Traceroute Fun

The students in my Understanding Networks class had a short assignment this past week, to run a couple dozen traceroutes, and do visualizations with the results.  A few interesting points came out of it.

Alejandro Kaufmann did traces mostly on Asian sites, and noticed that many of the traces followed old colonial lines: traces to Hong Kong and India tended to go through British routers, and traces to Vietnam tended to go through French, for example. Not sure if this is coincidence or a result of their telcos still working together, but it was an interesting trend.

Zach Taylor did two maps of traces to the top 50 internet sites. He ran the same traces from home and from the network at NYU, and not surprisingly, there’s a lot of clustering at the outset, as the traces went outward from his provider or NYU. In the NYU map, you can see some load balancing as the traces split across NYU’s various gateway routers, then clear rivers of traffic as they head out through the tier 1 providers, AT&T and Level3.

Zach’s map of the top 500 sites (warning: it’s big) is the most interesting though. More data reveals more patterns, and you can clearly see the AT&T and Level3 rivers of traffic in the 500 trace. I’m surprised at how much of the traffic is along the Level3 river, because I didn’t think they owned as much wire and fiber infrastructure as AT&T, Sprint, or some of the other tier 1 providers.  But I guess owning the crossroads can be more valuable than owning the roads.

Now I want to see the same 500-trace exercise done from several points, and aggregated in one big map!

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