Managing a large complex environment with ever changing operational states is challenging, to assist, NMIS as a Network Management System which is performing performance management and fault management simultaneously monitors the health and operational status of devices and creates several individual metrics as well as an over all metric for each device.  This article explains what those metrics are and what they mean.  


Consider this in the context that a network device offers a service, the service it offers is connectivity, while a router or switch is up and all the interfaces are available, it is truly up, and when it has no CPU load it is healthy, as the interfaces get utilised and the CPU is busy, it has less capacity remaining.  The following statistics are considered part of the health of the device:

  • Reachability - is it up or not;
  • Availability - interface availability of all interface which are supposed to be up;
  • Response Time;
  • CPU;
  • Memory;

All of these metrics are weighted and a health metric is created.  This metric when compared over time should always indicate the relative health of the device.  Interfaces which aren't being used should be shutdown so that the health metric remains realistic.  The exact calculations can be seen in the runReach subroutine in

Metric Details

Many people wanted network availability and many tools generated availability based on ping statistics and claimed success.  This however was a poor solution, for example, the switch running the management server would down and the management server would report that the whole network was down, which of course it wasn't.  OR worse, a device would be responding to a PING but many of its interfaces were down, so while it was reachable, it wasn't really available.

So, it was determined that NMIS would use Reachability, Availability and Health to represent the network.  Reachability being the pingability of device, Availability being (in the context of network gear) the interfaces which should be up, being up or not, e.g. interfaces which are "no shutdown" (ifAdminStatus = up) should be up, so a device with 10 interfaces of ifAdminStatus = up and ifOperStatus = up for 9 interfaces, the device would be 90% available.

Health is a composite metric, made up of many things depending on the device, router, CPU, memory.  Something interesting here is that part of the health is made up of an inverse of interface utilisation, so an interface which has no utilisation will have a high health component, an interface which is highly utilised will reduce that metric.  So the health is a reflection of load on the device, and will be very dynamic.

The overall metric of a device is a composite metric made up of weighted values of the other metrics being collected.  The formula for this is based is configurable, so you can have weight Reachability to be higher than it currently is, or lower, your choice.

Availability, ifAdminStatus and ifOperStatus

Availability is the interface availability, which is reflected in the SNMP metric ifOperStatus, if an interface is ifAdminStatus = up and the ifOperStatus = up that is 100% for that interface, if a device has 10 interface and all are ifAdminStatus = up and the ifOperStatus = up that is 100% for the device

If a device has 9 interfaces ifAdminStatus = up and the ifOperStatus = up and 1 interface ifAdminStatus = up and the ifOperStatus = down, that is 90% availability it is availability of the network services which the router/switch offers

Configuring Metrics Weights

In the NMIS configuration, Config.nmis there are several configuration items for the these are as follows:

'metrics' => {
  'weight_availability' => '0.1',
  'weight_cpu' => '0.2',
  'weight_int' => '0.3',
  'weight_mem' => '0.1',
  'weight_response' => '0.2',
  'weight_reachability' => '0.1',
  'metric_health' => '0.4',
  'metric_availability' => '0.2',
  'metric_reachability' => '0.4',
  'average_decimals' => '2',
  'average_diff' => '0.1',

The health metric uses items starting with "weight_" to weight the values into the health metric.  The overall metric combines health, availability and reachability into a single metric for each device and for each group and ultimately the entire network. 

If more weight should be given to interface utilisation and less to interface availability, these metrics can be tuned, so for example weight_availability could become 0.05 and weight_int could become 0.25, the resulting weights (weight_*) should add up to 100.

Other Metrics Configuration Options

Introduced in NMIS 8.5.2G are some additional configuration options to help how this all works, and to make it more or less responsive. The first two options are metric_comparison_first_period and metric_comparison_second_period, which are by default -8 hours and -16 hours.  

These are the two main variables which control the comparisons you see in NMIS, the real time health baselining.  These two options will be calculations made from time now to time metric_comparison_first_period (8 hours ago) to calculations made from metric_comparison_first_period (8 hours ago) to metric_comparison_second_period (16 hours ago).

This means NMIS is comparing in realtime data from the last hour 8 hours to the 8 hour period before that.  You can make this smaller or longer periods of time.  In the lab I am running -4 hours and -8 hours, which makes the metrics a little more responsive to load and change.

The other new configuration option is metric_int_utilisation_above which is -1 by default.  This means that interfaces with 0 (zero) utilisation will be counted into the overall interface utilisation metrics.  So if you have a switch with 48 interfaces all active but basically no utilisation, and two uplinks with 5 to 10% load, the average utilisation of the 48 interfaces is very low, so now we pick the highest of input and output utilisation and only add interfaces with utilisation above this configured amount, setting to 0.5 should produce more dynamic health metrics.

Metric Calculations Examples

Health Example

At the completion of a poll cycle for a node, some health metrics which have been cached are ready for calculating the health metric of a node, so lets say the results for a router were:

  • CPU = 20%
  • Availability = 90%
  • All Interface Utilisation = 10%
  • Memory Free = 20%
  • Response Time = 50ms
  • Reachability = 100%

The first step is that the measured values are weighted so that they can be compared correctly.  So if the CPU load is 20%, the weight for the health calculation will become 90%, if the response time is 100ms it will become 100%, but a response time of 500ms would become 60%, there is a subroutine weightResponseTime for the this calculation.

So the weighted values would become:

  • Weighted CPU = 90%
  • Weighted Availability = 90% (does not require weighting, already in % where 100% is good)
  • Weighted Interface Utilisation = 90% (100 less the actual total interface utilisation)
  • Weighted Memory = 60% 
  • Weighted Response Time = 100%
  • Weighted Reachability = 100% (does not require weighting, already in % where 100% is good)

NB. For servers, the interface weight is divided by two, and used equally for interface utilisation and disk free.

These values are now dropped into the final calculation:

weight_cpu * 90 + weight_availability * 90 + weight_int * 90 + weight_mem * 60 + weight_response * 100 + weight_reachability * 100

which becomes "0.2 * 90 + 0.1 * 90 + 0.3 * 90 + 0.1 * 60 + 0.2 * 100 + 0.1 * 100" resulting in 90% for the health metric

The calculations can be seen in the collect debug, type=collect node=<NODENAME> debug=true

09:08:36 runReach, Starting node meatball, type=router
09:08:36 runReach, Outage for meatball is 
09:08:36 runReach, Getting Interface Utilisation Health
09:08:36 runReach, Intf Summary in=0.00 out=0.00 intsumm=200 count=1
09:08:36 runReach, Intf Summary in=0.06 out=0.55 intsumm=399.39 count=2
09:08:36 runReach, Intf Summary in=8.47 out=5.81 intsumm=585.11 count=3
09:08:36 runReach, Intf Summary in=0.00 out=0.00 intsumm=785.11 count=4
09:08:36 runReach, Intf Summary in=0.06 out=0.56 intsumm=984.49 count=5
09:08:36 runReach, Intf Summary in=0.00 out=0.00 intsumm=1184.49 count=6
09:08:36 runReach, Intf Summary in=8.47 out=6.66 intsumm=1369.36 count=7
09:08:36 runReach, Intf Summary in=0.05 out=0.56 intsumm=1568.75 count=8
09:08:36 runReach, Calculation of health=96.11
09:08:36 runReach, Reachability and Metric Stats Summary
09:08:36 runReach, collect=true (Node table)
09:08:36 runReach, ping=100 (normalised)
09:08:36 runReach, cpuWeight=90 (normalised)
09:08:36 runReach, memWeight=100 (normalised)
09:08:36 runReach, intWeight=98.05 (100 less the actual total interface utilisation)
09:08:36 runReach, responseWeight=100 (normalised)
09:08:36 runReach, total number of interfaces=24
09:08:36 runReach, total number of interfaces up=7
09:08:36 runReach, total number of interfaces collected=8
09:08:36 runReach, total number of interfaces coll. up=6
09:08:36 runReach, availability=75
09:08:36 runReach, cpu=13
09:08:36 runReach, disk=0
09:08:36 runReach, health=96.11
09:08:36 runReach, intfColUp=6
09:08:36 runReach, intfCollect=8
09:08:36 runReach, intfTotal=24
09:08:36 runReach, intfUp=7
09:08:36 runReach, loss=0
09:08:36 runReach, mem=61.5342941922784
09:08:36 runReach, operCount=8
09:08:36 runReach, operStatus=600
09:08:36 runReach, reachability=100
09:08:36 runReach, responsetime=1.32
Metric Example

The metric calculations is much more straight foward, these calculations are done in in a subroutine called getGroupSummary in, for each node the availability, reachability and health are extracted from the nodes "reach" RRD file, and then weighted according to the configuration weights.

So based on our example before, the node would have the following values:

  • Health = 90%
  • Availability = 90%
  • Reachability = 100%

The formula would become, "metric_health * 90 + metric_availability * 90 + metric_reachability * 100", resulting in "0.4 * 90 + 0.2 * 90 + 0.4 * 100 = 94", So a metric of 94 for this node, which is averaged with all the other nodes in this group, or the whole network to result in the metric for each group and the entire network.

Interface Availability Reporting

How NMIS reports interface availability can be a little confusing for some people, as some people see that it should be 0 when the node is unreachable or Undefined when the node is unreachable.  NMIS introduced an option to give this control to the user of the system.  The configuration option is interface_availability_value_when_down, it is U (undefined) by default.

The reason that U is used by default, is because when the node is down, is is not possible to observe the metrics from the node, the scientific method states that you should record "unobservable" or nothing when you do not have a valid observation for that time period.

How this works is that when a node is DOWN (unreachable) and interface_availability_value_when_down = U, NMIS will save U to the overall interface availability, which will mean that the node could be down for 2 hours, and the interface availability metric for the node will be 100%.  In the same scenario if interface_availability_value_when_down = 0, the interface availability metric will be ( 1 - 2/48 ) * 100 = 95.83% available.

During normal operation and a node is UP, interfaces will be polled the the operational state (ifOperStatus) will change the availability of an interface, when ifOperStatus is up the result is 100, when down it is 0.

When a node is DOWN, NO interface specific data is processed so nothing is saved for the interface for that period of time, this is treated by default as U when a graph or calculation is made the result will be 100% available.

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