Internet Atlas: The greatest innovation of 2017

Ram Durairajan

On Oct. 17, 2017, Popular Science published its "100 greatest innovations of 2017."  Assistant Professor Ramakrishnan Durairajan's Internet Atlas has been recognized as one of the greatest innovations of this year for cybersecurity, and awarded the "Best of What's New" by Popular Science magazine.

"The Best of What’s New awards honor the innovations that shape the future," said Joe Brown, Editor in Chief of Popular Science, "from life-saving technology to incredible space engineering to gadgets that are just breathtakingly cool, this is the best of what’s new.”

Internet Atlas is a visualization and analysis portal for diverse internet measurement data. This research created a geographically accurate map of the physical internet that correctly shows the hosting facilities, data centers, the optical fiber conduits and also provides other relevant data such as BGP updates. This information has been made available through web portal ArcGIS for visualization and analysis.

Durairajan, along with his Ph.D. advisor Prof. Paul Barford (from University of Wisconsin - Madison), started this research in 2011. "We created a first-of-its-kind physical topology of the Internet which shows how connectivity works around the world," said Durairajan. 

He adds that “during an Internet event — for example, due to a natural disaster like a hurricane — you can pinpoint the location and the impact on the different set of nodes and cables which will be affected using our map.” Durairajan explains that the disruption of connectivity is a cascading event: if one region is disrupted, (to an extent) connectivity around that region will also be affected. This map can help service providers minimize the interruption of connectivity by rerouting the traffic before a natural disaster hits a particular location.

Apart from Internet events, Durairajan’s research has a number of other implications including enhancing Internet’s robustness, performance, and security. "This work provides an essential underpinning for the spectrum sharing regime that launched the fifth generation of mobile telecommunication services and we are deeply grateful for it," said Federal Communications Commission attorney Mr. Charles Oliver about Internet Atlas.

Durairajan is currently working on his next research with Dr. Carol Barford and Prof. Paul Barford that will look at climate change-related sea level rise and its impact on the Internet infrastructure.