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Traditionally, network management has been a manual process, particularly for small and static networks. Network administrators would log into devices, configure protocols and properties, and maintain network topology. Automation was limited to basic scripts that scraped text-based command outputs.

The importance of network management has grown due to the increasing size, complexity, and geographic dispersion of networks. Initially, networks were manually configured for small setups, but as they expanded, they used devices from multiple vendors, diverse connectivity, and dynamic elements such as mobile devices and servers. This complexity necessitated the development of network management protocols and solutions to provide centralized visibility and monitoring capabilities.

GS Lab | GAVS recently conducted a webinar, “Heterogenous Network Management: OpenConfig for a Vendor-Neutral Ecosystem”. The speaker was Ms. Manuwela Kanade, Software Architect at GS Lab | GAVS. Mr. Mandar Gadre, Director – Engineering, Healthcare and Manufacturing at GS Lab | GAVS, moderated the session.  

Network Management over the Years

The history of network management dates back to several decades, with the emergence of the first network management protocols likely in the 1970s. Over time, the field has evolved to address the increasing complexity of networks, especially with the introduction of LANs (Local Area Networks) and new technologies. The focus shifted towards applications that provide comprehensive visibility into networks, enabling the identification and correction of faults – sometimes automated.

The introduction of SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) in the late ’80s marked a shift towards a more centralized and automated approach. SNMP allowed a central management system (SNMP manager) to query agents on individual network devices, facilitating configuration and monitoring.

One notable recent development is the rise of network automation, which involves provisioning networks in an automated manner. Tools like Ansible, Puppet, and Chef have been instrumental in automating network setups. While network automation is not limited to provisioning, efforts are underway to automate testing to ensure network readiness.

Challenges While using SNMP

SNMP faced scalability issues as networks grew in size. The protocol’s periodic querying of devices became resource-intensive for both the manager and the network devices, leading to reduced granularity and increased query periodicity in larger networks. SNMP traps offered a push-based alternative, but their reliance on UDP made them unreliable for comprehensive network management. As a result, scaling became a significant challenge with SNMP monitoring.

The SNMP protocol addressed some challenges, such as security issues in versions one and two. SNMP traps were introduced to reduce the burden of periodic querying by allowing devices to send data to the manager on state changes or for specific attributes. However, the unreliability of SNMP traps due to their UDP nature remained a drawback.

On the other hand, alternative solutions included REST API-based or XML-based approaches, which were often vendor-specific, requiring different commands for each network device. Standardization efforts, such as SNMP’s MIB (Management Information Base), provided a tree-like structure for organizing network information. While it offered some uniformity and vendor neutrality, vendor-specific network properties persisted, making complete standardization challenging.

The trade-off between standardization and vendor-specific features was evident, with companies maintaining unique advantages as part of their key differentiators. This background sets the stage for the evolution of network management solutions to address the complexities and challenges in a rapidly expanding and dynamic networking landscape.

Introduction of Vendor Neutrality

Traditional network management involves manual configuration, monitoring, and troubleshooting of network devices. It typically employs tools like SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) to collect data, CLI (Command Line Interface) for configuration, and relies on administrators for routine tasks. The lack of a central management system and automation resulted in scalability issues, and the challenges of vendor-specific configurations and private MIBs. These limitations led to the search for more efficient and scalable solutions or protocols like NETCONF and RESTCONF.

However, the more recent introduction of OpenConfig emerged as a more comprehensive solution. OpenConfig is a working group of network operators focused on standardizing network data representation uniformly, vendor-neutrally. Its primary goals include achieving vendor neutrality and improving monitoring through Telemetry streaming.

OpenConfig uses Yang models to achieve vendor neutrality, providing a standard and uniform network data representation. In contrast to vendor-specific command sets, Yang models offer a standardized approach, ensuring consistency in representing network properties and configurations across different vendors. This vendor-neutral approach is crucial for simplifying network management, making it easier to configure and monitor diverse network devices.

The Yang models use a tree-like structure, similar to SNMP, and represent various data models for network information. The impact on monitoring is significant. Vendor-neutral data representation reduces the need for manual transformations and adaptations in network management systems. Monitoring becomes simpler as data can be queried uniformly, eliminating the need for extensive data processing.

While this is a high-level gist of the webinar, the entire discussion is available here. For more videos of GS Lab | GAVS webinars, events, and products, please visit and

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