snmp alternatives

Top SNMP Alternatives because SNMP is dying (updated 2020)

Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) simplifies device management by enabling centralized discovery, monitoring, and configuration of devices on the network (routers, switches, printers and others) – find out more in my definitive step by step SNMP tutorial.

It is difficult to find a complete alternative to SNMP because it has been implemented into millions of systems and software over the last 30 years.

Very often, people spend a lot of resources migrating from one type of technology to another, and ultimately the benefits they get do not justify the cost. Therefore, before you start implementing the new SNMP alternative ask your self a question – do I really need it?

Meaning, if SNMP works for you then there is no need for an alternative.

However, if you know exactly what you need to monitor or configure on devices and SNMP can’t do it, then you need an alternative.

There are dozens of them – where should I start first?

Picture showing some of the alternatives to SNMP protocol

SNMP alternatives for Server monitoring

Considering how an SNMP agent lacks functionality when used on a servers (Windows, Linux, Unix), we should first talk about SNMP alternatives for server monitoring.

Microsoft is forcing his WMI protocol for Windows server and application monitoring. Various monitoring tools have developed their agents on which they have developed an advanced functionality that the SNMP agent didn’t have (like Zabbix agent, Nagios cross-platform agent, HP agent, CA agents, Tivoli Enterprise Monitoring Agent and similar)

There are also powerful open-source agents that can work with various monitoring systems and databases. Here’s a list of the most popular open-source agents that you can use as an alternative to SNMP for server monitoring:

The last one on the list, Prometheus (in combination with Grafana), is the most promising. Currently, is more suitable for server and cloud monitoring (OS, Openshift/Kubernetes, Docker Containers, OpenStack) but if you use his exporters, you can monitor virtually anything.  

SNMP alternatives for Network monitoring?

SNMP is still useful for monitoring traditional networks, but with the appearance of Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Internet of Things (IoT) networks, things get more complicated.

SDN brings his own out-of-box monitoring and has API interfaces for configuration and monitoring (like Cisco ACI), but that’s whole another topic.

The new standard for network monitoring could be streaming telemetry! The NETCONF, RESTCONFgNMI and gRPC protocols provide flexible interfaces and methods for communicating with the device.

Picture showing how NETCONF and RESTCONF work

Before we can send data over NETCONF, gNMI, RESTCONF, or gRPC transport protocols we must encode and describe that data with the data model. Currently, YANG is the most popular data model for defining telemetry data and it aspires to become industry standard but in the real world, we have different data models from different vendors. Data encoding is done in text format using XML and JSON or in binary format using Protocol Buffers. 

Picture showing, in a funny way, how standards are created

Which standard will prevail? It’s too early to say.

SNMP alternatives for Device configuration

SNMP is rarely used for device configuration and it has been clear since mid 2000s that it will be replaced by NETCONF in that segment.

But, some systems don’t support SNMP or NETCONF for device configuration and, beside CLI, they usually offer communication over Rest API, SOAP or similar protocol.

Is SNMP really dead?

Is SNMP still useful and popular in this day and age? Yes, but it’s virtually impossible to determine how many devices are using SNMP today because it comes packed with all sorts of devices: from home devices like a printer, modem, UPS; up to business devices like router, switch, server and all the way to expensive systems that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

However, we all must agree that SNMP days are numbers, as you can see in the picture below –  his popularity is diminishing.

Picture showing interest over for the SNMP from 2004 till 2019 (based on google searches)
Picture showing interest over for the SNMP from 2004 till 2019 (based on google searches)

Microsoft stabbed SNMP in the back in 2012 when they announced that SNMP is deprecated on Windows servers, and in 2018 Google try to finish him of publishing paper “SNMP is dead”.

Google and Microsoft are right, it is an 30-year-old protocol with many shortcomings and vulnerabilities and it must go away.

But SNMP keeps going because it has these characteristics that none of his alternatives have: familiar, light, simple to use, free and supported by almost any vendor.  

In conclusion, we can’t just “uninstall” SNMP from everywhere and install some new and better protocol. There are many alternatives (streaming telemetry, advance agents…as discussed before), but there is nothing as widely accepted and supported as the SNMP protocol.

We can all agree that SNMP is dying. However, it will take a very long time before it eventually dies (provided the IoT does not resurrect him).


Thank you for reading.

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