Web traffic forecasting by supercomputer

Web traffic forecasting by supercomputer

Using a supercomputing system, MIT researchers have developed a model that captures what web traffic looks like around the world on a given day, which can be used as a measurement tool for internet research and many other applications.

Understanding web traffic patterns at such a large scale, the researchers say, is useful for informing internet policy, identifying and preventing outages, defending against cyberattacks, and designing more efficient computing infrastructure. A paper describing the approach was presented at the recent IEEE High Performance Extreme Computing Conference.

For their work, the researchers gathered the largest publicly available internet traffic dataset, comprising 50 billion data packets exchanged in different locations across the globe over a period of several years.

They ran the data through a novel “neural network” pipeline operating across 10,000 processors of the MIT SuperCloud, a system that combines computing resources from the MIT Lincoln Laboratory and across the Institute. That pipeline automatically trained a model that captures the relationship for all links in the dataset — from common pings to giants like Google and Facebook, to rare links that only briefly connect yet seem to have some impact on web traffic.

The model can take any massive network dataset and generate some statistical measurements about how all connections in the network affect each other. That can be used to reveal insights about peer-to-peer filesharing, nefarious IP addresses and spamming behavior, the distribution of attacks in critical sectors, and traffic bottlenecks to better allocate computing resources and keep data flowing.

In concept, the work is similar to measuring the cosmic microwave background of space, the near-uniform radio waves traveling around our universe that have been an important source of information to study phenomena in outer space. “We built an accurate model for measuring the background of the virtual universe of the Internet,” says Jeremy Kepner, a researcher at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory Supercomputing Center and an astronomer by training. “If you want to detect any variance or anomalies, you have to have a good model of the background.”

Joining Kepner on the paper are: Kenjiro Cho of the Internet Initiative Japan; KC Claffy of the Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis at the University of California at San Diego; Vijay Gadepally and Peter Michaleas of Lincoln Laboratory’s Supercomputing Center; and Lauren Milechin, a researcher in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.

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Source: “Supercomputer analyses across entire internet”, Rob Matheson, MIT News office.