Although the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) has proven to be a powerful tool for network administrators, it is widely accepted that SNMP does not offer the scalability or the functionality needed to manage large systems of routers and end systems. Active/programmable networks and mobile agent systems have been proposed as alternative network management solutions, offering new functionality and better scalability. Unfortunately, the flexibility and programmability of these (heavyweight) systems comes with its own set of problems, which has prevented them from becoming widely adopted.
This paper presents an ultra-lightweight programmable network service called ephemeral state processing (ESP) that can be used to efficiently monitor and collect information from large-scale networks. Although the service offers a limited set of features, the building blocks it does offer can be combined in novel ways to solve a wide range of network management problems while avoiding the problems that plague (heavyweight) active network approaches. The simplicity of ESP allows us to make it available as a general-purpose service that can be used by all packets in the network. We demonstrate the utility of the service by showing how it can be used to efficiently solve common network management problems.