(We created the Comcast Innovation Fund to support important research into the future of the Internet, with a focus on broadband, security and open-source development. In this series, we highlight grantees and their work.)

We recently awarded an Innovation Fund grant to Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA) at the University of California’s San Diego Supercomputing Center. This grant will support CAIDA’s Periscope project (no relation to the video sharing app of the same name). This research program is overseen by Dr. Kimberly Claffy with support from CAIDA post-doctoral researcher Dr. Vasileios Giotsas, who designed and implemented Periscope.

Network operators rely on Looking Glasses (LGs) to troubleshoot connectivity and routing issues, obtain reverse paths to their networks, test the reachability of their prefixes, and query the routing information of their peers. The output of LGs is widely used among operators to document and discuss issues and solutions. However, discovering and querying LGs is still a manual process, making LG usage inefficient and error-prone.

This project will further develop and test the Periscope tool, a large-scale measurement platform to unify and automate the discovery and querying of disparate stand-alone LGs into a standardized, publicly accessible service. The unification of the various LGs under a standardized and language-agnostic API removes the disparities in accessing LGs and facilitates the development of automated monitoring applications and the integration with existing monitoring and analytics tools.

Periscope has the potential to enable more powerful and efficient monitoring and management for operators and engineers who rely on vantage points outside their network to understand, troubleshoot and document local or remote routing issues. Improving the practice of using the already deployed measurement tools can address many of the pressing data needs, without investing in entirely new platforms. Collection of aggregated LG usage patterns can provide new insights to network operation centers, and can inform the development and deployment of, and interoperability with, other measurement tools. 

CAIDA will archive and share the collected paths with the research community, providing a transparent, independent, and objective data source that can document complications in network routing and inform peering debates, regulation and customer choice. By enforcing centrally-controlled rate limits, and by improving the allocation and distribution of LG queries, Periscope can help to reduce abuse and high measurement loads often experienced by popular LGs. Finally, Periscope will provide a valuable measurement platform to researchers and engineers who need objective and accurate routing data to understand, analyze and validate Internet routing phenomena. During the beta-testing operation of Periscope, 11 universities approached CAIDA to request access to the Periscope API, highlighting the demand for such a platform.