Project Myriagon: Cloudflare Passes 10,000 Connected Networks

We’ve been talking a lot during Speed Week about the products that we’ve improved and where we’ve expanded. We have an exciting announcement today: Cloudflare connects to over 10,000 other networks. In other words, more than 10,000 networks have access to the Cloudflare network via direct on-ramps. This is the culmination a special project that we have been working on over the past few months, called Project Myriagon. It refers to the 10,000-sided polygon with the same name.

We have learned a lot about performance impacts of adding more connections to our network. In one case, we witnessed a 90% decrease in median round-trip end user latency. To really understand why this milestone is so significant, let’s first explain how the Internet works.

There are many roads that lead to Rome

Internet is what we all know and depend on. It’s a series of interconnected networks that are independently managed. Each network is identified as an “autonomous” system. These networks are numerically delineated using Autonomous Systems Numbers (or ASNs). An ASN is a bit like a zip code on the Internet. It’s a number that maps to an area of IP space and uses a defined methodology.

Network interconnection refers to bringing together different ASNs in order to multiply the possible routes between source and destination. Many of us have small networks that connect to our ISP via a router and modem. The ISP then connects to other networks to retrieve the requested web pages and other Internet traffic. These networks then connect to other networks which in turn connect to interconnected networks until your data reaches its destination. The less networks that your request must traverse, the lower the latency and the chance of something getting lost.

For the IPv4 or IPv6 networks, the average hop distance between one network and another network is 5.7 to 4.7.

There are many roads that lead to Rome

Internet is what we all know and depend on. It’s a series of interconnected networks that are independently managed. Each network is identified as an “autonomous” system. These networks are numerically delineated using Autonomous Systems Numbers (or ASNs). An ASN is a bit like a zip code on the Internet. It’s a number that maps to an area of IP space and uses a defined methodology.

Network interconnection refers to bringing together different ASNs in order to multiply the possible routes between source and destination. Many of us have small networks that connect to our ISP via a router and modem. The ISP then connects to other networks to retrieve the requested web pages and other Internet traffic. These networks then connect to other networks which in turn connect to interconnected networks until your data reaches its destination. The less networks that your request must traverse, the lower the latency and the chance of something getting lost.

For the IPv4 or IPv6 networks, the average hop distance between one network and another network is 5.7 to 4.7.

What is the working principle of ASNs?

ASNs form part of BGP’s routing protocol, which directs traffic across the Internet. Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, (IANA), is the global coordinator for the DNS Root, IP addressing and other Internet protocol resources such AS Numbers. It delegated ASN-making authority the Regional Internet Registries, (RIRs) who then assign individual ASNs according to their regional policies to network operators.

Each of the five RIRs, AFRINIC APNIC ARIN LACNICNIC, RIPE and APNIC, has the right to assign and attribute ASN numbers within their designated regions. Cloudflare’s ASN number is 13335. This is one of approximately 70,000 ASNs that are advertised online. Although we would love to connect to all of these ASNs, and do so with great intention, our team prioritizes those that have the greatest impact on our overall breadth as well as improving our proximity to as many people as possible. We track the number of ASNs that we connect to, which is technically called “adjacent network” and it is a key part of our core business.

Project Myriagon was created to increase interconnection speed and surpass 10,000 adjacent networks by year’s end. We reached this milestone in September 2021. This brings us from 8,300 at 2020 to more than 10,000 today. The table below shows that this milestone is part of an ongoing effort to gradually reach more ASNs advertised on the Internet.

Table 1: Cloudflare’s peer ASNs and their respective RIR

You might wonder, given the number of ASNs available, why is 10,000 so important? This is why we have to examine BGP, which is the protocol that binds the Internet together. There are three types of ASNs.

  • These networks are limited to providing connectivity to other networks. These networks don’t have IP addresses within their networks. This is a rare situation, since it’s not common to have no IP addresses within your network. These networks are used mostly for management purposes within one organization.
  • These networks do not offer connectivity to other networks. These networks are often a stub network and, just like your home network is only connected to one ISP.
  • Mixed ASNs are networks that have both IP addresses within their network and which provide connectivity to other networks.

One interesting fact is that almost 43,000 of the 61.127 origin-only ASNs are only connected to their ISP. Our direct connections to more than 10,000 networks indicate that a good number of networks connecting to Cloudflare are connected to Cloudflare.

Eliminating the middle man

Two things can dramatically improve the performance of a network by connecting directly to it — and eliminating any hops between. Connecting directly to a network allows Internet traffic to be exchanged locally, rather than traveling through distant cities.

Second, direct connections can help reduce congestion that sometimes occurs between networks. A recent example from real-world shows that a direct peering session resulted in a 90% increase of median end-user latency after turning up a peering sessions with a European network. This improved from an average time of 76ms down to an average time of 7ms.

Instant 90% improvement for median end-user latency following peering with a network new to them.

By using our own on-ramps to other networks, we both ensure superior performance for our users and avoid adding load and causing congestion on the Internet at large.

AS13335 is only the beginning

Cloudflare can be used as an any cast network. This means that the more connected we are, we will be faster and more protected. It eliminates legacy concepts such as slow origins and slow scrub centers. As a first step in our mission to help build a better Internet, we are proud to have reached five digits connected networks. We are all about high speed, without the need to pay security or reliability costs. Still much to be done! Project Myriagon helped us to be among the top five most connected networks in the globe. However, we estimate that Google is connected to between 12,000 and 15,000. Today, Project CatchG is being launched. We will not rest until we are #1.

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