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Features, trends and new product development
Part 1: Telemetry – A new StableNet® feature that works alongside SNMP
November 7th 2022, Würzburg
Today’s telcos are facing increasingly complex network environments which makes it difficult to get a proper overview of the different devices. Because of that, network monitoring is especially important and significant for telco companies. By clearly mapping the existing computer network, both availability and performance can be efficiently ensured.
But where does the information about the individual devices come from? There is no magic behind it, but rather a relatively old network protocol known as Simple Network Management Protocol, commonly abbreviated to SNMP. This is responsible for the communication between devices such as routers or switches and our management system.
But how exactly does network communication work?
To put it simply, the architecture of SNMP consists of three components: the manager, the network and the agent, i.e. the device. The manager sends a request to the respective device, which then sends back a response.
SNMP originates from the 80s. Even though the procedure is older, it has also withstood the test of time. The advantage is that it is very widespread and also standardized. Thus, the processing of the data is very simple.
However, SNMP also has disadvantages. For example, the protocol scales very poorly. This is because a “list” of information and current measured values that could be retrieved must be kept ready by a device at all times. However, only a fraction of this data is usually needed. Coupled with this issue, SNMP also has very low granularity. While queries at an interval of five minutes are still acceptable, at an interval of, say, five seconds, the device is quickly overloaded because it does nothing but provide information.
The idea of telemetry
An attractive option among the available alternatives is telemetry. With this method, the device takes an active role. The manager only has to tell the device that he wants a specific data point. In addition, he can specify, for example, at what interval or in what format he wants the information. The device then sends the data point to the manager on a regular basis. In contrast to SNMP, not all measured values have to be kept ready. Instead, the device only takes care of the desired information. As soon as the manager reports that the information is no longer needed, the data points are no longer delivered.
The concept compensates for the disadvantages of SNMP. While the data must be actively requested with the latter, with telemetry the device merely receives a message that certain data is to be transmitted. This is then done at the right time. In addition, you only receive the data that you have actually requested. The rest, which is not needed, is not collected. On the one hand, this makes telemetry more scalable and it has a much higher granularity, which is a key advantage over SNMP.
So, we decided to integrate telemetry into StableNet®. The leader of the project is Armin Beutel, who is responsible for both the concept and the implementation.
The challenges that come with telemetry
In addition, telemetry cannot be covered by one tool because, unlike SNMP, it is not a protocol but a concept. As a result, developers are faced with a zoo of tools. Fortunately, the end customer does not have to worry about this, because the communication between the network elements and StableNet® takes place in the background. The interface that the customer uses will not change. This is one of the main goals of the project.
However, the biggest challenge is the lack of standardization. The data must first be put into a standardized form before it can be used. StableNet® uses a so-called translation layer for this purpose. This is very freely definable and converts the data into a uniform format. Afterwards they can be displayed on the user interface.
So far, both the basic architecture of the module has been established and code has been written that forms the basis for the individual integrations. The next step is to integrate the telemetry module into StableNet®. Initially, this module will manage templates. Later it will be extended further.
A glimpse into the future with telemetry
Telemetry holds a very large potential. Once the module is in place at StableNet®, data will be delivered faster and more efficiently from the various devices to the manager. In addition, by expanding our device support portfolio, we are ensuring that we get data from all devices. Thus, StableNet® not only fulfills the wishes of its customers, but is also perfectly prepared to remain at the forefront as a platform solution provider for network and service management.
We would like to thank our very own Senior Developer Armin Beutel for his contribution.