Alun Davies

The Next Generation of RIPE Atlas Anchors

Alun Davies
Contributors: Michela Galante, Paul de Weerd
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With the v2 RIPE Atlas anchors no longer in production, we're busy looking at new hardware options. Here's the story so far.

This is a live article: we'll continue making updates as we go forward with the hardware selection process.
See the bottom of this article for the updates.

RIPE Atlas anchors have been an integral part of the RIPE Atlas network since its beginning. Anchors are highly stable probes designed for installation in data centres so as to provide a reliable set of vantage points across the network.

The first generation of anchors ran on Dell servers. These 'version 1' anchors were quite expensive, so for their successor, we looked at cheaper alternatives. After some deliberation, we chose the Soekris net6501 as our version 2 anchor, which we've been deploying for several years. At present, 271 Sokeris based anchors are deployed on the RIPE Atlas network.

The Next Generation

Unfortunately, Soekris Engineering suspended operations in the USA quite suddenly at the end of April 2017 (more information at This means there will be no further production of the net6501 product line. As a result, we're now looking at our options for a version 3 anchor. There are several conditions we want the new solution to meet:

  • No moving parts
  • 19" rack mountable
  • 1U high
  • At least one onboard gigabit NIC
  • 2GB of RAM or more
  • Supported in CentOS 7
  • Recent design (long hardware lifetime)
  • Able to boot from USB thumb drives
  • Support mSATA or m.2 SSD storage
  • Readily available worldwide
  • Installation procedure similar to v2 Anchor
  • 3 year warranty minimum
  • Cheap
  • Upgradable to 10GBit ethernet

After looking around, we were not able to find any candidates that meet all these requirements out of the box, so some concessions will have to be made.

After following up with interested parties and reviewing comments received in response to a presentation on the situation at RIPE 74, we decided to test a few models from two vendors to see how well they fare. From PCEngines we have the APU2 and from Netgate we have the SG-2220 and the SG-4860. All three models come close to meeting all the requirements, but it's still too early to pick the definitive winner. We're hoping to announce the new v3 anchor hardware by mid-September.

New Applications

Given all of the above, whilst we shall continue to accept new applications for RIPE Atlas anchors, those applications will be held until the new v3 hardware has been selected. We expect to resume the normal application process and start shipping the new anchors around mid-September. We'll continue to keep you updated on our progress in selecting the next generation of RIPE Atlas anchors. 



Update 8 September 2017:

We’ve chosen a new model for the RIPE Atlas v3 Anchors. The hardware we finally opted for is the PC Engines APU2. As well as being cheaper than the previous generation of anchors, this model meets the majority of requirements we listed in the above article. Whilst we still have a couple of minor logistical details to resolve, we look set to meet our mid-September deadline to resume shipping of RIPE Atlas anchors.


Update 3 August 2017:

We have concluded our round of hardware testing with the three models and have found all of them to be suitable for use as a RIPE Atlas Anchor.  They meet most of the listed requirements and our existing tools and processes need only very minor changes to support them.  

The final decision on which model we will use now depends on other, non-technical, aspects (global availability, pricing, etc.).


Update 19 July 2017:

Some people were wondering if we've also been taking environmental considerations into account in making our decision on the new hardware. In short, we have. Sustainability is an important issue to us here at the RIPE NCC; for further discussion on this, see here and here. That said, all the hardware options we're looking at have very low power consumption.

We would also like to reassure all our anchor hosts that our supplier has a sufficient stock of v2 anchors to be able to satisfy RMAs for the current hardware. 

In response to comments regarding VM anchors, it is worth emphasising that the current issue bears on the continuation and sustainability of hardware anchors and does not have any impact on our approach regarding VM.




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About the author

Alun Davies Based in Amsterdam

Hailing from a research background in philosophy, linguistics and computer science, I came to the RIPE NCC back in 2016 and took on the role of RIPE Labs Editor in 2020.

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