I recently became an ambassador for the RIPE Atlas project. Atlas is an initiative by RIPE NCC to deploy a global network of probe devices into a diverse set of networks around the world to collect data on internet connectivity between networks. The data that is collected is shared with network operators and researchers around the world to help identify trends and problems in inter-network connectivity from a massive number of vantage points.
- How do probes work?
The probe itself is a small computer which runs linux and is entirely remotely managed by RIPE. Once a probe is connected to a network it will phone home to RIPE and wait for instructions on connectivity tests to run. Common tests include connectivity (path, latency, packet loss) to root DNS servers along with other defined tests by probe hosts and others. The probes are not interested in traffic on the host network they are connected to and are not inspecting or analysing network traffic other than their own.
The bandwidth a probe uses is very minimal, usually in the several kbps range. Many probes are hosted on home internet connections as the physical location of the probe is less important than how unique the network it is hosted in.
- Why be a part of the program?
Hosting a probe on a network that doesn’t already have any removes a “blind spot” in the data collected. The requirements on a host are very minimal – simply power the device from USB and connect it to a network and expect to see a low level of background data. It is important that the ultimate supplier of the network connection is OK with the probe being hosted there. Not just because it’s polite, but also to ensure that the probe will be long lived in its connection to the network.
Hosting a probe also entitles you to earn credits that can be used to run your own measurements from other probes around the world. You might be interested in connectivity back to your primary DNS server from other countries, or the latency between your network and some specific networks.
You can see where probes are already deployed at https://atlas.ripe.net/results/maps/network-coverage/ and sign up to host a probe directly at https://atlas.ripe.net/get-involved/become-a-host/, or if you are likely to bump into me in the coming months I can pass you a probe directly as I carry small numbers of probes to industry events to hand out to interested networks to host.
If you have any questions, you can reach out by completing the form below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
Author: Gavin Tweedie
Global Interconnection Director