Graphing SNMP data with Prometheus and Grafana

This summer, I’ve been an intern on the Infrastructure team at CoreOS, and this week marks the halfway point. I’ve been learning lots and doing some really interesting work. My latest project revolves around getting some metrics about the office network set up, using SNMP, Prometheus and Grafana.


The first step was learning about SNMP. For those of you who haven’t heard of SNMP before, it’s a protocol that came about in the late 80’s, used for getting and modifying information about a managed device. It uses OIDs, which are allocated to different organizations, such as Cisco, who then in turn define their subset of OIDs in a MIB, which SNMP uses to know how to parse the information. Here’s an example of a request to a host with some OID

$ snmpget -v 2c -c public hostname
IF-MIB::ifInOctets.21 = Counter32: 17202468

Using snmpget (from the net-snmp package), version 2c of SNMP and the community string ‘public’, we request information associated with the OID I had to look up this OID, and I’m just using it as an example of what an OID looks like. Usually, the string of the OID is easier for individual requests. But you can see below the command, in the response, what that OID resolved to. IF-MIB::ifInOctets.21 breaks down to the Interface MIB, or IF-MIB, then using that MIB, to the number of octets on some interface, in this case physical port 21 (this particular host is a switch). If you have some host that supports SNMP version 2 or 3, try the following command to see most of the OIDs your host knows about, assuming that the default community string is ‘public’ (which is standard): snmpwalk -v 2c -c public hostname.


With a base of SNMP understanding, now we can start getting some metrics. We’ll need Prometheus and the Prometheus SNMP Exporter. I want to run them in docker, and have them talk to each other. This is simple with something like Kubernetes, but for my proof-of-concept, I set up a docker bridge network, and put both containers on it.

$ docker network create --driver bridge prometheus
$ docker run --network=prometheus -d -p 9116:9116
$ docker run --network=prometheus -d -p 9090:9090 -v /etc/prometheus/prometheus.yml:/etc/prometheus/prometheus.yml prom/prometheus

And here’s the prometheus.yml:

  scrape_interval: 10s
  evaluation_interval: 10s

  - job_name: 'snmp'
      - targets:
        - hostname # Target SNMP device.
    metrics_path: /snmp
      module: [default]
      - source_labels: [__address__]
        target_label: __param_target
      - source_labels: [__param_target]
        target_label: instance
      - target_label: __address__
        replacement:  # Docker IP with SNMP exporter.

I found the correct bridge IP for the SNMP exporter container by running docker network inspect prometheus. Just replace whatever the IP is. Now I could see info about the scrapes Prometheus was making at http://dockerhostname:9090/consoles/snmp.html. It showed the device, which should be the same as the host or IP under targets, if it was up, Ports Up, Ports Total, Mb/s in, out, discard and errors. That’s a lot of metrics just from a default setup! There’s a great tool that goes along with SNMP exporter that generates the config so if you want to make your own module that handles certain Cisco MIBs and Supermicro MIBs, its easy. You can find that tool here.

Now I have metrics about the target host in a time series. What better way to analyze that data then by graphing it?


This part is super easy. Spin up a Grafana container on the same bridge:

$ docker run --network=prometheus -d -p 3000:3000 grafana/grafana

Follow the docs to log in and set up a Prometheus data source. Then, import this as a Dashboard. Assuming everything was set up right, there should be a graph for each port on your device, automatically labeled, and probably a few data points already graphed. In my case, it worked out of the gate for most hosts, but I had a few that required SNMP v1 for some reason so I had to tinker. But for SNMP 2 and 3, that template just works at time of writing.


SNMP is actually really useful, even if most people think its old. Using that data, I can now easily tell when certain ports on a switch are spiking in traffic, which ones get more inbound traffic, which get more outbound traffic, and in general make better hypothesis about network issues in the office. Prometheus and Grafana were a breeze to set up, and are incredibly powerful tools that I’ve barely scratched the surface of.