OID stands for Object Identifier, and they are unambiguous long-form names for any object or concept, allowing anyone to recognize what item their communications are referring to, without confusion or errors. In this article, we will talk about where the idea of OID comes from, what kinds of use cases OIDs are utilized for, and everything you need to know about this term.
What is meant by an Object in OIDs?
Before we can dive into OIDs, we need to understand what we mean by objects, in object identifier. For this, we need to know a bit about object-oriented programming, or OOP. Under OOP, objects are the units of code that come out of programming, as well as anything else you think about when designing the program itself. An object is any part of a program that knows how to perform actions and interact with other elements of the program. With OIDs, each object should have a unique identifier that is different from any other object.
Where did the idea of OIDs come from?
OIDs are the brainchild of the ITU, the International Telecommunications Union. According to the ITU, we work in a globally distributed world, and it’s important to be able to reference any object in a way in which everyone would understand. For this to work, object identifiers need to be assigned by a registration authority, which the ITU have developed. In a similar way to how internet domains and subdomains are created, OIDs are provided with a naming structure that emulates a tree – so that each new node starts with a word and a number. This number can be used for data transfers.
Although the ITU has a list of its own registered OIDs, they state that object identifiers are managed in a totally decentralized way. Root tree nodes can be found here, and known global registration authorities are in a list here which could be helpful if you’re looking for a comprehensive list for your region. In most countries and regions, there is an OID registry that will be maintained by a national standards organization. It’s important not to create your own OID, much like a domain it needs to be registered and approved, and then you will be able to add to it using a logical sequence of numbers.
Has the application of OIDs changed over the years?
Absolutely. Today, OIDs are not limited to the original definition or format as put forward by the ITU. In fact, there are many kinds of OIDS, and you may need to create OIDs for a number of reasons. One good example is in SNMP MIB modules, where you’ll need to create a unique object identifier. You can learn more about that in this article from Oracle.
What other kinds of unique identifiers might I need to understand?
In computing, you might also hear the acronyms UUID or GUID. These both mean the same thing, a unique ID (either universal or global) that you can use to define a specific line of data within a system or a network.
Let’s imagine that you’re working on an Excel spreadsheet with 1000 lines. How are you going to tell the difference between each line, and call up the data if you need it elsewhere? You could rely on the numbers 1-1000, but then what happens if you need to merge information from another very similar Excel sheet. You could create your own system, where you start tracking data with letters and numbers, starting from A1, working through a logical progression, but what if you onboard data from a third-party system who have used the same key? You now have two (or more) lines that are known as B32, and things start getting messy!
Instead, a UUID is a truly unique identifier that is only used for that single line of data. There are 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 UUIDs out there, so the chances of you clashing IDs is slim to none. If you’re still worried about the slim chance – consider time-based UUIDs. These are the same random 16 bit sequence, but also using the exact time that they were generated, making it impossible that you’d cross information with anyone else.
How can I create unique identifiers like UUIDs or GUIDs?
What common uses are there for OIDs?
As well as using unique identifiers in your own business environment, there is widespread use for OIDs in many areas of technology and computing. In fact, there are probably an endless number of use cases! Some of the most popular include security, such as for ISO/IEC, RSA and NIST encryption and also for cybersecurity alerts to make it clear exactly what assets are being breached, manipulated, or accessed. eHealth standards, and network management such as knowledge bases and MIBs.
As a Managed Service Provider, it’s important to be able to understand the application of common computing terms and processes, not only to support your own business, but also to help your clients when they’re ready to scale up their own business, or when they come to you with a problem they need solving.
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