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Versions: 00                                                            
INTERNET-DRAFT            Expires January 1997            INTERNET-DRAFT

Draft                      SMI Clarification               July 30, 1996


                            A Clarification
                                of SMIv2

                  <draft-perkins-smi-clarification-00.txt>

                             July 30, 1996

                            David T. Perkins
                         dperkins@scruznet.com



1. Status of this Memo

   This document is an Internet Draft.  Internet Drafts are working
   documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), its Areas,
   and its Working Groups. Note that other groups may also distribute
   working documents as Internet Drafts.

   Internet Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six
   months.  Internet Drafts may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by
   other documents at any time.  It is not appropriate to use Internet
   Drafts as reference material or to cite them other than as a
   "working draft" or "work in progress."

   To learn the current status of any Internet-Draft, please check the
   "1id-abstracts.txt" listing contained in the internet-drafts Shadow
   Directories on:

         ftp.is.co.za (Africa)
         nic.nordu.net (Europe)
         ds.internic.net (US East Coast)
         ftp.isi.edu (US West Coast)
         munnari.oz.au (Pacific Rim)

















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2. Introduction

This memo is a clarification of the structure of management information
(SMI) for version 2 of the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP).
SMIv2 is defined in RFCs 1902[1], 1903[2] and 1904[4].  This version is
a rough first draft as requested by the SNMPv2 WG at the SMI
Documentation BOF during the June 1996 IETF.

This memo assumes that the reader has already read RFCs 1902-4 and
generally understands the concepts defined in these documents.

SMIv2 includes the definitions for the following items:
     1.  The model of management information;
     2.  The data types for management information;
     3.  The language for writing MIB modules;
     4.  Administrative assignments of a few key elements;
     5.  Rules for modifying published MIB modules;
     6.  A preferred mechanism to create and delete instances of
         columnar information through SNMP operations; and
     7.  A core set of textual conventions.

The purpose of this document is to identify those areas related to the
definition of data types and the language of writing MIB modules that
are incomplete, ambiguous, incomprehensible or inconsistent and provide
clarifications.  It is not the goal of this document to change or extend
the data types or the MIB module language.

The data types and language for writing MIB modules are defined using a
combination of ASN.1 specifications and textual prose.  This approach to
define these items is fatally flawed for the following reasons:
     1.  The dialect of the ASN.1 language used for these definitions
         was an early version and is now obsolete.  Thus, its
         specification is not generally available.
     2.  There is not a clean separation between the elements used to
         define the MIB module language and the base definitions
         specified in the MIB module language.
     3.  The ASN.1 specifications used to define the MIB module language
         are incorrect.
     4.  A few constructs from programming languages, not found in
         ASN.1, were added to MIB module language.
     5.  A few "misinterpretations" of the ASN.1 language were allowed
         as constructs of the MIB module language.
     6.  The MIB module language uses different terminology than ASN.1
         for a few key common elements of the languages.


3. Data Types

The term "data types" refers to the range and meaning of values of
management information.  The primary purpose of the MIB module language


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is to specify definitions of management information.  Each definition
includes the data type of the management information.  The data types
allowed in the MIB module language are a subset of the ASN.1 UNIVERSAL
types, several ASN.1 APPLICATION types defined in the SMI, size or range
limited versions of these types (called sub-types), pseudo-types, and
semantically restricted versions of previously defined types (called
textual conventions).  The SNMPv2 base data types consist of the ASN.1
UNIVERSAL types, the ASN.1 APPLICATION types, and the pseudo-types.


3.1 Pseudo-types

An item that has the look and function of an ASN.1 type, but is not
strictly an ASN.1 type is called a pseudo-type.  The SMI doesn't include
this terminology, and instead calls it a construct.  However, the term
pseudo-type closely describes these elements and term is used throughout
this memo.  The definitions of the OBJECT-TYPE and TEXTUAL-CONVENTION
macros are incorrect in their attempt to add the BITS pseudo-type.
Also, the MODULE-COMPLIANCE and AGENT-CAPABILITIES macros lack allowing
the BITS pseudo-type; and the BITS pseudo-type as currently defined can
not be specified in a SEQUENCE definition.  One valid approach in ASN.1
to specify the BITS pseudo-type can be found in "The BITS Pseudo-type
for SNMPv2 SMI"[5].

Note that the current approach to defining BITS makes it appear that the
BITS pseudo-type is built into ASN.1 and thus does not need to be
imported before it is used.  The valid approach specified in [5]
requires that the BITS pseudo-type be imported before it can be used.


3.2 SNMP Data Types

The base data types for SNMP are not clearly identified and defined.
The allowed data types are:
     1.  ASN.1 UNIVERSAL - INTEGER (Integer32), OCTET STRING, and OBJECT
         IDENTIFIER
     2.  ASN.1 APPLICATION - Unsigned32, Gauge32, Counter32, Counter64,
         TimeTicks, IpAddress, and Opaque
     3.  Pseudo-type - BITS

The remainder of this section points out the problem definitions and
provides clarifications.

3.2.1 Integer32

The first of these data types with problem are INTEGER and Integer32.
The definition of Integer32 in the SMI is incorrect, since an ASN.1
UNIVERSAL type may be defined only in the ASN.1 specification. This
problem can easily corrected by modifying the line:
    Integer32 ::=
        [UNIVERSAL 2]


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            IMPLICIT INTEGER (-2147483648..2147483647)

to read:
    Integer32 ::= INTEGER (-2147483648..2147483647)

for the definition to be valid.

The Integer32 data type was created to specify a limits for the range of
signed integers.  SMIv2 allows data type INTEGER to be used if a range
is specified, but requires data type Integer32 to be used if no range is
specified.  However, SMIv2 restricts the range that can be specified on
data type INTEGER to be identical to that for Integer32.  This duplicity
for no apparent reason, is confusing to readers of MIB modules.  For
this reason, the SMI should be modified so that the type INTEGER is only
used for enumerated integers.


3.2.2 Enumerated Integers

The construct INTEGER { <listOfEnums> } is used to define a data type
that represents a small list of labeled values.  This data type is
called an enumerated integer.  Note that the data type starts with
"INTEGER {" and not "Integer32 {".  The labeled values must be within
the range allowed for data type Integer32.  The SMI specifies that only
the values listed are valid for objects defined with data type of
enumerated integer.

The SMI allows a textual convention to be assigned an enumerated integer
data type, for example:
    TcA TEXTUAL-CONVENTION
        STATUS       current
        DESCRIPTION  "Example TC"
        SYNTAX       INTEGER { one(1), two(2), three(3) }

The SMI allows an enumerated type to be "refined", but does not
explicitly specify how this is done.  For example, if a refined version
of textual convention TcA were to be used in a SYNTAX clause in an
OBJECT-TYPE, TEXTUAL-CONVENTION, AGENT-CAPABILITIES, or MODULE-
COMPLIANCE construct, which of the following two examples are valid?

    1)  SYNTAX    TcA { one(1), three(3) }
    2)  SYNTAX    INTEGER { one(1), three(3) }

The first example, while not explicitly allowed or disallowed by the SMI
is not allowed by current leading MIB compilers.  The second form,
unfortunately does not clearly indicate that it is refining the value of
a previously defined data type.  Thus, use of a refinement of a textual
convention must use the "INTEGER { . . . }" construct, and must specify
in the description clause name of the textual convention being refined.




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Consider the following specific example.  A TC, called OperStatus, is
created, and shown below:

    OperStatus ::= TEXTUAL-CONVENTION
        STATUS      current
        DESCRIPTION
            "The current or desired operational state of a
            sub-system.  The values are:
               up(1) - ready to perform its function
               down(2) - not able to perform its function
               testing(3) - in some test mode and not able
                  to perform its function
               unknown(4) - state can not be determined
                  for some reason.
               dormant(5) - ready to perform its function
                  after an external event occurs."
        SYNTAX  INTEGER { up(1), down(2), testing(3),
                          unknown(4), dormant(5) }

If refinement could be specified directly on a TC, then this TC could be
used in the following constructs:

    ifAdminStatus OBJECT-TYPE
        SYNTAX      OperStatus { up(1), down(2), testing(3) }
       . . .  -- rest of construct

    ifOperStatus OBJECT-TYPE
        SYNTAX      OperStatus
       . . .  -- rest of construct

    ifCompliance MODULE-COMPLIANCE
       . . .  -- clauses left out
        OBJECT ifAdminStatus
            SYNTAX      OperStatus { up(1), down(2) }
            MIN-ACCESS  read-only
            DESCRIPTION
                "Write access is not required, nor is support
                for the value testing(3)."
    ::= { ifCompliances 1 }

Note that ASN.1 has the ENUMERATED type.  It is not an allowed data type
in SNMP MIB modules.  Also note that the type construct "INTEGER { . . .
}" in ASN.1 is used to specify distinguished values and does not limit
the values.  Only an ASN.1 sub-type specification limits the range of
values in INTEGER type specifications. The following type specification
is valid in ASN.1 and is not valid in SNMP:
    INTEGER { freezing(32), boiling(212) } (-5..450)
This type specification limits values between -5 and 450 inclusive and
gives names to values 32 and 212.  This can not be expressed in SNMP.
The closest is the following data type specification in SNMP:
    Integer32 (-5..450)


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3.2.3 OCTET STRING

The SMI limits the maximum size of data type OCTET STRING to 65535.  No
such limit exists in ASN.1.  The approach used in the SMI to specify
this limitation is not valid ASN.1.  A valid approach is to create a new
type, like was done with Integer32, that is a size limited version of
the OCTET STRING type.  For example, the following definition could be
added to the SMI:
    Octets ::= OCTET STRING ((SIZE(0..65535))

With this data type defined, all uses of data type OCTET SRTING would be
required to be modified to Octets (just like that which was done with
INTEGER and Integer32).


3.2.4 OBJECT IDENTIFIER

The SMI limits the maximum values of components of a OID valid to
4294967295 and limits the maximum number of components to 128.  (The SMI
calls components, sub-identifiers, a term not used in ASN.1.)  ASN.1 has
no limit on the maximum number of components in an OID value. Also,
there is no maximum for component values. (Note that ASN.1 (and the SMI)
require that OID values have at least two components. The first value of
the first component may be 0, 1, or 2.  The value of the second
component is limited to 39 if the first component has value 0 or 1.) The
approach used in the SMI to specify the limitations on OID values is
incorrect.  A valid approach is to create a new type, like was done with
Integer32, that has its length and values of components limited, which
is based on the OBJECT IDENTIFIER type.  For example, the following
definition could be added to the SMI:
    OID ::= -- the maximum number of components is limited to 128 and
            -- the maximum value of a component is limited to 4294967295
            OBJECT IDENTIFIER

With this data type defined, all uses of data type OBJECT IDENTIFIER
would be required to be modified to OID (just like that which was done
with INTEGER and Integer32).


3.2.5 Opaque

The Opaque data type is not size limited.  This appears to be an over
site.  This could be corrected by replacing:
    Opaque ::= [APPLICATION 4] IMPLICIT OCTET STRING
with the following definition:
    Opaque ::= [APPLICATION 4] IMPLICIT OCTET STRING(SIZE(0..65535))

A full description of the Opaque data type, which has been generally
misunderstood by the SNMP community, is not included in the SMI.  A full


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explanation is specified in "The Domestication of the Opaque Type for
SNMPv1 and SNMPv2"[6].


4. Syntax of the MIB Module Language

The SMI assumes that its readers are versed in the ASN.1 language, and
thus omits important details describing the MIB module language.  This
assumption has been shown to be problematic by the variations observed
in programs, called MIB compilers, which parse MIB modules.  This is
also shown by the recurring questions about the syntax of MIB modules
that come up on the SNMP and SNMPv2 mailing lists, and the SNMP news
group.  One of the reasons why this has been so difficult for compiler
writers is that the terms that are used in the SMI for elements of the
MIB module language are different than that used for the same elements
in the ASN.1 language.

Traditionally, the syntax of a language is specified by the definition
of the elementary items, or tokens, of the language, a grammar for the
syntax, and text specifying the rules for valid passages of the
language.  Usually, parsers of a language have three functional areas.
The first area performs lexical analysis of its input, which is usually
a sequence of characters in a specified character set.  The output from
this functional area is a sequence of tokens.  The next functional area
reads the sequence of tokens to determine if they conform to the grammar
of the language.  The final functional area of a parser evaluates the
statements in the input to determine if the passage (or program) is
valid.

Consider the following assignment statement in the C programming
language:
    a = b;

The lexical definition of the C programming language specifies rules for
tokens in the language.  The lexical analyzer would input the sequence
of characters in the line and output the following tokens:
    identifier - value "a"
    punctuation - value "="
    identifier - value "b"
    punctuation - value ";"

The syntax analyzer would input the sequence of tokens and determine
that they represented an assignment statement of the language.  The
semantic analyzer would then determine if the assignment statement was
valid using rules such as are variables "a" and "b" known in the scope
of the assignment statement, and are the data types for the variables
compatible for assignment.






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4.1 Lexical Specification

The lexical elements of the MIB module language are specified by section
8 of the ASN.1 specification[4], augmented by the ASN.1 macros defined
for the MIB module language, and modified by textual descriptions in
SMIv2[1][2][3].  Also, there are standard practices found in most of the
leading MIB compilers that are accepted by the SNMP community as part of
the MIB module language.  There has been no one place that integrates
these into one coherent definition.  This is now specified in "A Lexical
Specification for the SNMPv2 MIB Module Language"[7], which also
includes a Lex specification for the tokens of the language. (Lex is a
widely used program to generate lexical analyzers.)


4.2 Grammar Specification

The grammar for the MIB module language is specified by the ASN.1
specification[4], augmented by the ASN.1 macros defined for the MIB
module language, and modified by textual descriptions in SMIv2[1][2][3].
Also, there are standard practices found in most of the leading MIB
compilers that are accepted by the SNMP community as part of the MIB
module language.  There has been no one place that integrates these into
one coherent definition.  This is now specified in "A Grammar
Specification for the SNMPv2 MIB Module Language"[8].  A grammar is
presented in the form of extended BNF and also in the form of input for
Yacc.  (Yacc is a widely used program to generate parsers.)


4.3 Semantic Specifications

The rules to determine if a MIB module is valid and the meaning of a MIB
module are written in textual descriptions in SMIv2[1][2][3], and
supported by the ASN.1 language[4].  Only a few MIB compilers perform
more than trivial checking, and none check all the rules.  There is only
one known compiler that attempts complete checking.  Also, there is much
disagreement in the SNMP community over many issues in this area.  What
follows is in the format of topic and clarifying information.



4.3.1 Prime Directive of MIB Module Design

Once definitions have been published, they can not be semantically
changed, or deleted.  Definitions that were flawed or are no longer
useful may be retired by changing the value of their status to
"obsolete".  New definitions can be added to MIB modules.

This is the most important rule for MIB module design and maintenance.
Breaking it (or making exceptions for short term gain) should be
avoided.



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4.3.2 Format of Tokens in a MIB Module

The tokens in a MIB module have no requirement to be on the same or
different lines.  Any requirements or restrictions in this area are
those imposed by a non-compliant MIB parser.


4.3.3 Location of MODULE-IDENTITY Construct

All MIB modules must include exactly one MODULE-IDENTITY construct which
is located after the IMPORTS statement, and before any other construct
in the MIB module. (Note that comments function as "white space" and
thus may be specified before the MODULE-IDENTITY construct.)


4.3.4 Ordering of Constructs in a MIB Module

The constructs in a MIB module, other than IMPORTS and MODULE-IDENTITY,
may be specified in any order.  This may result in a construct using an
item which is defined later in the MIB module.  For example, the OID
value specified for the MODULE-IDENTITY may reference an OID value which
is defined later in a MIB module.


4.3.5 Registration and Assignment of OID Values

The ASN.1 language has no direct mechanism to register an OID value to
an item.  Registration is accomplished in ASN.1 through processes
outside of ASN.1 modules.  Registration is the permanent assignment of
an OID value to an item.  After a valid registration, the OID value can
not be registered to another item for all time; the assignment is
remembered for all time; and the semantics of the item can not be
changed for all time.  Given the OID value, the item (after
registration) can be positively identified, for all time.  The MIB
module language contains constructs which are used to perform
registration.  These constructs are OBJECT-TYPE, MODULE-IDENTITY,
OBJECT-IDENTITY, NOTIFICATION-TYPE, OBJECT-GROUP, NOTIFICATION-GROUP,
MODULE-COMPLIANCE, and AGENT-CAPABILITIES.  A item defined with one of
these constructs is permanently assigned the OID value specified in that
construct.  That OID value can not be used for any other permanent
assignment - a registration.  However, the OID value assignment
construct is not a permanent assignment.  Below is an example of an OID
value assignment:
        system OBJECT IDENTIFIER ::= { mib 1 }

This value assignment in a MIB module is not a registration.  It is a
convenience for the MIB designer to write the value { mib 1 }.  Without
such a shorthand mechanism, an OID value would need to be completely
specified from the root or from an item with a permanently assigned OID
value.  For example, the OID value used in the OBJECT-TYPE construct for



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sysDescr would be specified as { iso 3 6 1 2 1 1 1 } instead of { system
1 }.

Note that it is valid in ASN.1 to write a module that contains more than
one OID value assignment with the same OID value.  This is shown below:
        v1 OBJECT IDENTIFIER ::= { mib 1 }
        v2 OBJECT IDENTIFIER ::= { mib 1 }

The SNMPv2 SMI is completely silent on this and related issues. For
example, can a MIB module contain an OID value assignment and a
registration with the same OID value?  This shown below:
        s1 OBJECT IDENTIFIER ::= { system 1 }
        sysDescr OBJECT-TYPE
           -- clauses (omitted)
            ::= { system 1 }

The proper behavior is not well defined.


4.3.6 OID Values to Identify Modules

<describe this - ASN.1 vs. MODULE-IDENTITY>


4.3.7 Module Names and OID Values in IMPORTS Statement

<describe why and how and OID value is used to identify a MIB module in
an IMPORTS>



4.3.8 Well Known Names in an OID Value

The nodes at the top of the OID value tree were assigned "well known"
names by ISO and CCITT.  ASN.1 compilers are expected to know these
names.  However, the list of names has expanded, and was changed when
the CCITT changed its name to ITU.  This is disruptive to MIB designers,
users, and compiler writers.  Thus, in the MIB module language, the only
well known names are ccitt, iso, and joint-iso-ccitt.  These names will
never be changed, or will new names added, since this is not installed
base friendly.


4.3.9 Max Length of MIB Module Names

The SMI doesn't specify a max length. It should.







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4.3.10 Required Constructs in a MIB Module

Every MIB module must include an IMPORTS and a MODULE-IDENTITY
statement.


4.3.11 Meaning of the Values of the STATUS Clause

The meaning of the values of the STATUS clause are not well defined in
SMIv2.  The memo "A Clarification of the STATUS Clause in SNMP MIB
Modules"[9] contains what the values mean, and what actions agent and
management applications developers should take based on the value, and
change of value.


4.3.12 The Value of the CONTACT-INFO Clause

The examples given in the SMI for the values of the CONTACT-INFO clause
of MODULE-IDENTITY in SMIv2 should not be used.  Other information such
as the working group name and mailing list need to be specified.


4.3.13 Objects in the INDEX Clause

(This needs to be determined)


4.3.14 Consistency of Status Values

Several constructs are dependent of the definitions of other items.  For
example, the INDEX clause in the OBJECT-TYPE construct names other
items.  Another example is a table object and the columnar objects with
in the table.  The SMI is silent on the relationships between the status
of these objects.  Thus, could the status of a row object be "current"
if one of the objects in its INDEX clause has the status of "obsolete"?
If a table object has its status changed to "obsolete", do all of the
columnar objects in the table have to also have to have their status
changed to "obsolete"?  This issue needs to be resolved.


4.3.15 Module Compliances and Agent Capabilities

(Some major work needed here - probably separate documents)


5. Relationships Between Objects

(There needs to be a section or maybe another document about
relationships between objects.  This section needs to specify whether or
not the RMON2 approach to indexing was valid or invalid, and give rules
for how it should be used.)


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6. References

[1]  J. Case, K. McCloghrie, M. Rose, S. Waldbusser, "Structure of
     Management Information for Version 2 of the Simple Network
     Management Protocol (SNMPv2)", RFC 1902, 01/22/1996.

[2]  J. Case, K. McCloghrie, M. Rose, S. Waldbusser, "Textual
     Conventions for Version 2 of the Simple Network Management Protocol
     (SNMPv2)", RFC 1903, 01/22/1996.

[3]  J. Case, K. McCloghrie, M. Rose, S. Waldbusser, "Conformance
     Statements for Version 2 of the Simple Network Management Protocol
     (SNMPv2)", RFC 1904, 01/22/1996.
     Management Information for version 2 of the Simple Network
     Management Protocol (SNMPv2)", RFC 1442, 05/03/1993.

[4]  Information processing systems - Open Systems Interconnection -
     Specification of Abstract Syntax Notation One (ASN.1),
     International Organization for Standardization.  International
     Standard 8824, (December, 1987).

[5]  D. Perkins, "The BITS Pseudo-type for SNMPv2 SMI", internet-draft
     draft-perkins-bits-00.txt, 05/27/1996.

[6]  D. Perkins, "The Domestication of the Opaque Type for SNMPv1
     and SNMPv2", internet-draft draft-perkins-opaque-00.txt,
     05/27/1996.

[7]  D. Perkins, "A Lexical Specification for the SNMPv2 MIB Module
     Language", (yet to be posted internet-draft).

[8]  D. Perkins, "A Grammar Specification for the SNMPv2 MIB Module
     Language", (yet to be posted internet-draft).

[9]  D. Perkins, "A Clarification of the STATUS Clause in SNMP MIB
     Modules", internet-draft draft-rfced-info-perkins-01.txt















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-----------------

/dperkins@scruznet.com, David T. Perkins
Date: 07/30/96, Time: 09:11:35