Worldwide network measurements with RIPE Atlas

The RIPE NCC is the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) for Europe, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia. It’s an administrative and technical organization in charge of allocation and registration of Internet number resources (AS numbers and IP adresses) in its region.

In december 2010 they started a new experimental project named RIPE Atlas. The aim of this project is to “produce a collection of live Internet maps with unprecedented detail” by distributing small probes across the region to collect details about the network from thousands of different locations. Anyone can participate, you can request your probe for free but notice that least equipped areas will get their probe first!

Few days ago I received mine, the hardware is an XPort® Pro from Lantronix customized by the RIPE with the MAC address of the device printed on a side.

The device contains a tiny 32-bit Freescale processor with 16MB of Flash, a 100Base-TX RJ45 connector and a USB port to give its power to the device.

Currently the predefined measurements are made against the first and second hops, a bunch of root servers and some RIPE subdomains. It is expected (with the next firmware update) that anyone with an up & running probe will earn points that could be converted at anytime to execute his own measurements within the Atlas network. It’s worth noting that the probe supports IPv4 and IPv6 as well.

The members’ area of the website is rather well-made but requires a lot of Javascript to work. For example they have made their own tabs for navigating between links. IMHO this is overkill but it’s definitely usable.

Once logged in you can access the graph generated by your own probe but also probes from others, this is not very useful at this time but it’s definitely great to see how others perform from different regions of the globe!

The Atlas network was designed with openness in mind thus the RIPE NCC also provides a very simple API to customize your graphs or access the raw data from your probe. For instance this is a graph showing the RTT from my probe located near Paris to the K-root server in IPv6:

This is the kind of project that will lead us to have a better comprehension of the inner behaviors of the networks and improves it for the sake of all. Kudos to the RIPE NCC team for the initiative!


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