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RIPE Atlas Probes: Delays in Distribution

Alun Davies — 29 Mar 2018
Contributors: Lia Hestina, Kaveh Ranjbar
The good news: RIPE Atlas is growing both in terms of geographical diversity and ASN coverage. What's more, RIPE Atlas is evolving, with a new generation of probe hardware having already passed the test phase and a pilot programme underway to assess the viability of VM anchors. The not so good news: With RIPE Atlas so much in demand, and with our current provider having ceased manufacturing of the probe hardware, we've had to dramatically reduce the number of probes we're distributing.

Out with the old

The hardware for the current generation of RIPE Atlas probes is provided by TP-LINK. They've been supplying us with the same model (i.e. in terms of model number) for some time now, but that model has itself undergone several internal revisions. Some of those revisions have, in the past, necessitated changes on our side. However, these changes have so far been relatively straightforward.

A more recent revision, however, has meant that the TP-LINK model we've been using is now based on a completely different chipset, which makes it significantly more difficult to accommodate in the existing RIPE Atlas setup.

So we were faced with the decision of either getting to work on adjusting to the TP-LINK revision, or pushing ahead with our efforts to find a new hardware candidate for the RIPE Atlas probes. After some deliberation, we've gone with the latter option.

In with the new

And this wasn't a rushed decision. In a RIPE Labs article published back in May 2017, and another one published in September 2017, we told you we want RIPE Atlas to cover 10% of active ASes. We're still pushing towards that goal, but we realised some time ago that getting there would involve looking at new hardware options. In particular, we were looking for a new version of probes with more reliable internal storage and more processing power.

Whilst we're close to being able to announce the new RIPE Atlas probe, there are still some logistical issues to be resolved. Our goal, which we fully expect to achieve, is to start distributing prototype RIPE Atlas v4 probes in the time for this May's RIPE 76 Meeting in Marseille. You'll hear much more about the new probes closer to the time, right here on RIPE Labs.

The current state of affairs

So, with TP-LINK no longer able to provide the existing model and the new model not quite ready yet, our only option is to dramatically decrease the rate at which we're distributing the last few remaining probes we have in stock. As a result, delays in dealing with applications for new probe hosts are inevitable. For this, we apologise, and we'd like to thank all prospective hosts for your patience!

While we wait, we're calling on RIPE Atlas ambassadors to make a push in distributing their probes in order to help us deal with the temporary delay. And, with the need to build up a stock of new probes more pressing than ever, now's a good time to once again encourage anyone to sponsor RIPE Atlas. 

 

2 Comments

James Hodgkinson says:
14 Apr, 2018 12:44 AM
Given the proliferation of cheap single board computers such as the Raspberry Pi and/or most organisations having a virtualization platform of some sort, wouldn't the development of one or more images for these platforms be a better solution than tying the organisation to a single hardware vendor?
Robert Kisteleki says:
17 Apr, 2018 10:39 AM
Besides working with the above mentioned hardware, we're talking to other vendors to see what they can offer. One constraint is that we want to avoid using fully repurposeable hardware (like the Raspberry Pi) -- we fear that too many would be taken as "free hardware".

We're also looking into virtual solutions: a VM anchor pilot is already ongoing. We will likely work more in this space.
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