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Mapping Internet Backbone

as an Underlay for Improved Communications

To host a node please complete the form.

National Science Foundation logo As the largest man-made complex network, the Internet grows with no central authority. Thousands of small and medium size Autonomous Systems connect individuals, businesses, universities, and agencies while focusing on optimizing their own communication efficiency and economic objectives. Each network is built by operators with different technical expertise and range a from small local organization network to a large transcontinental backbone. This integrated research and education plan aims to develop an Internet Topology Mapping System that will provide an underlay for improved communications in various application domains. The project attempts to provide significant improvements at multiple levels of Internet topology measurements and transforms the resulting measurement data into useful information for modeling and extracting knowledge from the Internet topology. This project: (i) builds upon novel ideas in approaching the challenges in large-scale topology data handling to capture Internet characteristics and dynamics, (ii) provides valuable longitudinal Internet topology measurements and a customizable graph indexing tool for large scale graph databases, (iii) integrates complex network theories to understand and suggest ways to improve the Internet backbone, (iv) closely integrates K-12, college, and graduate education into its research activities.

Intellectual Merit: The motivation of the project is to develop a comprehensive system that will capture the Internet topology at fine granularity and periodically provide snapshots of the Internet backbone. The mapping system will then be utilized to investigate topological characteristics of the Internet and provide an underlay for applications to optimize their communications. Compared to the existing Internet topology measurement platforms, the system will (i) build Internet topology graphs with higher accuracy as the system integrates several mechanisms to efficiently handle large-scale measurement data; (ii) work at higher level of granularity by providing backbone topology maps at link layer; (iii) periodically release annotated network topologies in addition to the raw measurement data so that the community can utilize them in their experiments and optimize network communications; (iv) help in understanding Internet topology dynamics and providing network enhancements; and (v) provide a graph indexing tool to process and analyze large-scale networks.

Broader Impacts: Understanding the topological characteristics of the Internet is an important issue for various communities including the government, academia and industry. Network research community depends on such Internet mapping systems to understand characteristics of the Internet so that better protocols and services are developed. Moreover, new network paradigms such as cloud farms and content distribution networks require knowledge of the underlying networks. The mapping system will help these communities to conduct topography analysis and study large-scale characteristics of the Internet. The project integrates research to all levels of education including science projects, seminars, and summer camps for K-12 students and curriculum development and mentorship of college and graduate students. The services developed within the project will be available to researchers and practitioners. Similarly, the developed tools, data, and course material will be available to public via open-source distribution.

DISCLAIMER: Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Measurement Platform

The Internet Measurement Project is an ongoing effort to create a map of the Internet backbone, and to understand its underlying structure and dynamics. To accomplish this, small measurement nodes (shown below) are deployed at different locations, giving multiple views of Internet topology. The more nodes, or “vantage points” there are, the more accurate the picture we can obtain. Through vantage points, we send out small probe packets, and then observe how they traverse the Internet. Combining the data from a large number of IM nodes, we can build a map that can be shared with other network practitioners and research community.

IM node

The Internet is probably the largest, most complex, and most utilized man-made structure in existence, and yet to a large degree it operates completely automatically. Over 50,000 interconnected ISPs make up what we know as the “Internet” and make their own decisions about how to provide connectivity and exchange traffic. To sustain this invisible and autonomous network, and to keep it safe and efficient, it is important that we study its structure and understand its behavior.

Similar projects that deploy measurement nodes around the world can be seen at:

UCSD CAIDA with 180 nodes ,
RIPE NCC with about 10,000 nodes ,

Research Group

Principal Investigator

Mehmet Hadi Gunes
Mehmet Hadi Gunes

Associate Professor

Team Members


Muhammed Abdullah Canbaz
Muhammed Abdullah Canbaz
"Internet topology mapping"
Ahmet Aksoy
Ahmet Aksoy

"Network traffic fingerprinting"
Khalid Bakhshaliyev
Khalid Bakhshaliyev
"Big data processing"


Steven Fisher
Steven Fisher
"Network Security"



Mehmet Burak Akgun
Mehmet Burak Akgun

"Dual Layer Scale-Free Network Topology Synthesis"
Dec 2014
Hakan Kardes
Hakan Kardes

"A Graph Theoretic Perspective on Internet Topology Mapping"
Dec 2012


Jay Thom
Jay Thom
"Data analytics"
Ibrahim Ethem Coskun
Ibrahim Ethem Coskun
"Efficient Large Scale Network Topology Measurement"
Dec 2015
Talha Oz
Talha Oz
"Cheleby: Internet Topology Collection System"
Dec 2010
David Shelley
David Shelley
"Interactive Internet Visualization from the Inside of a Sphere"
Dec 2010



Once ready, we will provide summary statistics similar to CAIDA Ark.

Deployment locations so far: 72 locations

Frequently Asked Questions

The list of questions and details be updated as we hear concerns regarding IM node deployment.

Who is sponsoring this project?

The Internet Measurement Project is sponsored by the NetLab at the University of Nevada-Reno, and is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF grant number CNS-1321164). The project is led by Mehmet Gunes. This ongoing project has produced several scholarly articles, and has made significant contributions to our understanding of the Internet topology and its dynamics.

Why should I host a measurement node?

By hosting a measurement node, you help understand and sustain a better Internet. Your help in hosting a node will make a difference, as it gives researchers a way to see into the Internet from different vantage points, and to make new discoveries about its behavior.

What is the measurement node doing?

Imagine trying to find all the roads that lead to Omaha, Nebraska. How would you do it? If you lived in Chicago, you could follow every road between Chicago and Omaha, and write them all down. But that would only help you find the roads between those two places; what about the roads from Minneapolis, or San Francisco? To get a complete map, you would have to be able to follow the roads from these places to Omaha as well. In fact, the more starting points you could find, the better a map you would have. This is essentially what the measurement node is doing; giving a different view of the Internet.

The measurement node uses commonly used network diagnostic tools traceroute and ping and their variations to send out small probe packets to various addresses on the Internet, and receives replies. This information is then forwarded to a server at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). The node is basically a very simple computer with limited capabilities that maintains a VPN connection to UNR server. It waits for instructions on where to send its next probe, and then sends the results back to the UNR server.

How does the measurement node work?

The measurement node has a small program on its memory that connects it to a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which includes other measurement nodes around the world. Once plugged in to your network, it ‘phones home’ to let the server know what its network IP address is, and then it waits for tasks. When idle, it simply sleeps, and waits for instructions. When active, it sends probe packets into the Internet and returns the results to the UNR server. It has a Linux operating system with very limited services. Its memory has been encrypted to prevent anyone from making changes, or using it for malicious purposes. If it loses power or is disconnected from Internet, it will re-establish its link to the home server at UNR automatically. It uses very little power, and has a minimal effect on the host network traffic.

What is inside the node?

The node is based on ODROID C2, which is shown below.

ODROID C2 design ODROID C2 processor

How do I connect the IM node to my network?

The measurement node kit includes an Odroid-C2 unit, a power supply, and an ethernet cable. Simply connect the supplied ethernet cable from the port on the Odroid-C2 to one of the ethernet ports on the back of your home router as shown below (note that your router could look differenrt). Then plug the power supply into a wall outlet (110v in US or 220v in Europe) and to the Odroid-C2 unit. You will see a red light and a flashing blue light on the Odroid-C2 indicating normal operation. At this time the Odroid-C2 will automatically set up its network connection and establish communication to the server at the University of Nevada Reno.

IM node connection

How much traffic will the measurement node produce? Will it affect the performance of my Internet service?

The measurement node will produce traffic in and out of your home network, but the total amount of traffic is a very small percentage of the total available bandwidth. We estimate the traffic volume to be between couple of Kbps and in the worst, be less than 100 Kbps. Given most ISPs provide links at 5-50 Mbps, the measurement node will consume between 0.002 % to 0.02 % of your total available bandwidth when active. Only in rare instances of bandwidth estimation during the node initialization, we could generate noticeable traffic. We will also analyze the traffic volume out of the node to ensure it consumes less than 1% of your network bandwidth.

Will hosting a node compromise the security of my network?

The measurement node has a very singular purpose; to send measurement probes into the Internet, and return the results to UNR server. Both server and IM node security is maintained by UNR IT. We monitor the nodes to assure it is secure from outside attacks as well to prevent anyone from ‘hacking’ it or using it to compromise your network. The node has a minimal Linux operating system and is configured to obtain software upgrades and security patches automatically.

Will hosting a node compromise my privacy?

The measurement node does not interfere with your own network traffic and has limited functionality. Only connection to it will be from the measurement server at the UNR. We will only monitor the traffic generated by the measurement node itself to ensure proper operation and detect security incidents. The node does not have any audio-video capability and only interacts with dedicated measurement servers at UNR, pre-configured software repositories to get software upgrades and security patches, and Internet devices it measures.

Does the measurement node require any maintenance from my end?

The measurement node is completely self-contained. Once connected to power and your home network, it will establish a connection to server at UNR and will carry out its mission.

How long will I need to keep the node?

Our goal is to collect measurements over the next 5 years or so. We are very grateful for your willingness to help us in our study, so we will take whatever you are willing to give! If you can host the node for an extended amount of time, that would be very helpful. The node will not produce any noticeable effect on your network, so hopefully you can plug it in and forget about it. If you can no longer host it, simply return it at our expense. If you can no longer host the measurement node, you can return it to us.

What should I do if I can no longer host the measurement node?

If you can no longer host the measurement node, you can return it to us.