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BGP Meets Cat

Christian Teuschel — 26 Jun 2017
As controversial as the title sounds much attention was drawn last weekend to RIPEstat when Job Snijders (@JobSnijders) revealed his creation of a Nyan Cat painted by smartly managing the visibility of 175 /24 prefixes.

 

It all began when Bert Hubert (@PowerDNS_Bert) tweeted about Job's BGP Nyan Cat on RIPEstat and from there it went viral.

Hacker News, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter...the cat was all over the Interweb and the feedback was throughout appreciating, e.g. @nixcraft wrote "OMG. Ultimate Geek level unlocked".

Breaking a record at the RIPE NCC

On the side of the RIPEstat service the media attention didn't go by unnoticed and on Saturday the number of visitors peaked at a level 30 times higher than the usual amount of visitors.

This event actually marked a record with having more than twice the amount of visitors we ever had on any service of the RIPE NCC. (And remembering the service interruption we had beginning this month it goes without saying that I was very glad to see that the system was able to handle the additional load with ease.)

With such a high number of visitors I believe that we had not only the traditional network community looking at RIPEstat but also people for which BGP is has no meaning whatsoever. On the other hand it might be that for some of the network folks the Nyan Cat just raises a blank page. So let's quickly see what it's all about!

What is the Nyan Cat?

According to Wikipedia the Nyan Cat was originally created by 25-year-old Christopher Torres as an animated GIF featuring a cat with a Pop-Tart as a body.

Nyan Cat Wikipedia


A few days later the Youtube user "saraj00n" matched the animation with a song called "Nyanyanyanyanyanyanya!" and the Nyan Cat was born. For the curious ones this is the link to the original video . By the way, "nyan" is the Japanese equivalent for the English "meow". For more information on the Nyan Cat please consult the Internet!

What does the Routing History show?

In (over)simplified terms, BGP, short for Border Gateway Protocol, is a routing protocol which is the lifeblood of today's Internet operation. BGP can be seen as a phonebook for IP addresses, telling computers responsible for the delivery of Internet data where to send the data. Similar to a phonebook, in case your number is not in there it is hard for people to reach you, in routing terms this is expressed as visibility respectively the lack of it. 

RIPEstat as an information service to Internet related data provides an interface to track the visibility of IP space and that is the Routing History. Visualised as a horizontal bar chart the widget shows blocks for IP space (aka. "prefixes") as rows over time. The colour coding gives the level of visibility away, from "green" as fully visible, over "red" as less visible to "transparent" as not visible. The data is sampled every 8 hours, which, as Job showed, provides an ideal "Paint by number" canvas.

What Job basically did was to synchronise the announcement of 175 prefixes so that their visibility status came out as the Nyan Cat on the Routing History widget. Apart from the novelty of this innovative use of this widget it is easier said than done because the "artist" also needs to take the order, in which the prefixes are aligned in the widget, into account.

The 175 /24 prefixes that were used in the drawing came from the range 209.24.1.0/24 to 209.24.175.0/24 and were announced from AS15562  (SNIJDERS). The prefixes were deaggregated from 209.24.0.0/16 which was hold by AS2914 (NTT Communications) before.

 

Related to the media hype around it I wonder if we will see more BGP artworks? Did Job show us the future use-case for IPv4 space?

Whatever it will be, I take my hat off to Job! #greatJob

 

Here's the cat live and kicking:

 

 

Job Snijders is an IP development engineer at NTT Communications. More information can be found here .

1 Comment

Stephen Strowes says:
27 Jun, 2017 01:15 PM
Of course, the IPv6 world offers much finer granularity. A /32 ought to give folks 2^16 globally routable prefixes, so a maximum y-resolution of 65,536 pixels. x-resolution only relies on how patient the artist is!
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