- General Questions
- I am an Internet user...
- I am a researcher...
- I am a company or institution...
- You didn't answer my question...
What is M-Lab, and why?
Measurement Lab (M-Lab) is an open, distributed server platform for researchers to deploy Internet measurement tools. If you're an Internet user, the tools running on M-Lab servers can help you test your broadband connection, including measuring its speed and evaluating the performance of certain applications. When you run a test, you will also provide valuable data back to researchers. The goal of M-Lab is to advance research and empower the public with useful information about their broadband connections. By enhancing Internet transparency, we aim to help sustain a healthy, innovative Internet.
Who's behind M-Lab? Can others get involved?
M-Lab was founded by the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute (OTI), the PlanetLab Consortium, Google Inc. and academic researchers. The founding members collectively make up the steering committee that will lead development of M-Lab's organizational policies and structure going forward. M-Lab is intended to operate as a community-based effort. We currently receive assistance from M-Lab supporting partners, and we welcome others who would like to contribute to the platform's growth and success. In order for M-Lab to achieve its objectives, it depends on the participation of additional companies, institutions and researchers. Learn how to get involved here.
How did M-Lab come about?
In 2008, Vint Cerf and others at Google initiated conversations with network researchers to learn more about challenges to the effective study of broadband networks. Researchers identified several problems, including a lack of widely-deployed servers and ample connectivity to support active network measurement tools, and an inability to easily share large data sets with one another. M-Lab intends to help address these problems.
What is the role of the academic researchers?
Researchers create and deploy Internet measurement tools on M-Lab servers. Researchers interested in deploying their tools on M-Lab or supporting the development of the platform can read more details here.
What is Google's role?
Google is a founding member of M-Lab. As part of the "proof of concept" launch of M-Lab, Google has provided servers and purchased network connectivity for the platform. Google is also a sponsor of the Open Technology Institute as well as a charter member of PlanetLab, which helps support their work on M-Lab.
What is PlanetLab and its role?
The PlanetLab Consortium (PLC) is a founding member of M-Lab. It provides M-Lab's software environment, manages day-to-day operations and acts as a point of contact. The PlanetLab Consortium is a collection of academic, industrial and government institutions cooperating to support and enhance the existing PlanetLab overlay network. This overlay network is a platform of servers for network research that is separate and distinct from M-Lab. It supports a broader array of experiments, but for various reasons it is not particularly well-suited for the types of measurement tools deployed on M-Lab. At the same time, PLC provides a distributed software architecture as well as an operations and management framework that is highly relevant for M-Lab. M-Lab benefits greatly from PLC's existing expertise in this regard. Learn more about PlanetLab here.
What is the Open Technology Institute and its role?
The New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute (OTI) is a founding member of M-Lab. OTI formulates policy and regulatory reforms to support open architectures and open source innovations and facilitates the development and implementation of open technologies and communications networks. OTI will help constructively engage the research and corporate communities to develop the platform. OTI is responsible for hosting the user-facing M-Lab site as well as the public mailing list.
Who are M-Lab's supporting partners, and how do they fit?
Supporting partners are companies and institutions that have committed resources to M-Lab, either in the form of server infrastructure, funding, data storage/analysis or other services dedicated to furthering M-Lab's goals. A list of supporting partners is available here.
What's the M-Lab Steering Committee and what's its role?
The M-Lab Steering Committee is comprised of researchers at the core of the project and M-Lab's founding partners. The Steering Committee is responsible for setting the policies that ensure the M-Lab platform's resources are used to maximal research benefit. This includes a peer-reviewed process for admitting new tools.
What's the M-Lab Operations Committee and what's its role?
The M-Lab Operations Committee does the work of ensuring that M-Lab is operated in line with strategic goals and policies. They are responsible for maintaining and improving the M-Lab platform, making M-Lab data publicly available, and reporting back to Steering Committee and the public on various metrics.
Is this just about "net neutrality"?
Transparency has always been essential to the Internet's success, and everyone can agree that Internet users deserve to be well-informed about what they're getting when they sign up for broadband. Researchers can use this platform to study many different aspects of broadband connections. One important aspect is understanding how broadband providers' network management practices differentiate between types of traffic. In addition, researchers are using this platform for speed tests and diagnostics that help identify whether a performance problem is caused by the network, a user's PC or an application.
I want to improve M-Lab. How can I help?
I am an Internet user and want to test my connection...
What tests can I run?
Right now, users can access 5 tools to measure their broadband connection speed, analyze application performance and run diagnostics. They range in complexity from Novice (suitable for anyone) to Expert (suitable for professional network administrators and those with considerable networking experience). You can check out the current tools here.
Why don't you have a test for [fill in the blank]? Why do the tools only support a limited number of users right now?
M-Lab is still in its early stages of development. In the future, we hope researchers will deploy a wider variety of measurement tools, and we intend to provide many more servers and improve the platform to support many simultaneous users.
Do these tests ever make errors? Should I call my ISP immediately if a test indicates a problem with my Internet connection?
The tools aim to be as accurate as possible, but because they are in development and attempting to measure complex issues, there may be bugs or errors. There may also be other limitations in the tools; for instance, a slower than expected speed might be the result of the testing server being far from your computer, rather than a problem with your ISP. The tests may be able to help you work with an expert, network administrator, or technical support to mitigate or clarify any apparent problems. If you have questions about the tools themselves, you should direct them to the researcher responsible for the tool. As M-Lab develops, researchers will be able build tools with increasing accuracy and functionality.
Will these tests monitor my other Internet traffic, like email, Web searches, banking transactions, etc.?
No. Each tool generates and sends data back and forth between your computer and an M-Lab server. The tools collect data related to the particular communication "flows" generated by the client-server test. The tools do not collect information about your other Internet traffic such as your emails and Web searches, unless you affirmatively provide it in response to a specific request (such as a form that asks you to provide your email address as well). Some researchers may offer client-server tests that use M-Lab, combined with separate components that measure other Internet traffic and do not rely on M-Lab. These tools will only report the client-server test data back to M-lab and will not report any data about your other Internet traffic back to the M-Lab servers. That data will go directly to the researcher responsible for the tool.
What data will be collected? What will the tests tell me?
It depends on the tool; you can see our summaries here. Note that all tools currently running on M-Lab collect a user's IP address.
The test isn't working. Whom do I contact?
Contact the researcher responsible for the tool, not M-Lab. The tools aim to be as accurate as possible, but as these tools are in development and attempting to make complex measurements, there may be bugs or errors. You can find how to contact each researcher through the links on the Tools page. You can contact the entire steering committee through our contacts page.
I'm interested in testing my broadband connection in other ways. What other resources are out there?
Check out our Additional Resources page for some links.
I am a researcher...
How can I deploy a network measurement tool on M-Lab?
If you're interested in deploying a tool, please first read our discussion document outlining M-Lab's goals and policies. You can then contact the steering committee, who are currently responsible for administering the platform. M-lab is still in development, including the policies and structures for determining how server resources will be allocated. The goal is to support as wide an array of measurement tools as possible. However, given that the project is currently in its prototype phase and has limited server resources, we cannot guarantee that all tools will be able to be deployed. Note that at the outset, M-Lab users will be expected to be a subset of PlanetLab users. In other words, deploying a tool on M-Lab will require that a researcher's institution be a member of PlanetLab.
How is Measurement Lab different from PlanetLab?
PlanetLab is a broadly useful platform that supports a wide variety of measurements and network experiments. However, PlanetLab has certain limitations, including that it cannot always ensure accurate time-stamping and resource allocation for measuring broadband connections effectively. In contrast, M-Lab's scope is narrower, aiming specifically to provide passive server-side resources for client-initiated active network measurement of Internet users' broadband connections. M-Lab also is intended to ensure resource allocation on each server such that there will be sufficient bandwidth and machine resources for accurate measurements.
I am a company or institution...
How can I help M-Lab?
Companies and institutions can help in a few key ways, including:
- Provide servers for the platform and purchase network connectivity.
- Provide resources for data hosting, aggregation and publication.
- Provide data analysis resources.
- Provide funding to support the above.
You didn't answer my question...
Try looking through the rest of the site. If you still don't find an answer, access our Contact page to submit your query. Note that all questions regarding particular tools should be directed to the researcher responsible for that tool, and not to the steering committee or other M-Lab partner. Find how to contact specific researchers here.