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Chapter 5. Network-Management Software

Many SNMP software packages are available, ranging from programming libraries that let you build your own utilities (using Perl, C/C++ or Java) to expensive, complete network-management platforms. This chapter presents some pros and cons for many of the most commonly used packages. This will not only give you an idea of what packages are out there, but also help you decide what might be right for you (keep in mind, though, that these pros and cons are merely our opinions). Whenever possible, we present both open source solutions and commercial products.

Management software falls into five categories:

  • SNMP agents

  • NMS suites

  • Element managers (vendor-specific management)

  • Trend-analysis software

  • Supporting software

Unfortunately, deciding what you need isn't as simple as picking one program from each category. If you have a small network and are interested in building your own tools, you probably don't need a complex NMS suite. Whether or not you need trend-analysis software depends, obviously, on if you're interested in analyzing trends in your network usage. The products available depend in part on the platforms in which you're interested. The minimum you can get by with is an SNMP agent on a device and some software that can retrieve a value from that device (using an SNMP get). Although this is minimal, it's enough to start working, and you can get the software for free.

This chapter presents a broad survey of some of the leading products in each of these categories. Since there are more packages than we can cover in this book, be sure to check the Network Management Server (http://netman.cit.buffalo.edu/Products.html ) for network-management product listings.

5.1. SNMP Agents

As we explained in Chapter 1, "What Is SNMP?", the agent is the software that controls all the SNMP communication to and from any SNMP-compatible device. In some devices, such as Cisco routers, the agent software is built into the device itself and requires no installation. On other platforms, such as Windows NT, you may have to install the agent as part of an additional software package.

Before you can look at what types of agents you need, you must research what types of devices you have on your network and what types of information you would like to receive from each. Some agents are very basic and return only a limited amount of information, while others can return a wealth of information. To start, determine whether you need to receive information from servers (Unix, Windows NT, etc.) or network devices (routers, switches, etc.). Generally, out-of-the-box network-type devices provide more information than their server counterparts. On the other hand, network devices do not extend very easily, if at all, in part because network hardware usually doesn't have a disk-based operating environment.[17] This keeps the end user from accessing the agent to make modifications or extend it. The rest of this section provides information about some of the software packages that are currently available for use as SNMP agents.

[17]See Chapter 11, "Extensible SNMP Agents" for a discussion of extensible agents.

TIP: Make sure that you understand what kind of software is running on your servers (email systems, accounting packages, etc.). Many applications will not listen or respond to SNMP requests, but will send out traps. Traps can be very useful for monitoring some of these applications. Also, there are applications for virus scanners, remote logins (pcAnywhere), and UPSs that will send informative traps when an error has been found. Look for this feature the next time you purchase any package or software suite.

HP Extensible SNMP Agenthttp://www.openview.hp.com

Platforms

Solaris, HP-UX

Pros

Includes an snmptrap program and an HP agent that gives some additional functionality (mostly for HP systems). The agent is extensible using a subset of ASN.1.

Cons

Cost is per device. You have to keep track of multiple daemons.

Sun Microsystemshttp://www.sun.com

Platforms

Solaris

Pros

Available free for most recent versions of Solaris. Comes bundled with Solaris (Versions 2.6 and up). The agent is extensible.

Cons

Very minimal; supports only MIB-II.

Concord SystemEDGEhttp://www.empire.com

Platforms

Many flavors of Unix, Windows NT

Pros

Provides very detailed information about the system (CPU, disk space, filesystems, installed apps, etc.). Integrates with the Windows NT SNMP service. Log watcher for Unix and NT. The agent is fully extensible. Works with Concord's Network Health package and Trinagy's TREND suite.

Cons

Can be expensive unless you purchase in quantity.

Microsofthttp://www.microsoft.com

Platforms

Windows 9x/NT/2000

Pros

Built into the operating-system kernel. Can be controlled by NT services.

Cons

Meets only the minimal requirements of an SNMP-compatible agent. You must install the latest service pack after you install the software.

Net-SNMP (Formerly the UCD-SNMP project.)http://net-snmp.sourceforge.net

Platforms

Many flavors of Unix, Windows 9x/NT

Pros

Free and fairly robust. Easily extensible using shell or Perl scripts. Includes a trap daemon.

Cons

Documentation is minimal, which means it can be difficult for first-time users to get it running the way they want.

SNMP Researchhttp://www.int.snmp.com

Platforms

Unix, Windows NT

Pros

Good toolkit for writing an agent, if this is the functionality you're looking for.

Cons

Does not integrate with Windows SNMP Service. Mostly a toolkit product; requires extensive work to make it useful.



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