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Providing active measurements as a regular service for ISP'S.

Fotis Georgatos, Florian Gruber, Daniel Karrenberg, Mark Santcroos, Henk Uijterwaal and Rene Wilhelm.
RIPE NCC, Amsterdam, NL.

The RIPE NCC has been active in the field of active measurements for approximately the last 3.5 years with the "Test Traffic Project", later renamed to "Test Traffic Measurements" [1].

During this period, a measurement device, a so-called "test-box", implementing the IETF RFC's 2679 and 2680 [2] on delay- and loss measurements has been developed. The test-boxes consist of a PC, a GPS clock, a kernel tuned for precision time-keeping as well as supporting software. Over the last years, it has been shown that the RIPE NCC implementation of these RFC's can reliably measure the quantities specified in the RFC's. In the first half of the paper, we will present more details about the RIPE NCC "test-box".

During the development period of the Test Traffic Project, the RIPE NCC installed a limited number of ``test-boxes'' in collaboration with volunteers at various ISP's. These volunteers are usually interested in performance measurements and were prepared to spend considerable amounts of effort in order to install test-boxes.

However, the RIPE NCC is a service organization for ISP's in Europe and surrounding areas. Any research project therefor eventually will have to be made available to the entire Internet community. The RIPE NCC Test Traffic Project has recently made this transition and is now offering active measurements as a service to all interested ISP's.

Contrary to the pilot users, this second generation of users is only interested in the results of the measurements. They also prefer a "plug and play" solution for the measurement device. In the second half of this paper, we discuss several aspects related to providing active measurements to third parties, such as:

  • Deployment and maintenance of a large number of GPS clocks.
  • Data collection, bulk processing and presentation of the results in a way understandable to the general public.
  • Notification about unusual network conditions. Most ISP's lack the time to routinely scan a large number of plots but do like to be notified about unusual conditions before their customers complain.
  • Providing trend analysis on the data, in order to be able to estimate future demands for bandwidth by the ISP's customers

The paper focusses on practical aspects of providing active measurements on a large scale. However, marketing and commercial aspects are clearly beyond the scope of this paper.


  1. Henk Uijterwaal, Olaf Kolkman: "Internet Delay Measurements using Test Traffic - Design Note", RIPE NCC, Document RIPE-158, May 1997
  2. "A One-way Delay Metric for IPPM" G. Almes, S. Kalidindi, M. Zekauskas RFC2679, September 1999. "A One-way Packet Loss Metric for IPPM" G. Almes, S. Kalidindi, M. Zekauskas RFC2680, September 1999.