Network discovery improvement

The 08 November 2013

Network discovery improvement: good bye SysDescr, welcome SysObjectID

The latest 2.3.3 version, released yesterday, provides a new features for network discovery, backported from next 2.4 version: better device identification.

As described here, network discovery is actually a two-stage process: devices have to be found first, identified second. Identification here means determining a few minimal information about the discovered device (its type, manufacturer, etc), with two purposes:

So far, this identification process relied merely on the device SysDescr value, as it is a standard and universal SNMP value, identificating the underlying device as a free-text string. For instance, “Lexmark C935 version NC.NPS.N129S1 kernel 2.6.10 All-N-1” correspond to a specific Lexmark printer, with a specific firmware level.

The specificity of this string offers the advantage of allowing to identify both hardware and firmware at once, but is also quite fragile: a single firmware update, and it changes. As current agent identification process relies on exact matching, a simple character changes, and the identification fails. Totally. Meaning no SNMP model affected. Meaning no network inventory…

This process could of course be made a bit more robust, by allowing fuzzy matching, using regular expressions for instance. However, we’d still rely on manually collecting sysdescr values, and associating them with known hardware and firmware versions, which is quite inefficient.

The agent now relies on another standard SNMP value, the SysObjectID value. This is value is actually an OID (object identifier), using IANA-normalized value for identificating manufacturer, and a manufacturer-specific value for identificating device model. For instance, “.” identifies a Cisco Catalyst 3750-24/48 device. It doesn’t allow to identify firmware level, tough, meaning it can’t completly replace SysDescr usage so far, as we need to know the exact firmware for inventory. However, it is stable, meaning firmware update won’t prevent device identification anymore. And they are exhaustive list of values available, as most manufacturer publish them. Meaning we’re no longer dependant of the “we can only recognize what we already seen somewhere” syndrom.

The result of this change is than, starting with agent version 2.3.3, a successful discovery result is now pushed to the server as “there is a Cisco Catalyst 3750-24/48 device at IP address w.x.y.z”, instead of “there is an unknown Cisco device at IP address w.x.y.z, use network inventory to find what it is later”. Unfortunatly, the GLPI server doesn’t handle this additional information (at this stage) yet, meaning there is no immediate advantage. That’s a first step, but a robust step, toward general improvement of the whole network discovery and inventory functionality of FusionInventory.

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