This is the first in a series of articles in which we will describe our plan to set up a new measurement network and how we plan to master the engineering, economic and community-building challenges.
The RIPE NCC has been conducting active measurements from a network of approximately 100 Test Traffic Measurement (TTM) Test Boxes, the majority of which are located inside Internet Service Provider (ISP) infrastructure, for many years:
"Test boxes" perform a number of measurements, including one-way-delay and traceroute between the test boxes and Domain Name System Monitoring Service (DNSMON) queries of major authoritative DNS servers. They have a GPS receiver to synchronise their clocks sufficiently for one-way-delay measurements and are relatively expensive to install and maintain. TTM aims to help ISPs with monitoring their networks and planning transmission capacity.
Times have changed: transmission capacity has become relatively abundant in the industrialised world and the focus for measurements is shifting from network monitoring to getting hard data about the end-user experience, from measuring the core networks to getting data about the Internet as a whole and to do so quite comprehensively. Governments, for instance, are asking "Is the Internet working?" and "How is 'our' Internet doing compared to other countries?"
So what do we need to measure in order to answer such questions? Consider this picture of man-made light in parts of our region:
Nowadays it is fair to assume that the Internet has spread to most, if not all places where man-made light is visible here. Compare the two pictures and you will see that we need more comprehensive measurements than TTM to answer many of today's questions about the Internet. There are some ongoing activities already that try to do this, many in academic environments, but also some others like SamKnows , focusing on broadband speeds.
I believe that there is a need for a more comprehensive approach covering the whole of the RIPE region. We need to answer questions based on topological location: "How is this DNS root server reachable from these Autonomous Systems (ASes)?" We also need to answer questions based on geographical location: "How are services in Germany reachable from Ukrainian cities?" This means we have to have multiple vantage points both in each AS in the RIPE region but also in each significant geographical area.
Therefore we are working on a measurement network that has the potential to bring a number of vantage points to each and every AS in the RIPE NCC service region and to every major city. That would mean 50,000 vantage points or more. This network will provide active measurement capabilities from all these vantage points to all participants. In a series of articles on Labs, I will describe how we plan to master the engineering, economic and community-building challenges and how we roll out a pilot with at least 300 vantage points over the next few months. Stay tuned!