Implement your own MIBs with Python

DIY MIBs

Tree and Leaf Care

So far, only the trunk of your own sub-tree has been defined. Some initial branches will now be added with the OBJECT IDENTIFIER keyword. The code in Listing 5 defines a raspiMIBObjects branch below raspiMIB, and below that in turn a raspiMIBScalars branch.

Listing 5

Initial Branches

-- MIB root nodes
  raspiMIBObjects OBJECT IDENTIFIER ::= { raspiMIB 1 }
  raspiMIBScalars OBJECT IDENTIFIER ::= { raspiMIBObjects 1 }

By the way, branches cannot be the subject of an IMPORTS statement. If you want to import all the objects in a branch, you have to list them explicitly and individually.

Next up, the OBJECT-TYPE macro in Listing 6 defines a managed object below raspiMIBScalars with the name socTemp and the data type Integer32 (i.e., a 32-bit integer). The object is supported in the current revision of the MIB (STATUS current) and can only be read, but not set, through SNMP (MAX-ACCESS read-only). By the way, in later snmpget queries, it is important always to append a .0 to scalar managed objects.

Listing 6

Managed Object

-- Scalars
  socTemp OBJECT TYPE
    SYNTAX Integer32
    MAX-ACCESS read-only
    STATUS current
    DESCRIPTION
      "The current temperature of Broadcom SoC multiplied by 1000."
      ::= { raspiMIBScalars 1 }

If you study Table 2 carefully, you will notice that it does not list a data type for floating point values. ASN.1 itself does not support a native Float type, and a standard for encoding floating point numbers has not been established. However, the problem can usually be avoided by transmitting a value multiplied by 10 – for example, 359 instead of 35.9. MIB authors should always describe such conventions in an object's DESCRIPTION.

Table 2

SMIv2 Common Scalar Data Types

Type Short Description Defined in MIB
Counter32 Positive 32-bit counter value SNMPv2-SMI
Counter64 Positive 64-bit counter value SNMPv2-SMI
DisplayString ASCII-String from 0 to 255 characters in length SNMPv2-TC
Gauge32 Positive 32-bit measured value SNMPv2-SMI
Integer32 Positive or negative 32-bit integer SNMPv2-SMI
IpAddress IPv4 address SNMPv2-SMI
Object Identifier Define a new sub-branch SNMPv2-SMI
Unsigned32 Positive 32-bit integer SNMPv2-SMI
TimeTicks Positive 32-bit time value SNMPv2-SMI

The example MIB is now complete; however, it makes sense to use the smilint tool from the smitools package first to check the MIB file passed in as a command line argument for conformity with the SMIv2 specifications from RFCs 2578 to 2580. The -l parameter modifies the strictness of the check. At the recommended level of 4, it is bound to find something:

$ smilint -l4 RASPI-MIB.txt
  RASPIMIB.TXT:36: warning: node 'socTemp' must be contained in at least one conformance group

The Conformance Statements specified in RFC 2578 take into account that the MIB designer can specify features in a MIB that not necessarily every implementation will use. For this reason, two macros allow the definition of groups of entities that can be implemented either all together or not at all: OBJECT-GROUP for related managed objects and NOTIFICATION-GROUP for related notifications. Several of these groups can then be grouped together with the MODULE-CAPABABILITIES macro and define degrees of implementation that a specific implementation can claim for itself.

To satisfy smilint, however, it is sufficient to define a suitable OBJECT-GROUP, which is done here in separate sub-branches for the sake of clarity (Listing 7). Listing 8 shows the completed MIB, which we now yet have to implement.

Listing 7

OBJECT-GROUP Definition

raspiMIBConformance OBJECT IDENTIFIER ::= { raspiMIB 2 }
  -- Conformance
  raspiMIBGroups OBJECT IDENTIFIER ::= { raspiMIBConformance 1 }
  raspiMIBScalarsGroup OBJECT-GROUP
    OBJECTS {
      socTemp
    }
    STATUS current
    DESCRIPTION
      "Scalar managed objects from RASPI-MIB."
      ::= { raspiMIBGroups 1 }

Listing 8

RASPI-MIB.txt

RASPI-MIB DEFINITIONS ::= BEGIN
-----------------------------------------------------------
-- RASPI-MIB for monitoring different values of the Rasp Pi
-----------------------------------------------------------
-- Imports
IMPORTS
  MODULE-IDENTITY, OBJECT-TYPE, Integer32
    FROM SNMPv2-SMI
  OBJECT-GROUP
    FROM SNMPv2-CONF
  netSnmpPlaypen
    FROM NET-SNMP-MIB;
raspiMIB MODULE IDENTITY
  LAST-UPDATED "202005060200Z"
  ORGANIZATION "None"
  CONTACT-INFO
    "Editor:
    Attentive reader
    Raspberry Pi-Way 42
    10487 Berlin"
  DESCRIPTION
    "A MIB to watch over Raspberry Pis"
  REVISION "202005060200Z"
  DESCRIPTION
    "Version 1."
    ::= { netSnmpPlaypen 42 }
-- MIB root nodes
raspiMIBObjects OBJECT IDENTIFIER ::= { raspiMIB 1 }
raspiMIBConformance OBJECT IDENTIFIER ::= { raspiMIB 2 }
raspiMIBScalars OBJECT IDENTIFIER ::= { raspiMIBObjects 1 }
-- Scalars
socTemp OBJECT TYPE
  SYNTAX Integer32
  MAX-ACCESS read-only
  STATUS current
  DESCRIPTION
    "The current temperature of Broadcom SoC multiplied by 1000."
     ::= { raspiMIBScalars 1 }
-- Conformance
raspiMIBGroups OBJECT IDENTIFIER ::= { raspiMIBConformance 1 }
raspiMIBScalarsGroup OBJECT-GROUP
  OBJECTS {
    socTemp
  }
  STATUS current
  DESCRIPTION
    "Scalar managed objects from the RASPI-MIB."
    ::= { raspiMIBGroups 1 }
END

From Agent to Agent

The interface through which snmpd will be contacted by the yet-to-be-written implementation is the Agent Extensibility (AgentX) protocol standardized in RFC 2741 [4]. Other extension mechanisms beyond extend exist in the form of dynamically loadable modules, such as pass_persist and the SMUX (SNMP multiplexing) protocol; however, AgentX offers more possibilities with loose coupling, which is advantageous from a security perspective.

In AgentX jargon, snmpd is the master agent, of which there is always exactly one, and to which multiple independently running processes, named subagents, can connect. After the connection is established, a subagent declares itself responsible for certain sub-trees of the MIB tree and their implementation. The master agent is the only agent to talk SNMP but knows nothing about custom MIBs and their implementation. With subagents, it is exactly the opposite.

To enable AgentX support in snmpd, you just need an extra master agentx line in the /etc/snmp/snmpd.conf file. By default, the connection between snmpd and the subagents uses the /var/agentx/master Unix Domain Socket, so from this perspective, AgentX is simply more or less an Interprocess Communication (IPC) mechanism. Technically, it would also be possible to configure a TCP socket; however, because AgentX does not provide any authentication mechanisms between the master agent and subagents and accepts any subagent, such a configuration would have to be accompanied by security measures such as firewalls.

Fortunately, Net-SNMP not only comes with snmpd, but also offers APIs and libraries, which the master agent itself uses too. For developers proficient in the C programming language, several tutorials [5] on the Net-SNMP website describe the development of a MIB module – for example, as a subagent. The mib2c tool includes a scaffolding tool, which takes a MIB as input and, after answering a few implementation questions, generates a detailed commented basic framework of C source code, with which you can push forward your MIB implementation.

However not everyone is proficient in C. For scenarios in which you want to integrate external information sources into your MIB, and at the same time achieve fast and yet sufficiently sophisticated results, common script languages are particularly useful. Net-SNMP comes with its own Perl module, but currently one particular lingua franca is certainly Python, for which resources looked a little scarce until 2013. With the Python module included with Net-SNMP, which consists of 2,500 lines of C code, you could implement SNMP clients but not agents. SourceForge, on the other hand, had a Python AgentX module [6], but it hasn't been maintained since 2010 and has several deficits.

For this reason, I decided to develop my own open source Python module, python-netsnmpagent [7]. Written in Python, it uses the Ctypes module provided with Python to access the C API of the Net-SNMP libnetsnmpagent.so and libnetsnmphelpers.so libraries and abstracts them for the Python programmer behind a netsnmpAgent class (and other classes for common data types) that can be used with just a few lines of code.

In the meantime, another Python module, pyagentx [8], appeared on GitHub, but it tries to implement the complete AgentX protocol on its own and has not been maintained since 2015. The python-netsnmpAgent module, on the other hand, saw its last changes in 2019 but still works on older enterprise distributions such as SLES 11 (Python 2.7, Net-SNMP 5.4.x), as well as on more recent systems with Python 3.5 or newer and Net-SNMP 5.7.x/5.8. For some distributions, such as SUSE, there are ready-made packages, but not for Debian and Raspbian, for which Python developers will need to install the module – possibly within a virtual environment – with Python's own Pip package manager:

$ apt-get install --no-install-recommends python3-pip
$ pip3 install netsnmpagent

Listing 9 shows an initial version of a subagent for this example. After importing the netsnmpagent module, it creates an instance of the netsnmpAgent class that serves as a central hub for connecting to snmpd and managing objects. It expects a parameter with a descriptive name for the agent and, in this example, the path to your MIB. By explicitly specifying the MIB, you can experiment with RASPI-MIB.txt without having to install it globally on the system in /usr/share/snmp/mibs/.

Listing 9

raspiagent.py Structure

#!/usr/bin/python3
import os
import netsnmpagent
import sys
try:
  agent = netsnmpagent.netsnmpAgent(
    AgentName = "RaspiAgent",
    MIBFiles = [
      os.path.abspath(os.path.dirname(sys.argv[0]) +
      "/RASPI-MIB.txt"
    ]
  )
  agent.start()
  while True:
    agent.check_and_process()
except netsnmpagent.netsnmpAgentException as e:
  print(e)
  sys.exit(1)

Calling the start() class method establishes the connection to snmpd. Afterward, the check_and_process() method is called repeatedly in an infinite loop, waiting for requests from the master agent and processing them. So far, however, the code still lacks any reference to the managed object socTemp.

Now add the code

socTemp = agent.Integer32(
  oidstr = "RASPI-MIB::socTemp"
  writable = False
)

in front of the agent.start() line of Listing 9. The agent object provides factory methods, named after common SMIv2 data types, that return a new instance of a class with the same name, Integer32 in this case. In terms of parameters, you will always need to specify oidstr, which specifies the OID under which the given object instance is to be registered. The optional writable parameter specifies whether the instance can be changed by snmpset. The most important method provided by these classes is update(), to update the value of the managed object.

Start raspiagent.py in a console window with root privileges, and in a second console execute the command

$ snmpget -M+. -v2c -c rpitesting localhost RASPI-MIB::socTemp.0RASPI-MIB::socTemp.0 = INTEGER: 0

in the directory in which RASPI-MIB.txt and raspiagent.py reside.

However, the command always returns the value 0 , because the temperature query has not yet been implemented. The code in Listing 10 adds this query. The command is the same as in the extend example, but further processing of the output is done with native Python tools. A successive execution of snmpget will now return the current temperature (multiplied by 1,000), as before with extend:

$ snmpget -M+. -v2c -c rpitesting localhost RASPI-MIB::socTemp.0
RASPI-MIB::socTemp.0 = INTEGER: 40622

Listing 10

Updating the socTemp Value

while True:
  line = open("/sys/class/thermal/thermal_zone0/temp").readline()
  socTemp.update(int(line))
  agent.check_and_process()

The example shown here only implements a single managed object and, being Integer32, a rather simple one on top. Further examples of other scalar data types and tables can be found in the netsnmpagent archive available from the Python Package Index (PyPI) repository and the GitHub repository [9] in the form of simple_agent.py in the examples/ subdirectory.

You will also find a solution for another common problem there: In the case of raspiagent.py, you will notice a short wait before snmpwalk returns a value for socTemp. The agent performs its two main tasks of gathering and sharing information, one after the other, and calls vcgencmd for each request, which takes a little while. The solution is to decouple the two tasks, as demonstrated by threading_agent.py (also in the examples/ subdirectory), which uses threads.

Conclusions

Once you have familiarized yourself with the formal rules and the available data types and macros, writing a MIB is relatively easy. Now that python-netsnmpagent is available to implement the MIB, sys admins and developers can focus on integrating additional information sources into an existing SNMP monitoring setup.

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