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What are Visual Traceroutes?

January 12, 2018
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What is a Visual Traceroute?

A visual traceroute is an interactive chart that shows you multiple traceroutes between two points. Visual traceroutes can be used to troubleshoot network issues, especially those caused by Internet Service Providers (ISP for short). In Constellix, the origin point is the same across all traceroutes in the chart and will be one of our monitoring nodes. The endpoint can be any IP address or hostname of your choosing.

visual traceroute

Visual traceroute in the Constellix control panel

Troubleshooting & Traceroute Service

Our service is different from other visual traceroutes solutions because all traceroutes are run from a single source IP address (a monitoring node in our network) to a single destination. As opposed to other services which show traceroutes originating from multiple destinations and source IP’s to a single destination. Our narrower focus makes troubleshooting faster and more accurate.

Traceroute Use Case

The visual traceroute tool makes it easy to see the network topology between your users and your systems. In each visual traceroute, you will see both failed and successful traceroutes simultaneously. You can use this data to identify: bottlenecks, vendor outages, or network misconfigurations. We also provide data to help you troubleshoot ISP peering problems and AS path changes.

How do Traceroutes Work?

If you’re a network guru, skip to the next section. If not, read on… Traceroutes are a basic network utility that can be run using the traceroute command in a terminal.

how do visual traceroutes work?

Traceroute for in a terminal

This shows you all the network “hops” between your system and the desired website. Doesn’t look like much, though. So we took this information and turned it into an interactive graph, added location-specific data to each hop, and color-coded them based on ISP. In each visual traceroute chart, you will see anywhere from one to five different traceroutes. They are ordered from top to bottom in chronological order.

How to use traceroutes?

The visual traceroute feature is included with all monitoring checks and can be generated two ways: through the control panel or when a check is detected as DOWN.

#1 In the Control Panel

From the dashboard, click the hostname or IP you want to view. Click on theTraceroute Result tab.

visual traceroute example

Now you can choose the traceroute you want to view by clicking the appropriateView button. You have the option to view the geo-coded data or the raw data (more on this in a minute). Click theVisual Trace tab. You will now see an interactive visual traceroute for your check originating from the chosen location.

#2 "Down" Check

If a check comes back as down, Constellix will send an email to the appropriate contact group that will include a link to a Notification Report. When you initially create a check you have the option to specify a contact or contact group that will be alerted when checks are DOWN. You can also choose when the notification report will expire.

DOWN alert notification

Traceroute Notification Report

The Notification Report will show the result of the most recent traceroute followed by a graph of the past hour of traceroute results.

Traceroute notification report

Notification report in Constellix

Detailed Traceroute

From here, there are a couple of different troubleshooting tools available. Below the chart, there is a table of the five most recent traceroutes.

traceroute report

Geo Traceroute

You can expand each result to see a geo-coded table of each hop in the traceroute or the raw data.

traceroute example

Expanded Traceroute

The geo-codes are taken from the MaxMind database and are estimations of where the hops are. You can also see the AS Org Name (ISP) and RTT (round trip time) for each hop.

Downtime Report

Back on the main screen, you can click the View Downtime button, which will show you a table of all the outages and their durations for the past two days.

downtime report

Downtime breakdown in notification report

Visual Traceroute

At the bottom of the main screen, click the Visual Traceroute button.

visual traceroute result

Now you will see a graph that depicts the five most recent traceroutes we saw on the last screen but as overlapping lines.

visual traceroute

Interpreting the Map

As you can see, all traceroutes had the same origin (one of our monitoring nodes) and endpoint. When they overlap, the line between the hops will be thicker. You can highlight different traceroutes by clicking on the desired time in the legend at the top. The legend will also show you that status of the traceroutes.

  • Green: up
  • Red: down
  • None: the traceroute was not triggered by a status change

If you hover over any of the hops (marked by circles) you can see the time it took to reach that hop for all the traceroutes that went through it. For some hops, you can see the reverse DNS for the IP address of that hop. From this address, you can tell where the hop is and which provider it’s using. Hops are color-coded based on the ISP (Internet Service Provider) of that system. This makes it easy to pinpoint provider-specific issues and outages.

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