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Visualizing The Health of The Internet

Using an MRI scan, doctors can tell what a healthy brain looks like and what a dysfunctional one looks like – then use the differences to assess the problem. A company out of Massachusetts has developed technology that basically amounts to an MRI scan for the entire Internet. Akamai’s real-time visualization of web traffic allows users to get an overview of networks across the world, and use it to pick out anything from the most connected city to the most likely country of origin for network attacks.

"Its easy to take for granted that the Internet will always be on, and always working," said Tom Leighton, co-founder and chief scientist of Akamai, in a statement. “Reality shows us that there are many factors, on any given day, degrading the Internet’s performance. Some are malicious, and some are the result of the incredible amount of content being requested at any one time. Akamai is in a unique position to monitor the Internet in real-time, identifying where and when the Internet is being taxed.”

In order to get an accurate view of Internet bottlenecks, the company had to make sure their own data wouldn’t get stuck in them. Akamai uses a distributed computing platform of over 25,000 computers in more than 750 cities to acquire the data that is processed into the visualization. The maps can be flipped through different modes to look at separate sets of data. For instance, their real-time web monitor can be set to show traffic, latency, or attacks broken down by country or state. All of Akamai’s visualizations are available for free at the company’s Web site.

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