Pinging a Device Every Second

How much compute and network resources does it take for a NMS to:

  1. ICMP ping a device every second
  2. Record these results.
  3. Report an alarm after so many seconds of missed pings.

We are looking for a system to in near real-time monitor if an end customers router is up or down. SNMP I assume would be too resource intensive, so ICMP pings seem like the only logical solution.

The question is once a second pings too polling on an NMS and a consumer grade router? Does it take much network bandwidth and CPU resources from both the NMS and CPE side?

Lets say this is for a 1,000 customer ISP.

What problem are you trying to solve, exactly? That more than anything
will dictate what you do.

Short answer: about 1500 bits of bandwidth, and the CPU loading on the
remote device is almost invisible. Remember the only real difference
between ping and SNMP monitoring (UDP) is the organization of the bits
in the packet and the protocol number in the IP header. It's still one
packet pair exchanged, unless you get really ambitious with your SNMP
OID list.

When I was in a medium-sized hosting company, I developed an SNMP-based
monitoring system that would query a number of load parameters (CPU,
disk, network, overall) on a once a minute schedule, and would keep
history for hours on the monitoring server. The boss fretted about the
load such monitoring would impose. He never saw any.

For pure link monitoring, which is what I'm hearing you want to do, in
my experience I found that a six-second ping cycle gives lots of early
warning for link failures. Again, it depends on the specifications and
detection targets.

Some things to consider:

1. Router restarts take a while. Consumer-grade routers can take a
minute or more to complete a restart to the point where it will respond
to ping. Carrier-grade routers are more variable but in general have so
many options built into them that it takes longer to complete a restart
cycle. Since you are talking consumer-grade gear, you probably don't
want to be sensitive to CP power sags.

2. Depending on the technology used on the link, you may get some
short-term outages, on the order of seconds, so doing "rapid" pings do
nothing for you. During my DSL time, ATM would drop out for short
intervals -- so watch out for nuisance trips.

3. Some routers implement ping limiting, so you have to balance your
monitoring sample rate against DoS susceptibility. Offhand, I don't know
the granularity of consumer router ping limiting, as I've never had that
question pop up.

4. How large a monitoring server are you willing to devote to such a
system? My web host monitoring used a 400-MHz Pentium II box, and it
didn't even breathe hard. (A 1U Cobalt box, repurposed with Red Had
Linux, pulled from a junk pile.) I was monitoring about 150 web host
servers. Extraolatuing the system load on that Cobalt box, I could have
handled 1500 web host servers and more.

You could configure BFD to send out a SNMP alert when three packets have been missed on a 50 ms cycle. Or instantly if the interface charges state to down. This way you would know that they are down within 150 ms.

BFD is the hardware solution. A Linux box that has to ping 1000 addresses per second will be very taxed and likely unable to do that in a stable way. You will have seconds where it fails to do them all followed by seconds where it attempts to do them more than once. The result is that the statistics gathered is worthless. If you do something like this, it is much better to have a less ambitious 1 minute cycle.

Take a look at Smokeping. If you want a graph to show the quality of the line, Smokeping makes some very good graphs for that.


Don't remind me that Juniper currently don't support BFD in hardware for
IS-IS- or OSPFv3-signaled IPv6 routing :-(.


In one of my client's company, we use LibreNMS. It is normally used to
get SNMP data but we also have it configured to ping our more "high
touch" cients routers. In that case we can record performance such as
latency and packet loss. It will generate graphs that we can pass on to
the client. It also can be set to alert us if a client's router is not

LibreNMS can also integrate Smokeping if you want Smokeping-style graphs
showing standard deviation, etc.

Currently I am running LibreNMS on a VM on a Proxmox cluser with a
couple of cores. It is probing 385 devices every 5 minutes and keeping
up with that. In polling, SNMP is the real time and CPU hog where ping
is pretty low impact.


The problem I am trying to solve is to accurately be able to tell a customer if their home internet connection was up or down. Example, customer calls in and says my internet was down for 2 minutes yesterday. We need to be able to verify that their internet connection was indeed down. Right now we have no easy way to do this. Getting metrics like packet loss and jitter would be great too, though I realize ICMP data path does not always equal customer experience as many network device prioritize ICMP traffic. However ICMP pings over the internet do usually accurately tell if a customers modem is indeed online or not.

Most devices out in the field like ONT’s and DSL modems do not support SNMP but rather use TR-069 for management. Most of these devices only check into the TR-069 ACS server once a day.
If the consumer device does support SNMP, they usually have weak broadcom or qualcom SoC processors, outdated linux kernel embedded operating systems, limited ram, and storage. Most of these can’t handle SNMP walks every minute let alone every 5. We are talking about sub $100 routers here not Juniper, Cisco, Arista, etc.

Most all of these consumer devices are connected to an carrier aggregation device like a DSLAM, OLT, ethernet switch, or wireless access point. These access devices do support SNMP, but most manufactures recommend only 5 minute SNMP poling, so a 2 minute outage would not easily be detected. Plus its hard to correlate that consumer X is on port Y on access switch, and get that right for a tier 1 CSR.

The only two ways I think I can accomplish this is:

  1. ICMP pings to a device every so many seconds. Almost every device supports responding to WAN ICMP pings.
  2. IPFIX sampling at core router, and then drilling down by customer IP. I think this will tell me if any data was flowing to this customers IP on a second by second basis, but won’t necessarily give us an up or down indicator. Requires nothing from the consumer’s router.

I think the guys in the NOC will add a customer CPE to Solarwinds monitoring and just have it continually run pings, and set up an alert so that we know as soon as the ping stop the alerts go to email or whererver


Is RADIUS accounting an option here?


I've found that this is a multi-faceted problem.

Looking at pings or smokeping is part of the solution, but may cause false negatives themselves, when considering the next point --

Another aspect is congestion. Large uploads or downloads can cause packet loss (including dropping the pings with which you are testing). Therefore management packets such as these could be marked and processed, on your side at least, with a higher priority.

Someone else mentioned radius (or similar authentication/authorization logging mechanism), which will provide an answer if the session did in fact drop or not, for those types of connections.

DHCP address changeovers can cause outages.

It has also been common to get the 'internet is out' call when DNS is unavailable for whatever reason. With out name resolution, most eyeball functions will fail.


I can't parse this.

1000 hosts at 1 pps would be 672kbps on ethernetII encapulation with
minimum size frames.

I have a Nagios installation running on a PIII with maybe 512 MB of RAM.

I ping a couple hundred devices 5 times per minute and have an alarm threshold of no response for 3 minutes which sends an e-mail.

The same device also checks about 900 services among those 200 devices mostly every minute with some every 15 - 60 minutes.

This machine happens to be on a backup measured circuit with one other small service.

ISP measures my 90% bandwidth rate at < 20K for years. That includes the monitoring, the other low usage service, multiple machines hitting the web interface to check status and the outbound e-mails.

How much depends on whether the CPE gear has software recent enough
to avoid massive bufferbloat.

The 1500 bits are for each ping. So 1000 hosts would be 1,500,000 bits
per ping cycle at the monitor server, but not on each leaf router. The
designer would need to analyze the network topology to see if there are
any possible choke points. In a cable internet system, 1000 customers
on a single up/down channel pair would require 700 kilobits each way per
ping cycle. Yes, this is payload bandwidth, it doesn't include packet


Customers do not usually complain about 2 minutes of downtime unless it is a repeating event. We will therefore offer such customers to put their line on monitor mode, which means we will add them to smokeping. You could also start the ping once a second thing, which would be no problem if it is only a few customers on monitor mode.

However 2 minutes of downtime is a symptom of bad wifi more often than the internet connection.



Why? Why did you choose 1500b(it) ping, instead of minimum size or
1500B(ytes) IP packets?

Minimum: 672kbps
1500B: 12.16Mbps

I was going from memory, and it is by no means perfect. But...

A standard ping packet, with no IP options or additional payload, is 64
bytes or 512 bits. If an application wants to make an accurate
round-trip-delay measurement, it can insert the output of a microsecond
clock, and compare that value for when the answer packet comes back.
Add at least 32 bits, perhaps 64.

Even with this sensible amount of extra ping payload, there is still
plenty of "bandwidth allocation" available to account for
encapsulations: IPIP, VPN, MPLS, Ethernet framing, ATM framing, &c.

I can see a network operator with a complex mesh network wanting to turn
on Record Route (RFC791), which adds 24+(hops*32, max 536) bits to both
ping and ping-response packets.

So my 1500 bits for ping was not bad Tennessee windage for the
application described by the original poster, plus comments added by
others. In fact, it would overestimate the bandwidth required, but not
by that much.

As for how much the use of ping would affect the CPU loading of the
device, that would depend a great deal on the implementation of the
TCP/IP stack in the CPE. When I wrote _Linux IP Stacks Commentary_, the
code to implement ping is packet receipt, a very small block of code to
build the reply packet, and packet send the above mentioned 64 bytes of

Consider another service: Network Time Protocol. Unlike ping, there is
quite a bit of CPU load to process the time information through the
smoothing filters. (Counter argument: a properly implemented version of
NTP will send time requests with separations of 60-1024 seconds.)

Unsure about standard, but Linux iputils ping does this:

╰─ ping -4
PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from ( icmp_seq=1 ttl=243 time=47.8 ms

This means:

20B IPv4 Header
08B ICMP Header
56B ICMP data

YMMV... but most of the CPE routers I've seen lately have icmp turned
off by default, so you'll be messing with settings in the customer
router. Do you provide the router? Also agree with Baldur, 2
minutes... is more than likely the customer router rebooting itself or
something like that. If they support SNMP at ALL uptime is a VERY
useful OID. I've finally given up an started to provide the customer
CPE.. since we're going to get the blame anyway... might as well be
able to monitor it in a fashion that we can choose and charge another
$10 a month for managed router.

TR-069 has settings to change the update frequency as well and it can
be persuaded to provide SNMPish information.

I also run a smokeping for _special_ customers. I've found that 20
rapid pings every 1 minute gives me pretty good stats on jitter and if
they really are having an issue, I'll see it at that granularity.



The link is not the only component to fail - routers and routing protocols all contribute at least as much.
If your customers would have redundant connections,
you also would like to look at convergence times.
So a measurement end to end by a probe in the customers network could give
you a more true picture.
Facing that even sub second outages can annoy a video meeting,
it might be that you want to poll more often than a second.

Realizing that your “internet service” depends on the behaviour of all all the other
service providers quality and if you even start monitoring that - you understand that
you are “in deep shit” :wink:

I did a small scale global inter domain measurement and discovered that the sheer number of small outages is way too high.

Many of them might be routing changeovers in multi-redundant networks.


Depending on your requirements and scale - but I read you want history - it’s probably less a demand on CPU or network resources, but more on IOPS.

If you cache all results before writing to disk, then it’s not much of a problem, but by just going “let’s use RRD/MRTG for this” your IOPS could become the first problem. So you might look into a proper timeseries backend or use a caching daemon for RRD.