Open Networking

We built a 100% Open Source 100Gbps IP network!

Atomic Access builds fully Open Network with NVIDIA Spectrum ASICs

Cape-based ISP Atomic Access now consistently routes content from the NAPAfrica and CINX internet exchange points to fibre networks with latency as low as 300 nanoseconds using fully Open Source software.

“We see 50% less latency for packets crossing the Cape Town peering points with 80% less jitter,” says Joe Botha, Atomic co-founder and CTO. “I think we’ve proven that it is indeed possible to route at 100 Gbps speeds with just Linux.” he adds.

Founded in 2018, Atomic always had an Open Networking strategy, which includes a strong belief in Open Source, Open Standards and Open Peering. Atomic is a leading ISP in the trend towards towards Open Networking.

“We compile our own Linux kernels for NVIDIA Spectrum routers, running Debian 12 and 100% Open Source routing software. Add a fully dual-stack network and IPv6 services on all our fibre networks and you’ve got a top-rated ISP delivering what it promises to gamers and techies who demand more,” says Joe.

Hardware routing with ASICs (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) is orders of magnitude faster than software routing with general CPUs. ASIC routing also delivers more consistent latency (less jitter). “Not so long ago, you could not dream of running 100Gbps routers with fully open source software, but we now have an open network that can scale to billions of packets per second,” says Joe.

Open Networking gives you hardware speed routing with a familiar management interface, without the vendor lock in and without the very high cost. Atomic’s business and home customers now get ASIC speeds, consistent low latency and lots of spare capacity.

“Modern ISP networks need to provide a very thin and efficient layer between the content networks and the customer. This involves very high speed routing and ideally packets should only pass through a single router on the ISP network,” says Joe.

Linux-based Open Networking lets Atomic do peering and customer termination using the same hardware, with very little standing in the way of the client and their content. Customers of multi-layered networks using software routing must contend with higher and often variable latencies.

“Our non-outsourced network provides stability, less downtime and no surprises for both ISP and customer. It also means Atomic has ownership of all parts and the improved visibility that comes from being able to see under the hood, so to speak, while also not being at the mercy of a single vendor,” comments Joe. Vendor lock-in is simply unacceptable within a techie-run ISP aiming for 99.999% uptime.

“Achieving content delivery within 300ns is the reward after building a truly open network with an astonishing level of attention to detail that only gamers, uber nerds and the most technically demanding customers can appreciate while we all reap the high-speed and low latency benefits.”

“It took 25 years between the initial Linux release and the Switchdev Spectrum driver going into the kernel (1991-2016). Linux nerds are purist, and this is as open and purist as high speed networking gets,” concludes Joe.

Atomic Access is an independent, top-rated, medium-size ISP, built by nerds for nerds, operating a fibre-only, founder-run and 100% open network.