RIPE Atlas Project Maps the Internet

RIPE’s Atlas project provides an “atlas” of Internet maps

RIPE NCC (Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Center) in the Netherlands is in the early stages of rolling out a distributed Internet measurement system called Atlas. The system collects data that it incorporates into a master "atlas" of Internet information available in condensed form to the public, and in more detailed form to researchers and participants. The Atlas system, which launched in November of 2010, now has about 1500 USB-powered probes (a.k.a. nodes), which volunteers install on their own premises. RIPE NCC (which is to Europe as ARIN is to the US and Canada--one of the world's five regional internet registries) has ambitious plans to deploy tens of thousands of probes worldwide. The aim is to aggregate more information about the Internet's topology and performance around the world than has been available to date. RIPE NCC has an initial set of maps publicly available at

Interested parties can sign up to participate in the Atlas network at Participants receive a self-installable probe about the size of a pack of gum, and when plugged in they become a node in the Atlas network. In exchange for their free participation, users can perform their own testing. RIPE NCC runs its own tests, which it aggregates to create maps summarizing such information as routes and round trip times for the planet, and by region, country, or probe. Because the project is being kicked off in Europe, the current set of maps is Euro-centric, but RIPE NCC aims to change that by encouraging worldwide participation. Among other things, the publicly available maps show response times to all root servers, and enable you to compare their performance.

As a participant, the system allows you to set up user defined measurements (UDMs) for Ping, Traceroute, and DNS queries. You can, for example, measure round trip times and packet loss from your probes, as well as potentially from any probes in the network to targets of your choosing.

For those interested in Internet mapping and performance, RIPE NCC Atlas is a laudable undertaking.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.