SNMP Monitoring and Morningstar Products

What is SNMP?

An internet standard protocol that is used to manage and monitor devices on an IP network. It is typically supported by devices found in IT infrastructures, such as servers, modems, routers, printers, workstations, and other network components.

Using the defined communication standards and management topology, SNMP allows for a simple and convenient way to view and modify the status of critical system components on a private Local Area Network (LAN) or across a WAN (Wide Area Network) if so desired.

Continue to read the frequently asked questions and answers below and view the recording of our System Monitoring with Morningstar Products and SNMP webinar for more information.

Who typically uses SNMP?

IT system operators and network management professionals in the Telecommunications and Internet Service industries.  Others include industrial users with an existing network infrastructure, who may also employ SNMP as an easy way to gather data from network equipment assets on site.  In the Oil & Gas industry where users are engaged in digital oilfield management, SNMP is becoming increasingly popular.

Why is Morningstar adding SNMP to the Ethernet MeterBus Converter (EMC-1) as a supported protocol?

The EMC-1 already has strong support for industrial protocols including MODBUS, and also supports HTTP and LiveView, our local web dashboard filling a unique need with an easy to view a web page that is readable by any device or operating system’s web browser.  Adding SNMP greatly adds to its value proposition.

Telecommunication markets typically already have SNMP infrastructures in place.  It makes sense to add a protocol which allows operators to manage energy data alongside their existing site hardware using tools with which they are already familiar. A very thorough description of all the networking/communication options Morningstar products have to offer is included in the Morningstar Networking and Communications Document.

How do I add SNMP to an existing Morningstar product?

If that product is equipped with an RJ-11 MeterBus port and connects with Morningstar’s EMC-1, it’s compatible with SNMP.  The MeterBus port enables transmission of serial data to the EMC-1 for remote monitoring, configuration, and control, using any type of IP-based network connection. This way, many new, powerful integration options for Morningstar products can be activated and used in remote power systems. Those products include:

  • MPPT controllers: TriStar MPPT, ProStar MPPT, and SunSaver MPPT
  • PWM controllers: TriStar and ProStar (Gen3)
  • Inverters: SureSine

Once connected, SNMP is enabled through a remote firmware update of the EMC-1.

How do I enable SNMP on the EMC-1?

Access the most recent EMC-1 firmware file by navigating to the EMC-1 Support page, then click the „Software tab“ and click the download link.

View the video below to see how to update the firmware:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMN5iO62JQs

How do I get the Management Information Base (MIB file) for my product?

The MIB file is the list of available data values (Object Identifiers, or OID’s) associated with each product.  It serves as a directory of what information is available for retrieval from the device with SNMP GET requests. A list of parameters and addresses, along with the industry-standard MIB files for each Morningstar device are contained in a zip file you can download here.

How does SNMP compare to MODBUS?

SNMP and MODBUS are both components of the application layer in the OSI model. Where MODBUS is a protocol that can be supported by different physical and data link layers, SNMP is exclusively an IP standard. 

Unlike MODBUS IP, which typically uses the TCP transport layer, SNMP data is usually sent through UDP (User Datagram Protocol), which makes it faster, simpler, and more efficient than the TCP used for our current MODBUS IP-enabled Ethernet stack.

If users are implementing a solar system in either an industrial environment such as a SCADA system or a residential use, MODBUS typically has been the “protocol of choice” for its speed and reliability for both monitoring and control. 

MODBUS is also the protocol platform for the SunSpec data standard widely used in “legacy” inverters and charge controllers, data logging hardware, and even storage systems for interoperability.

In many UPS, backup or telecommunication/network applications, SNMP may be a better choice as it will provide the greatest overall device compatibility and management.

When would I want to use SNMP over other protocols or methods of accessing MS device data?

SNMP would be a good choice for accessing data in systems with an existing IT infrastructure. It is useful for sites that have a centralized network management location or host computer. SNMP is ideal for simple ‘bulk’ status monitoring and data polling of many devices. It can also be useful for implementing system-level alert notifications.

However, if more complex system interaction is needed to alter system operation in real time (i.e using bi-directional control), MODBUS may be preferable in those circumstances. 

Why doesn’t Morningstar support the ability to send SNMP traps?

Because Traps are generally not an acceptable substitute for polling a device to determine its state. As a single User Datagram Protocol packet, or UDP, a Trap packet is not acknowledged (unlike Transmission Control Protocol or TCP packets) and cannot reliably report on multiple critical events that can critically affect the network.

Traps are also difficult to manage, requiring configuring the trap destination into every device on the network. Traps are also inherently difficult to test, which usually happens when a critical event occurs without notification or feedback in the event of failure– while polling is tested frequently and makes it easy to spot network problems caused by mis-configuration or incorrect settings

Why doesn’t Morningstar support the SNMP SET command?

For security reasons.  While a SET Command allows a user to change certain parameters on the device, this functionality also includes the ability to take an interface down and change a router’s parameters. Cybersecurity risks such as Denial of Service (DoS) attacks and the potential for intruders to obtain information from your network are very high. The disabling SET command, therefore, helps to minimize your network vulnerability.

What version of SNMP do you support?

SNMP v2c, which offers some useful feature enhancements over v1. Example: ‘GetBulkRequest’ for mass data retrieval of multiple variables in a single request, as opposed to iterative ‘GetNextRequest.’

This version comes without the often unnecessary complexity of application-layer security introduced with v3. The added encryption is often redundant due to existing internal network transport level security of the network.

Will you support v3 in the future?

Since v3 adds significant resource demands and is not in high demand with the market that the EMC-1 serves, we don’t plan on adding it at this time.

Is SNMP natively supported in your products without using an EMC-1?

Not at this time.  The EMC-1 is so versatile, supporting other protocols including MODBUS and HTTP , that we feel it has considerable utility and versatility on its own and have focused on adding SNMP functionality to this already-comprehensive adapter.

Can SNMP be used simultaneously with other EMC-based services?

Absolutely– MODBUS TCP, LiveView (HTTP), and SNMP can all be used at the same time as they each represent different services in use in the real-time operating system of the EMC-1. They all use different ports: MODBUS Port 502, LiveView HTTP Port 80, and SNMP Port 161 polling data through an internet gateway.  This flexibility makes them all simultaneously available.

Is it possible for more than one NMS to access TS MPPT simultaneously?

It is possible to use multiple NMS to monitor the same device simultaneously, but a numerical max limit has not been tested or specified by Morningstar and is largely dependent on the network traffic tolerance of the EMC-1, which may be impacted by the volume of OIDs polled, polling intervals, etc. With that said, during our beta-testing, we configured (5) different NMS that all monitored the same set of devices simultaneously via a port-forwarding setup on our LAN. This seemed to operate without any known issues.

Without using NMS is it possible to add more parameters to monitor third party equipment, such as climate data, door sensor, etc?

In terms of integrating 3rd-party I/O into a Morningstar monitoring solution, we currently do not offer a manufacturer-agnostic component that can aggregate data from external sensors. The relay driver (RD-1) is the closest thing we provide, but that is mostly configured for voltage inputs and cannot scale readings from other types of data sensors. However, there are a number of such components from other manufacturers that do support SNMP and can be integrated into a compatible NMS monitoring template for additional I/O readouts. Here is an example of one in particular that has been used by our customers: https://flexscada.com/flexs-q5-remote-site-telemetry-and-control/