Since the introduction of the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) in the early 1990's and even when version 3 made its appearance a few years back, its wide deployment for sophisticated network management still raises a lot of concerns. In the 2002 IAB Network Management Workshop it became evident that SNMP can not be used for sophisticated management since its inneficiencies limit its potential usage to relatively simple monitoring. Therefore, alternative technologies are required to meet management goals such as efficiency in information retrieval, transaction support, security and also reduced development & operational costs. Distributed object technologies and, in particular, the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) was considered in the mid to late 1990's as a unifying management technology and, although it has come a long way since then, it still has serious inefficiencies. More recently, the introduction of Web Services, coupled with the advent of maturing eXtensible Markup Language (XML) technology standards, is seen as a promising approach for faster product development, tighter system integration and robust device management.
Web Services (WS) is an XML technology that encompasses W3C standards such as the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) , the Web Services Definition Lan-guage (WSDL) and the Universal Discovery Description and Integration protocol (UDDI). Since all these have equivalents in CORBA, WS can be used for distributed network management in a similar fashion to CORBA. But can they address this goal efficiently?Researchers tried to answer this question by comparing the performance of WS, CORBA and SNMP. The conclusion was that when the amount of information that needs to be retrieved increases, so does the efficiency of WS in comparison to SNMP. Smaller amounts of data though results in higher traffic for WS. The performance of WS, in terms of coding and latency, is poor in comparison to CORBA and SNMP.
Although from these first measurements it would seem that WS could only be used for network management in cases where large amounts of data need to be exchanged, this is not necessarily true. WS performance at this stage can yield ambiguous results. The goal of this research is to study efficient ways of using WS for network management and also study their performance in addressing real case scenarios management problems.
Aspects of this research field include:
- Efficient Information Retrieval
- Event Reporting and Notifications
- Transaction and Configuration Support
This section of XML/WS based management serves as a focal point for research related to network management and though it presents certain traditional management approaches it targets mostly at presenting aspects of management using Web Services.
Although initial management research and standardisation took place in the mid 1980's, the quest for a general enough technology to be used for network, system and service management efficient in terms of information retrieval, computational resources required and development/operational costs still rages. Initial attempts which relied on protocol functionality to solve the management problem (Protocol Based Approaches) like the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), and OSI System Management (OSI-SM), During the 90's distributed object technologies made their appearance, the representative one being the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) which is widely used even today. Despite the fact that many technologies appeared in order to solve the management problem, SNMP was and is widely used in the Internet management domain with OSI-SM confined in the telecommunications area. While these two protocol-based approaches are used for network management, CORBA has been used mostly for service management.
Despite the fact a lot of progress has been achieved to this day in addressing a variety of management aspects, integrated management in a sophisticated, largely automated manner still remains an unreachable goal. Management automation can facilitate the rapid introduction of new services and applications for customers and can also lead to economies of scale. SNMP, CMIP and distributed object technologies exhibit a number of limitations that prevent them from being used for sophisticated management operations. The simple variable-based information model of SNMP makes modelling of complex entities really odd and difficult. At the same time the set of SNMP operations is inefficient regarding bulk and selective information retrieval. Also trap reporting is unreliable and rudimentary. This results in a largely polling-based monitoring approach that cannot cope with large-scale networks and thus cannot provide managing systems with a consistent view of the network. In SNMP the simple "Set" operations are inefficient when a large volume of information must be manipulated. Therefore coordinated sets from one configuration to another is not supported, which limits SNMP usage to just monitoring. Distributed technologies like CORBA also face problems. CORBA does not support bulk data retrieval and has no filtering capabilities. Therefore CORBA potentially introduces scalability problems while its large footprint creates difficulties in handling systems with large object populations.
These inabilities of CORBA and other approaches combined with the wide scale adoption of IP-based networking solutions as well as the emergence of the Internet as the platform for next generation services point out that there is a need for a new management framework that can perform automated management in a variety of networking infrastructures. The substitution of PSTN services which are phased out in favour of VOIP services as well as the appearance of optical switching technologies at the entirety of the telephone network (core and access) reveal the emergence of an environment which will have new and more sophisticated management requirements. This means that current technologies in the Internet network and service management area, whether they are used for monitoring or individual configuration of devices (Command Line Interface approaches) are woefully inadequate. Thus a new management framework and technology is required to address information retrieval, configuration, transaction, and event reporting according to well-defined goals and constraints.
A technology that is expected to play an important role on many future technologies including management ones is the eXtensible Markup Language (XML). XML and the number of applications that use it to describe, store and communicate data are increasing in geometric proportions. XML can be used quite effectively to describe management data due to its hierarchical structure of organizing information. Web Services (WS) and XML are characterised as technologies that will eventually lead to application integration of many technologies. This is one of the reasons that the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the Network Configuration (Netconf) workgroup are developing an XML Document based approach that will support configuration management. At the same time, other researchers are experimenting with new schemes, like gateway and information model translation schemes to make XML approaches to operate in parallel with SNMP. Another promising XML-based technology that is mostly used for the standardization of the interfaces of Internet Services is Web Services (WS). It has been shown that Web Services are a platform with many similarities to other distributed object technologies, and thus can be used for management. Research has also shown that WS have quite good potential and characteristics to facilitate the formulation of a WS-based management framework that effectively addresses a variety of management goals.
The area of XML to WS based management is a very large one, spanning across different research domains. Attempting to identify the various aspects of XML/WS based management to provide for a more systemic analysis we can view the area of WS/XML based management as classified in the following, sectors:
- Examine XML-based technologies and in particular WS as the key unifying technology for a new management framework.
- Investigate approaches and mechanisms to solve a variety of management problems:
- Scoping and filtering for efficient selective or bulk information retrieval to facilitate low cost, efficient monitoring.
- Design of scalable and flexible Information models for efficient and fast Software development.
- Powerful and scalable event management to provide a managing system with a consistent view of the network.
- Transaction support for configuration management to provide it with validation/reasoning and evolution tools.
- Security, including authentication/authorization and access control to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive management information.
- Evaluate the performance and scalability of every solution to the above problems.
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- European Network of Excellence for the Management of Internet Technologies and Complex Services (EMANICS)
- OASIS Group Web Services portal
- IBM and developerworks Web Services Portal
- Microsoft Web Services Portal
- Web Services Resources
The list of journals, conferences and technical societies related to Web Services and XML for network management does not mean to be exhaustive rather it is indicative. For additions/updates please contact the webmaster.
- IFIP/IEEE Network Operations and Management Symposium (NOMS)
- IFIP/IEEE International Symposium on Integrated Network Management (IM)
- IEEE Military Communcations Conference (MILCOM)
- International Week on Management of Networks and Services (MANWEEK)
- IEEE International Conference on Web Services (ICWS)
- IEEE European Conference on Web Services (ECOWS)