Improbable? I don’t think so

There’s an interesting new company in London with the improbable name of, er, Improbable. It’s funded by (inter alia) Andreessen Horowitz and it’s built a distributed operating system (called SpatialOS) that enables the operation of huge systems to be realistically simulated.

This has obvious applications in areas like gaming and VR, but the video shows a really intriguing example which has little to do with either. According to the company’s blog,

a team of two came in from the British government1 to explore our technology. Their goal was to build a realistic simulation of the internet so that they could take a look at its “structure”, or in other words, the vast number of connections between computers and networks that make up the World Wide Web. With the internet under attack from a variety of sources, it’s critical they can see its weak spots, to figure out how to protect it.

According to the blog post, Improbable engineers and the visiting spooks were able to use SpatialOS to build a simulation model of the entire Internet backbone in just three days.

“Not only did we demonstrate a dynamic model of BGP routing at scale, we also produced an interactive visualisation where both ASs and the connections between them can be created or destroyed, observing dynamic routing, cascade failures and new route propagation across the network.”

This could be really useful, because computer simulation is one of the few tools we have for trying to understand the behaviour of very large complex systems. But most of the simulation tools we currently have run out of capacity when the systems are as large and complex as the Net. We needed something more powerful. Maybe SpatialOS is it.

They’re looking for ‘developer partners’ btw.

  1. Presumably from GCHQ or the Cabinet Office.