with your existing network infrastructure can reduce long-term costs related to system upgrades and maintenance. Oddly enough, this can mean about also thinking about other protocols entirely. For example, T/Mon and many NetGuardian RTU models are capable of taking in alarms from various legacy/proprietary/open protocols and outputting a "clean" stream of SNMP to your SNMP manager.
  5. Security Features and Compliance: With increasing threats to network security, SNMP tools that offer advanced encryption, authentication measures, and compliance with current security standards are essential. These features typically add to the cost but are vital for protecting sensitive network data.

Understanding these factors will help you make informed decisions when purchasing SNMP managers and agents, ensuring you invest in solutions that offer the best value for your specific network needs.

Choosing the Right SNMP Manager and Agent

Selecting the right SNMP manager and agent is not just about finding the lowest price but about finding the best fit for your network. Here are a few tips to guide your selection process:

  • Assess Your Network Size and Complexity: Start by evaluating the size and complexity of your network. Larger networks with more devices require more robust SNMP managers that can handle extensive data and higher traffic without compromising performance.
  • Consider Future Network Growth: Think about your network's potential growth in the coming years. Investing in scalable solutions that can grow with your network will prevent costly upgrades down the line. T/Mon LNX, for example, is a one-time purchase with no enforced device/IP limit. This differs from other SNMP managers that require recurring license fees and/or per-device fees.
  • Evaluate Feature Necessities: Determine which features are essential for your operations. For example, if quick data retrieval from numerous devices is crucial, look for SNMP managers that support GetBulk. If you need SNMPv3 for security and compatibility, look for that.
  • Check Vendor Support and Reliability: Ensure that the vendor offers excellent ongoing support and regular updates to keep the system secure and functioning optimally. A vendor's responsiveness and support can significantly impact the overall effectiveness of your SNMP tools.

Talk to DPS About Your Remote Monitoring Project

If you're ready to improve your network management capabilities with SNMP GetBulk requests or if you need advice on selecting the right SNMP tools, DPS Telecom will help you.

We have engineers on staff to be able to make you custom equipment and offer the best possible tech support. As a result, we have experts ready to answer your general questions to help you get started, even if you just need "textboox" answers about SNMP.

Remember, investing in the right SNMP tools is not just about buying some device. Ideally, you're securing a partnership that will help you manage and optimize your network for 10+ years.

Call DPS now at 1-800-693-0351 or email sales@dpstele.com

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and opt...