Network Working Group                                       L. Steinberg
Request for Comments: 1224                               IBM Corporation
                                                                May 1991

        Techniques for Managing Asynchronously Generated Alerts

Status of this Memo

   This memo defines common mechanisms for managing asynchronously
   produced alerts in a manner consistent with current network
   management protocols.

   This memo specifies an Experimental Protocol for the Internet
   community.  Discussion and suggestions for improvement are requested.
   Please refer to the current edition of the "IAB Official Protocol
   Standards" for the standardization state and status of this protocol.
   Distribution of this memo is unlimited.


   This RFC explores mechanisms to prevent a remotely managed entity
   from burdening a manager or network with an unexpected amount of
   network management information, and to ensure delivery of "important"
   information.  The focus is on controlling the flow of asynchronously
   generated information, and not how the information is generated.

Table of Contents

   1. Introduction...................................................  2
   2. Problem Definition.............................................  3
   2.1 Polling Advantages............................................  3
    (a) Reliable detection of failures...............................  3
    (b) Reduced protocol complexity on managed entity................  3
    (c) Reduced performance impact on managed entity.................  3
    (d) Reduced configuration requirements to manage remote entity...  4
   2.2 Polling Disadvantages.........................................  4
    (a) Response time for problem detection..........................  4
    (b) Volume of network management traffic generated...............  4
   2.3 Alert Advantages..............................................  5
    (a) Real-time knowledge of problems..............................  5
    (b) Minimal amount of network management traffic.................  5
   2.4 Alert Disadvantages...........................................  5
    (a) Potential loss of critical information.......................  5
    (b) Potential to over-inform a manager...........................  5
   3. Specific Goals of this Memo....................................  6
   4. Compatibility with Existing Network Management Protocols.......  6

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   5. Closed Loop "Feedback" Alert Reporting with a "Pin" Sliding
      Window Limit...................................................  6
   5.1 Use of Feedback...............................................  7
   5.1.1 Example.....................................................  8
   5.2 Notes on Feedback/Pin usage...................................  8
   6. Polled, Logged Alerts..........................................  9
   6.1 Use of Polled, Logged Alerts.................................. 10
   6.1.1 Example..................................................... 12
   6.2 Notes on Polled, Logged Alerts................................ 12
   7. Compatibility with SNMP and CMOT .............................. 14
   7.1 Closed Loop Feedback Alert Reporting.......................... 14
   7.1.1 Use of Feedback with SNMP................................... 14
   7.1.2 Use of Feedback with CMOT................................... 14
   7.2 Polled, Logged Alerts......................................... 14
   7.2.1 Use of Polled, Logged Alerts with SNMP...................... 14
   7.2.2 Use of Polled, Logged Alerts with CMOT...................... 15
   8. Notes on Multiple Manager Environments......................... 15
   9. Summary........................................................ 16
   10. References.................................................... 16
   11. Acknowledgements.............................................. 17
   Appendix A.  Example of polling costs............................. 17
   Appendix B.  MIB object definitions............................... 19
   Security Considerations........................................... 22
   Author's Address.................................................. 22

1.  Introduction

   This memo defines mechanisms to prevent a remotely managed entity
   from burdening a manager or network with an unexpected amount of
   network management information, and to ensure delivery of "important"
   information.  The focus is on controlling the flow of asynchronously
   generated information, and not how the information is generated.
   Mechanisms for generating and controlling the generation of
   asynchronous information may involve protocol specific issues.

   There are two understood mechanisms for transferring network
   management information from a managed entity to a manager: request-
   response driven polling, and the unsolicited sending of "alerts".
   Alerts are defined as any management information delivered to a
   manager that is not the result of a specific query.  Advantages and
   disadvantages exist within each method.  They are detailed in section
   2 below.

   Alerts in a failing system can be generated so rapidly that they
   adversely impact functioning resources.  They may also fail to be
   delivered, and critical information maybe lost.  Methods are needed
   both to limit the volume of alert transmission and to assist in
   delivering a minimum amount of information to a manager.

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   It is our belief that managed agents capable of asynchronously
   generating alerts should attempt to adopt mechanisms that fill both
   of these needs.  For reasons shown in section 2.4, it is necessary to
   fulfill both alert-management requirements.  A complete alert-driven
   system must ensure that alerts are delivered or their loss detected
   with a means to recreate the lost information, AND it must not allow
   itself to overburden its manager with an unreasonable amount of

2.  Problem Definition

   The following discusses the relative advantages and disadvantages of
   polled vs. alert driven management.

2.1  Polling Advantages

   (a) Reliable detection of failures.

          A manager that polls for all of its information can
          more readily determine machine and network failures;
          a lack of a response to a query indicates problems
          with the machine or network.   A manager relying on
          notification of problems might assume that a faulty
          system is good, should the alert be unable to reach
          its destination, or the managed system be unable to
          correctly generate the alert.  Examples of this
          include network failures (in which an isolated network
          cannot deliver the alert), and power failures (in which
          a failing machine cannot generate an alert).  More
          subtle forms of failure in the managed entity might
          produce an incorrectly generated alert, or no alert at

   (b) Reduced protocol complexity on managed entity

          The use of a request-response based system is based on
          conservative assumptions about the underlying transport
          protocol.  Timeouts and retransmits (re-requests) can
          be built into the manager.  In addition, this allows
          the manager to affect the amount of network management
          information flowing across the network directly.

   (c) Reduced performance impact on managed entity

          In a purely polled system, there is no danger of having
          to often test for an alert condition.  This testing
          takes CPU cycles away from the real mission of the
          managed entity.  Clearly, testing a threshold on each

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          packet received could have unwanted performance effects
          on machines such as gateways.  Those who wish to use
          thresholds and alerts must choose the parameters to be
          tested with great care, and should be strongly
          discouraged from updating statistics and checking values

   (d) Reduced Configuration Requirements to manage remote

          Remote, managed entities need not be configured
          with one or more destinations for reporting information.
          Instead, the entity merely responds to whomever
          makes a specific request.  When changing the network
          configuration, there is never a need to reconfigure
          all remote manageable systems.  In addition, any number
          of "authorized" managers (i.e., those passing any
          authentication tests imposed by the network management
          protocol) may obtain information from any managed entity.
          This occurs without reconfiguring the entity and
          without reaching an entity-imposed limit on the maximum
          number of potential managers.

2.2  Polling Disadvantages

   (a) Response time for problem detection

          Having to poll many MIB [2] variables per machine on
          a large number of machines is itself a real
          problem.  The ability of a manager to monitor
          such a system is limited; should a system fail
          shortly after being polled there may be a significant
          delay before it is polled again.  During this time,
          the manager must assume that a failing system is
          acceptable.  See Appendix A for a hypothetical
          example of such a system.

          It is worthwhile to note that while improving the mean
          time to detect failures might not greatly improve the
          time to correct the failure, the problem will generally
          not be repaired until it is detected.  In addition,
          most network managers would prefer to at least detect
          faults before network users start phoning in.

   (b) Volume of network management traffic

          Polling many objects (MIB variables) on many machines
          greatly increases the amount of network management

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          traffic flowing across the network (see Appendix A).
          While it is possible to minimize this through the use
          of hierarchies (polling a machine for a general status
          of all the machines it polls), this aggravates the
          response time problem previously discussed.

2.3  Alert Advantages

   (a) Real-time Knowledge of Problems

          Allowing the manager to be notified of problems
          eliminates the delay imposed by polling many objects/
          systems in a loop.

   (b) Minimal amount of Network Management Traffic

          Alerts are transmitted only due to detected errors.
          By removing the need to transfer large amounts of status
          information that merely demonstrate a healthy system,
          network and system (machine processor) resources may be
          freed to accomplish their primary mission.

2.4  Alert Disadvantages

   (a) Potential Loss of Critical Information

          Alerts are most likely not to be delivered when the
          managed entity fails (power supply fails) or the
          network experiences problems (saturated or isolated).
          It is important to remember that failing machines and
          networks cannot be trusted to inform a manager that
          they are failing.

   (b) Potential to Over-inform the Manager

          An "open loop" system in which the flow of alerts to
          a manager is fully asynchronous can result in an excess
          of alerts being delivered (e.g., link up/down messages
          when lines vacillate).  This information places an extra
          burden on a strained network, and could prevent the
          manager from disabling the mechanism generating the
          alerts; all available network bandwidth into the manager
          could be saturated with incoming alerts.

   Most major network management systems strive to use an optimal
   combination of alerts and polling.  Doing so preserves the advantages
   of each while eliminating the disadvantages of pure polling.

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3.  Specific Goals of this Memo

   This memo suggests mechanisms to minimize the disadvantages of alert
   usage.  An optimal system recognizes the potential problems
   associated with sending too many alerts in which a manager becomes
   ineffective at managing, and not adequately using alerts (especially
   given the volumes of data that must be actively monitored with poor
   scaling).  It is the author's belief that this is best done by
   allowing alert mechanisms that "close down" automatically when over-
   delivering asynchronous (unexpected) alerts, and that also allow a
   flow of synchronous alert information through a polled log.  The use
   of "feedback" (with a sliding window "pin") discussed in section 5
   addresses the former need, while the discussion in section 6 on
   "polled, logged alerts" does the latter.

   This memo does not attempt to define mechanisms for controlling the
   asynchronous generation of alerts, as such matters deal with
   specifics of the management protocol.  In addition, no attempt is
   made to define what the content of an alert should be.  The feedback
   mechanism does require the addition of a single alert type, but this
   is not meant to impact or influence the techniques for generating any
   other alert (and can itself be generated from a MIB object or the
   management protocol).  To make any effective use of the alert
   mechanisms described in this memo, implementation of several MIB
   objects is required in the relevant managed systems.  The location of
   these objects in the MIB is under an experimental subtree delegated
   to the Alert-Man working group of the Internet Engineering Task Force
   (IETF) and published in the "Assigned Numbers" RFC [5].  Currently,
   this subtree is defined as

         alertMan ::= { experimental 24 }.

4.  Compatibility With Existing Network Management Protocols

   It is the intent of this document to suggest mechanisms that violate
   neither the letter nor the spirit of the protocols expressed in CMOT
   [3] and SNMP [4].  To achieve this goal, each mechanism described
   will give an example of its conformant use with both SNMP and CMOT.

5.  Closed Loop "Feedback" Alert Reporting with a "Pin" Sliding
    Window Limit

   One technique for preventing an excess of alerts from being delivered
   involves required feedback to the managed agent.  The name "feedback"
   describes a required positive response from a potentially "over-
   reported" manager, before a remote agent may continue transmitting
   alerts at a high rate.  A sliding window "pin" threshold (so named
   for the metal on the end of a meter) is established as a part of a

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   user-defined SNMP trap, or as a managed CMOT event.  This threshold
   defines the maximum allowable number of alerts ("maxAlertsPerTime")
   that may be transmitted by the agent, and the "windowTime" in seconds
   that alerts are tested against.  Note that "maxAlertsPerTime"
   represents the sum total of all alerts generated by the agent, and is
   not duplicated for each type of alert that an agent might generate.
   Both "maxAlertsPerTime" and "windowTime" are required MIB objects of
   SMI [1] type INTEGER, must be readable, and may be writable should
   the implementation permit it.

   Two other items are required for the feedback technique.  The first
   is a Boolean MIB object (SMI type is INTEGER, but it is treated as a
   Boolean whose only value is zero, i.e., "FALSE") named
   "alertsEnabled", which must have read and write access.  The second
   is a user defined alert named "alertsDisabled".  Please see Appendix
   B for their complete definitions.

5.1  Use of Feedback

   When an excess of alerts is being generated, as determined by the
   total number of alerts exceeding "maxAlertsPerTime" within
   "windowTime" seconds, the agent sets the Boolean value of
   "alertsEnabled" to "FALSE" and sends a single alert of type

   Again, the pin mechanism operates on the sum total of all alerts
   generated by the remote system.  Feedback is implemented once per
   agent and not separately for each type of alert in each agent.  While
   it is also possible to implement the Feedback/Pin technique on a per
   alert-type basis, such a discussion belongs in a document dealing
   with controlling the generation of individual alerts.

   The typical use of feedback is detailed in the following steps:

      (a)  Upon initialization of the agent, the value of
           "alertsEnabled" is set to "TRUE".

      (b)  Each time an alert is generated, the value of
           "alertsEnabled" is tested.  Should the value be "FALSE",
           no alert is sent.  If the value is "TRUE", the alert is
           sent and the current time is stored locally.

      (c)  If at least "maxAlertsPerTime" have been generated, the
           agent calculates the difference of time stored for the
           new alert from the time associated with alert generated
           "maxAlertsPerTime" previously.  Should this amount be
           less than "windowTime", a single alert of the type
           "alertsDisabled" is sent to the manager and the value of

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           "alertsEnabled" is then set to "FALSE".

      (d)  When a manager receives an alert of the type "Alerts-
           Disabled", it is expected to set "alertsEnabled" back
           to "TRUE" to continue to receive alert reports.

5.1.1  Example

   In a sample system, the maximum number of alerts any single managed
   entity may send the manager is 10 in any 3 second interval.  A
   circular buffer with a maximum depth of 10 time of day elements is
   defined to accommodate statistics keeping.

   After the first 10 alerts have been sent, the managed entity tests
   the time difference between its oldest and newest alerts.  By testing
   the time for a fixed number of alerts, the system will never disable
   itself merely because a few alerts were transmitted back to back.

   The mechanism will disable reporting only after at least 10 alerts
   have been sent, and the only if the last 10 all occurred within a 3
   second interval.  As alerts are sent over time, the list maintains
   data on the last 10 alerts only.

5.2  Notes on Feedback/Pin Usage

   A manager may periodically poll "alertsEnabled" in case an
   "alertsDisabled" alert is not delivered by the network.  Some
   implementers may also choose to add COUNTER MIB objects to show the
   total number of alerts transmitted and dropped by "alertsEnabled"
   being FALSE.  While these may yield some indication of the number of
   lost alerts, the use of "Polled, Logged Alerts" offers a superset of
   this function.

   Testing the alert frequency need not begin until a minimum number of
   alerts have been sent (the circular buffer is full).  Even then, the
   actual test is the elapsed time to get a fixed number of alerts and
   not the number of alerts in a given time period.  This eliminates the
   need for complex averaging schemes (keeping current alerts per second
   as a frequency and redetermining the current value based on the
   previous value and the time of a new alert).  Also eliminated is the
   problem of two back to back alerts; they may indeed appear to be a
   large number of alerts per second, but the fact remains that there
   are only two alerts.  This situation is unlikely to cause a problem
   for any manager, and should not trigger the mechanism.

   Since alerts are supposed to be generated infrequently, maintaining
   the pin and testing the threshold should not impact normal
   performance of the agent (managed entity).  While repeated testing

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   may affect performance when an excess of alerts are being
   transmitted, this effect would be minor compared to the cost of
   generating and sending so many alerts.  Long before the cost of
   testing (in CPU cycles) becomes relatively high, the feedback
   mechanism should disable alert sending and affect savings both in
   alert sending and its own testing (note that the list maintenance and
   testing mechanisms disable themselves when they disable alert
   reporting).  In addition, testing the value of "alertsEnabled" can
   limit the CPU burden of building alerts that do not need to be sent.

   It is advised that the implementer consider allowing write access to
   both the window size and the number of alerts allowed in a window's
   time.  In doing so, a management station has the option of varying
   these parameters remotely before setting "alertsEnabled" to "TRUE".
   Should either of these objects be set to 0, a conformant system will
   disable the pin and feedback mechanisms and allow the agent to send
   all of the alerts it generates.

   While the feedback mechanism is not high in CPU utilization costs,
   those implementing alerts of any kind are again cautioned to exercise
   care that the alerts tested do not occur so frequently as to impact
   the performance of the agent's primary function.

   The user may prefer to send alerts via TCP to help ensure delivery of
   the "alerts disabled" message, if available.

   The feedback technique is effective for preventing the over-reporting
   of alerts to a manager.  It does not assist with the problem of
   "under-reporting" (see "polled, logged alerts" for this).

   It is possible to lose alerts while "alertsEnabled" is "FALSE".
   Ideally, the threshold of "maxAlertsPerTime" should be set
   sufficiently high that "alertsEnabled" is only set to "FALSE" during
   "over-reporting" situations.  To help prevent alerts from possibly
   being lost when the threshold is exceeded, this method can be
   combined with "polled, logged alerts" (see below).

6.  Polled, Logged Alerts

   A simple system that combines the request-response advantages of
   polling while minimizing the disadvantages is "Polled, Logged
   Alerts".  Through the addition of several MIB objects, one gains a
   system that minimizes network management traffic, lends itself to
   scaling, eliminates the reliance on delivery, and imposes no
   potential over-reporting problems inherent in pure alert driven
   architectures.  Minimizing network management traffic is affected by
   reducing multiple requests to a single request.  This technique does
   not eliminate the need for polling, but reduces the amount of data

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   transferred and ensures the manager either alert delivery or
   notification of an unreachable node.  Note again, the goal is to
   address the needs of information (alert) flow and not to control the
   local generation of alerts.

6.1  Use of Polled, Logged Alerts

   As alerts are generated by a remote managed entity, they are logged
   locally in a table.  The manager may then poll a single MIB object to
   determine if any number of alerts have been generated.  Each poll
   request returns a copy of an "unacknowledged" alert from the alert
   log, or an indication that the table is empty.  Upon receipt, the
   manager might "acknowledge" any alert to remove it from the log.
   Entries in the table must be readable, and can optionally allow the
   user to remove them by writing to or deleting them.

   This technique requires several additional MIB objects.  The
   alert_log is a SEQUENCE OF logTable entries that must be readable,
   and can optionally have a mechanism to remove entries (e.g., SNMP set
   or CMOT delete).  An optional read-only MIB object of type INTEGER,
   "maxLogTableEntries" gives the maximum number of log entries the
   system will support.  Please see Appendix B for their complete

   The typical use of Polled, Logged Alerts is detailed below.

      (a)  Upon initialization, the agent builds a pointer to a log
           table.  The table is empty (a sequence of zero entries).

      (b)  Each time a local alert is generated, a logTable entry
           is built with the following information:

      SEQUENCE {
                 alertId          INTEGER,
                 alertData        OPAQUE

           (1) alertId number of type INTEGER, set to 1 greater
               than the previously generated alertId.  If this is
               the first alert generated, the value is initialized
               to 1.  This value should wrap (reset) to 1 when it
               reaches 2**32.  Note that the maximum log depth
               cannot exceed (2**32)-1 entries.

           (2) a copy of the alert encapsulated in an OPAQUE.

      (c)  The new log element is added to the table.  Should
           addition of the element exceed the defined maximum log

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           table size, the oldest element in the table (having the
           lowest alertId) is replaced by the new element.

      (d)  A manager may poll the managed agent for either the next
           alert in the alert_table, or for a copy of the alert
           associated with a specific alertId.  A poll request must
           indicate a specific alertId. The mechanism for obtaining
           this information from a table is protocol specific, and
           might use an SNMP GET or GET NEXT (with GET NEXT
           following an instance of zero returning the first table
           entry's alert) or CMOT's GET with scoping and filtering
           to get alertData entries associated with alertId's
           greater or less than a given instance.

      (e)  An alertData GET request from a manager must always be
           responded to with a reply of the entire OPAQUE alert
           (SNMP TRAP, CMOT EVENT, etc.) or a protocol specific
           reply indicating that the get request failed.

           Note that the actual contents of the alert string, and
           the format of those contents, are protocol specific.

      (f)  Once an alert is logged in the local log, it is up to
           the individual architecture and implementation whether
           or not to also send a copy asynchronously to the
           manager.  Doing so could be used to redirect the focus
           of the polling (rather than waiting an average of 1/2
           the poll cycle to learn of a problem), but does not
           result in significant problems should the alert fail to
           be delivered.

      (g)  Should a manager request an alert with alertId of 0,
           the reply shall be the appropriate protocol specific
           error response.

      (h)  If a manager requests the alert immediately following
           the alert with alertId equal to 0, the reply will be the
           first alert (or alerts, depending on the protocol used)
           in the alert log.

      (i)  A manager may remove a specific alert from the alert log
           by naming the alertId of that alert and issuing a
           protocol specific command (SET or DELETE).  If no such
           alert exists, the operation is said to have failed and
           such failure is reported to the manager in a protocol
           specific manner.

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6.1.1  Example

   In a sample system (based on the example in Appendix A), a manager
   must monitor 40 remote agents, each having between 2 and 15
   parameters which indicate the relative health of the agent and the
   network.  During normal monitoring, the manager is concerned only
   with fault detection.  With an average poll request-response time of
   5 seconds, the manager polls one MIB variable on each node.  This
   involves one request and one reply packet of the format specified in
   the XYZ network management protocol.  Each packet requires 120 bytes
   "on the wire" (requesting a single object, ASN.1 encoded, IP and UDP
   enveloped, and placed in an ethernet packet).  This results in a
   serial poll cycle time of 3.3 minutes (40 nodes at 5 seconds each is
   200 seconds), and a mean time to detect alert of slightly over 1.5
   minutes.  The total amount of data transferred during a 3.3 minute
   poll cycle is 9600 bytes (120 requests and 120 replies for each of 40
   nodes).  With such a small amount of network management traffic per
   minute, the poll rate might reasonably be doubled (assuming the
   network performance permits it).  The result is 19200 bytes
   transferred per cycle, and a mean time to detect failure of under 1
   minute.  Parallel polling obviously yields similar improvements.

   Should an alert be returned by a remote agent's log, the manager
   notifies the operator and removes the element from the alert log by
   setting it with SNMP or deleting it with CMOT.  Normal alert
   detection procedures are then followed.  Those SNMP implementers who
   prefer to not use SNMP SET for table entry deletes may always define
   their log as "read only".  The fact that the manager made a single
   query (to the log) and was able to determine which, if any, objects
   merited special attention essentially means that the status of all
   alert capable objects was monitored with a single request.

   Continuing the above example, should a remote entity fail to respond
   to two successive poll attempts, the operator is notified that the
   agent is not reachable.  The operator may then choose (if so
   equipped) to contact the agent through an alternate path (such as
   serial line IP over a dial up modem).  Upon establishing such a
   connection, the manager may then retrieve the contents of the alert
   log for a chronological map of the failure's alerts.  Alerts
   undelivered because of conditions that may no longer be present are
   still available for analysis.

6.2  Notes on Polled, Logged Alerts

   Polled, logged alert techniques allow the tracking of many alerts
   while actually monitoring only a single MIB object.  This
   dramatically decreases the amount of network management data that
   must flow across the network to determine the status.  By reducing

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   the number of requests needed to track multiple objects (to one), the
   poll cycle time is greatly improved.  This allows a faster poll cycle
   (mean time to detect alert) with less overhead than would be caused
   by pure polling.

   In addition, this technique scales well to large networks, as the
   concept of polling a single object to learn the status of many lends
   itself well to hierarchies.  A proxy manager may be polled to learn
   if he has found any alerts in the logs of the agents he polls.  Of
   course, this scaling does not save on the mean time to learn of an
   alert (the cycle times of the manager and the proxy manager must be
   considered), but the amount of network management polling traffic is
   concentrated at lower levels.  Only a small amount of such traffic
   need be passed over the network's "backbone"; that is the traffic
   generated by the request-response from the manager to the proxy

   Note that it is best to return the oldest logged alert as the first
   table entry.  This is the object most likely to be overwritten, and
   every attempt should be made ensure that the manager has seen it.  In
   a system where log entries may be removed by the manager, the manager
   will probably wish to attempt to keep all remote alert logs empty to
   reduce the number of alerts dropped or overwritten.  In any case, the
   order in which table entries are returned is a function of the table
   mechanism, and is implementation and/or protocol specific.

   "Polled, logged alerts" offers all of the advantages inherent in
   polling (reliable detection of failures, reduced agent complexity
   with UDP, etc.), while minimizing the typical polling problems
   (potentially shorter poll cycle time and reduced network management

   Finally, alerts are not lost when an agent is isolated from its
   manager.  When a connection is reestablished, a history of conditions
   that may no longer be in effect is available to the manager.  While
   not a part of this document, it is worthwhile to note that this same
   log architecture can be employed to archive alert and other
   information on remote hosts.  However, such non-local storage is not
   sufficient to meet the reliability requirements of "polled, logged

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7.  Compatibility with SNMP [4] and CMOT [3]

7.1  Closed Loop (Feedback) Alert Reporting

7.1.1  Use of Feedback with SNMP

   At configuration time, an SNMP agent supporting Feedback/Pin is
   loaded with default values of "windowTime" and "maxAlerts-PerTime",
   and "alertsEnabled" is set to TRUE.  The manager issues an SNMP GET
   to determine "maxAlertsPerTime" and "windowTime", and to verify the
   state of "alertsEnabled".  Should the agent support setting Pin
   objects, the manager may choose to alter these values (via an SNMP
   SET).  The new values are calculated based upon known network
   resource limitations (e.g., the amount of packets the manager's
   gateway can support) and the number of agents potentially reporting
   to this manager.

   Upon receipt of an "alertsDisabled" trap, a manager whose state and
   network are not overutilized immediately issues an SNMP SET to make
   "alertsEnabled" TRUE.  Should an excessive number of "alertsDisabled"
   traps regularly occur, the manager might revisit the values chosen
   for implementing the Pin mechanism.  Note that an overutilized system
   expects its manager to delay the resetting of "alertsEnabled".

   As a part of each regular polling cycle, the manager includes a GET
   REQUEST for the value of "alertsEnabled".  If this value is FALSE, it
   is SET to TRUE, and the potential loss of traps (while it was FALSE)
   is noted.

7.1.2  Use of Feedback with CMOT

   The use of CMOT in implementing Feedback/Pin is essentially identical
   to the use of SNMP.  CMOT GET, SET, and EVENT replace their SNMP

7.2  Polled, Logged Alerts

7.2.1  Use of Polled, Logged alerts with SNMP

   As a part of regular polling, an SNMP manager using Polled, logged
   alerts may issue a GET_NEXT Request naming
   { alertLog logTableEntry(1) alertId(1) 0 }.  Returned is either the
   alertId of the first table entry or, if the table is empty, an SNMP
   reply whose object is the "lexicographical successor" to the alert

   Should an "alertId" be returned, the manager issues an SNMP GET
   naming { alertLog logTableEntry(1) alertData(2) value } where "value"

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   is the alertId integer obtained from the previously described GET
   NEXT.  This returns the SNMP TRAP encapsulated within an OPAQUE.

   If the agent supports the deletion of table entries through SNMP
   SETS, the manager may then issue a SET of { alertLog logTableEntry(1)
   alertId(1) value } to remove the entry from the log.  Otherwise, the
   next GET NEXT poll of this agent should request the first "alertId"
   following the instance of "value" rather than an instance of "0".

7.2.2  Use of Polled, Logged Alerts with CMOT

   Using polled, logged alerts with CMOT is similar to using them with
   SNMP.  In order to test for table entries, one uses a CMOT GET and
   specifies scoping to the alertLog.  The request is for all table
   entries that have an alertId value greater than the last known
   alertId, or greater than zero if the table is normally kept empty by
   the manager.  Should the agent support it, entries are removed with a
   CMOT DELETE, an object of alertLog.entry, and a distinguishing
   attribute of the alertId to remove.

8.  Multiple Manager Environments

   The conflicts between multiple managers with overlapping
   administrative domains (generally found in larger networks) tend to
   be resolved in protocol specific manners.  This document has not
   addressed them.  However, real world demands require alert management
   techniques to function in such environments.

   Complex agents can clearly respond to different managers (or managers
   in different "communities") with different reply values.  This allows
   feedback and polled, logged alerts to appear completely independent
   to differing autonomous regions (each region sees its own value).
   Differing feedback thresholds might exist, and feedback can be
   actively blocking alerts to one manager even after another manager
   has reenabled its own alert reporting.  All of this is transparent to
   an SNMP user if based on communities, or each manager can work with a
   different copy of the relevant MIB objects.  Those implementing CMOT
   might view these as multiple instances of the same feedback objects
   (and allow one manager to query the state of another's feedback

   The same holds true for polled, logged alerts.  One manager (or
   manager in a single community/region) can delete an alert from its
   view without affecting the view of another region's managers.

   Those preferring less complex agents will recognize the opportunity
   to instrument proxy management.  Alerts might be distributed from a
   manager based alert exploder which effectively implements feedback

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   and polled, logged alerts for its subscribers.  Feedback parameters
   are set on each agent to the highest rate of any subscriber, and
   limited by the distributor.  Logged alerts are deleted from the view
   at the proxy manager, and truly deleted at the agent only when all
   subscribers have so requested, or immediately deleted at the agent
   with the first proxy request, and maintained as virtual entries by
   the proxy manager for the benefit of other subscribers.

9.  Summary

   While "polled, logged alerts" may be useful, they still have a
   limitation: the mean time to detect failures and alerts increases
   linearly as networks grow in size (hierarchies offer shorten
   individual poll cycle times, but the mean detection time is the sum
   of 1/2 of each cycle time).  For this reason, it may be necessary to
   supplement asynchronous generation of alerts (and "polled, logged
   alerts") with unrequested transmission of the alerts on very large

   Whenever systems generate and asynchronously transmit alerts, the
   potential to overburden (over-inform) a management station exists.
   Mechanisms to protect a manager, such as the "Feedback/Pin"
   technique, risk losing potentially important information.  Failure to
   implement asynchronous alerts increases the time for the manager to
   detect and react to a problem.  Over-reporting may appear less
   critical (and likely) a problem than under-informing, but the
   potential for harm exists with unbounded alert generation.

   An ideal management system will generate alerts to notify its
   management station (or stations) of error conditions.  However, these
   alerts must be self limiting with required positive feedback.  In
   addition, the manager should periodically poll to ensure connectivity
   to remote stations, and to retrieve copies of any alerts that were
   not delivered by the network.

10.  References

   [1] Rose, M., and K. McCloghrie, "Structure and Identification of
       Management Information for TCP/IP-based Internets", RFC 1155,
       Performance Systems International and Hughes LAN Systems, May

   [2] McCloghrie, K., and M. Rose, "Management Information Base for
       Network Management of TCP/IP-based internets", RFC 1213, Hughes
       LAN Systems, Inc., Performance Systems International, March 1991.

   [3] Warrier, U., Besaw, L., LaBarre, L., and B. Handspicker, "Common
       Management Information Services and Protocols for the Internet

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       (CMOT) and (CMIP)", RFC 1189, Netlabs, Hewlett-Packard, The Mitre
       Corporation, Digital Equipment Corporation, October 1990.

   [4] Case, J., Fedor, M., Schoffstall, M., and C. Davin, "Simple
       Network Management Protocol" RFC 1157, SNMP Research, Performance
       Systems International, Performance Systems International, MIT
       Laboratory for Computer Science, May 1990.

   [5] Reynolds, J., and J. Postel, "Assigned Numbers", RFC 1060,
       USC/Information Sciences Institute, March 1990.

11.  Acknowledgements

   This memo is the product of work by the members of the IETF Alert-Man
   Working Group and other interested parties, whose efforts are
   gratefully acknowledged here:

      Amatzia Ben-Artzi          Synoptics Communications
      Neal Bierbaum              Vitalink Corp.
      Jeff Case                  University of Tennessee at Knoxville
      John Cook                  Chipcom Corp.
      James Davin                MIT
      Mark Fedor                 Performance Systems International, Inc.
      Steven Hunter              Lawrence Livermore National Labs
      Frank Kastenholz           Clearpoint Research
      Lee LaBarre                Mitre Corp.
      Bruce Laird                BBN, Inc
      Gary Malkin                FTP Software, Inc.
      Keith McCloghrie           Hughes Lan Systems
      David Niemi                Contel Federal Systems
      Lee Oattes                 University of Toronto
      Joel Replogle              NCSA
      Jim Sheridan               IBM Corp.
      Steve Waldbusser           Carnegie-Mellon University
      Dan Wintringham            Ohio Supercomputer Center
      Rich Woundy                IBM Corp.

Appendix A

   Example of polling costs

      The following example is completely hypothetical, and arbitrary.
      It assumes that a network manager has made decisions as to which
      systems, and which objects on each system, must be continuously
      monitored to determine the operational state of a network.  It
      does not attempt to discuss how such decisions are made, and
      assumes that they were arrived at with the full understanding that
      the costs of polling many objects must be weighed against the

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      level of information required.

      Consider a manager that must monitor 40 gateways and hosts on a
      single network.  Further assume that the average managed entity
      has 10 MIB objects that must be watched to determine the device's
      and network's overall "health".  Under the XYZ network management
      protocol, the manager may get the values of up to 4 MIB objects
      with a single request (so that 3 requests must be made to
      determine the status of a single entity).  An average response
      time of 5 seconds is assumed, and a lack of response within 30
      seconds is considered no reply.  Two such "no replies" are needed
      to declare the managed entity "unreachable", as a single packet
      may occasionally be dropped in a UDP system (those preferring to
      use TCP for automated retransmits should assume a longer timeout
      value before declaring the entity "unreachable" which we will
      define as 60 seconds).

      We begin with the case of "sequential polling".  This is defined
      as awaiting a response to an outstanding request before issuing
      any further requests.  In this example, the average XYZ network
      management protocol packet size is 300 bytes "on the wire"
      (requesting multiple objects, ASN.1 encoded, IP and UDP enveloped,
      and placed in an ethernet packet).  120 request packets are sent
      each cycle (3 for each of 40 nodes), and 120 response packets are
      expected.  72000 bytes (240 packets at 300 bytes each) must be
      transferred during each poll cycle, merely to determine that the
      network is fine.

      At five seconds per transaction, it could take up to 10 minutes to
      determine the state of a failing machine (40 systems x 3 requests
      each x 5 seconds per request).  The mean time to detect a system
      with errors is 1/2 of the poll cycle time, or 5 minutes.  In a
      failing network, dropped packets (that must be timed out and
      resent) greatly increase the mean and worst case times to detect

      Note that the traffic costs could be substantially reduced by
      combining each set of three request/response packets in a single
      request/response transaction (see section 6.1.1 "Example").

      While the bandwidth use is spread over 10 minutes (giving a usage
      of 120 bytes/second), this rapidly deteriorates should the manager
      decrease his poll cycle time to accommodate more machines or
      improve his mean time to fault detection.  Conversely, increasing
      his delay between polls reduces traffic flow, but does so at the
      expense of time to detect problems.

      Many network managers allow multiple poll requests to be "pending"

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      at any given time.  It is assumed that such managers would not
      normally poll every machine without any delays.  Allowing
      "parallel polling" and initiating a new request immediately
      following any response would tend to generate larger amounts of
      traffic; "parallel polling" here produces 40 times the amount of
      network traffic generated in the simplistic case of "sequential
      polling" (40 packets are sent and 40 replies received every 5
      seconds, giving 80 packets x 300 bytes each per 5 seconds, or 4800
      bytes/second).  Mean time to detect errors drops, but at the cost
      of increased bandwidth.  This does not improve the timeout value
      of over 2 minutes to detect that a node is not responding.

      Even with parallel polling, increasing the device count (systems
      to manage) not only results in more traffic, but can degrade
      performance.  On large networks the manager becomes bounded by the
      number of queries that can be built, tracked, responses parsed,
      and reacted to per second.  The continuous volume requires the
      timeout value to be increased to accommodate responses that are
      still in transit or have been received and are queued awaiting
      processing.  The only alternative is to reduce the poll cycle.
      Either of these actions increase both mean time to detect failure
      and worst case time to detect problems.

      If alerts are sent in place of polling, mean time to fault
      detection drops from over a minute to as little as 2.5 seconds
      (1/2 the time for a single request-response transaction).  This
      time may be increased slightly, depending on the nature of the
      problem.  Typical network utilization is zero (assuming a
      "typical" case of a non-failing system).

Appendix B

              All defined MIB objects used in this document reside
              under the mib subtree:

              alertMan ::= { iso(1) org(3) dod(6) internet(1)
                    experimental(3) alertMan(24) ver1(1) }

              as defined in the Internet SMI [1] and the latest "Assigned
              Numbers" RFC [5]. Objects under this branch are assigned
              as follows:

              RFC 1224-MIB DEFINITIONS ::= BEGIN

              alertMan        OBJECT IDENTIFIER ::= { experimental 24 }

              ver1            OBJECT IDENTIFIER ::= { alertMan 1 }

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              feedback        OBJECT IDENTIFIER ::= { ver1 1 }
              polledLogged    OBJECT IDENTIFIER ::= { ver1 2 }


              1) Feedback Objects


                 maxAlertsPerTime { feedback 1 }





                 windowTime { feedback 2 }





                 alertsEnabled { feedback 3 }




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              2) Polled, Logged Objects


                 alertLog { polledLogged 1 }

                    SEQUENCE OF logTableEntry




                 logTableEntry { alertLog 1 }


                    logTableEntry ::= SEQUENCE {





                 alertId { logTableEntry 1 }


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                 alertData { logTableEntry 2 }





                 maxLogTableEntries { polledLogged 2 }




Security Considerations

   Security issues are not discussed in this memo.

Author's Address

   Lou Steinberg
   IBM NSFNET Software Development
   472 Wheelers Farms Rd, m/s 91
   Milford, Ct. 06460

   Phone:     203-783-7175
   EMail:     LOUISS@IBM.COM

Steinberg                                                      [Page 22]