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Whip, the who, what, where and when about IP address data

Project description


Whip, the who, what, where and when about IP address data.

Whip provides a fast IP information lookup service that scales to large data sets. Whip can efficiently answer queries for a specific IP address, optionally refined by a timestamp.

Feature summary:

  • Fast lookups for IP addresses, optionally limited to a specific timestamp. This means that data that (slowly) changes over time can be queried at any known point in history.
  • Transparent support for both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses and ranges
  • Support for incremental loading. This means new data can be added to an existing database. This is useful to ingest weekly data set snapshots.
  • Efficient storage format (data stored as ranges, history as diffs)
  • Transparent support for gzip compressed input data the file name ends with .gz

Whip can handle almost any data set containing information about IP address ranges. Whip does not limit the type of data that is associated to an IP address or IP address range, so it can be used for a variety of data sets, for instance IP geolocation data sets. Note that Whip itself does not come with any data sets.

A source file should be seen as a ‘snapshot’ of an evolving data set at a specific point in time. During the loading phase, Whip combines all snapshots (with different timestamps) and constructs the history of all records in a way that can be queried efficiently. It does so by building an index of IP ranges and associating data to each range (e.g. geolocation tags), and keeping history for each distinct range.


Use a virtualenv to install Whip and its dependencies. To install from a source tree:

$ pip install -r requirements.txt

These are the current dependencies:

  • Python 3.3+ (no Python 2 support!)
  • Plyvel to access LevelDB from Python
  • Flask for the REST API
  • Aaargh for the command line tool
  • UltraJSON (ujson) for fast JSON encoding and decoding
  • Msgpack for Msgpack encoding and decoding


Command line interface

Most functionality is provided by the whip-cli command line tool. Detailed usage information:

$ whip-cli --help

To load input data into my.db (creating it when necessary):

$ whip-cli --db my.db load input-file-1.json.gz input-file-2.json.gz

To serve the database over a REST API:

$ whip-cli --db my.db serve

The REST API can also be deployed using WSGI e.g. using gunicorn/nginx.


The REST API supports these queries:

  • To retrieve the latest record for an IP address:

    GET /ip/
  • To obtain a specific record for an IP address:

    GET /ip/
  • To obtain the complete history for an IP address:

    GET /ip/

In each case, the response will be an application/json encoded document, even if no hit was found, in which case the result will be an empty JSON document. HTTP status codes are only used to signify errors.

Input data format

The source file format is simple: it’s just a a text file with one JSON-formatted document on each line. Each document can contain arbitrary information about a range of IP addresses.

Whip itself requires three fields:

  • begin: begin of IP address range (inclusive), e.g.
  • end: end of IP address range (inclusive), e.g.
  • datetime: time stamp for this record, e.g. 2013-02-28

In addition to these fields, each document may contain arbitrary key/value pairs, e.g. "country".

An input data file must follow these rules:

  • Each range in the file must span at least 1 IP address, but can span an arbitrary number of consecutive IP addresses (not limited by net block/CIDR), specified in the begin and end fields.
  • Ranges in a single input file must not overlap, but there may be gaps between ranges (in case no information is available for that range).
  • Ranges in a single input file must be sorted by IP address. IPv4 ranges must sort before IPv6 ranges, since Whip uses RFC3493 IPv4-mapped IPv6 addresses internally.
  • Timestamps, specified in datetime field, should be in ISO8601 format, since Whip depends on the lexicographic ordering of the input strings.
  • All timestamps in a single input file must be the same. Yes, this adds redundancy, but avoids the need for header lines or out-of-band metadata.


If the input data does not follow the above rules, bad things may happen, including database corruption.

An example input document looks like this (formatted on multiple lines for clarity):

    "begin": "",
    "end": "",
    "datetime": "2013-02-28",
    "location": "Amsterdam",
    "some-other-data": "anything-you-like"

A single input file with many of these documents looks like this:

{"begin": "", "end": "", "datetime": "2013-02-28", "...": "..."}
{"begin": "", "end": "", "datetime": "2013-02-28", "...": "..."}
{"begin": "", "end": "", "datetime": "2013-02-28", "...": "..."}

Whip can load many of these input files (e.g. weekly snapshots for a longer period of time) in a single loading pass.

Ideas / TODO

  • Perform range scan on in-memory structure instead seeking on a DB iterator. This means Whip must load all keys in memory on startup (in an array.array); use bisect.bisect_right to find the right entry, then simply db.get() for the actual value. To avoid scanning the complete database on startup, the keyspace should be split using a key prefix: one part keeps both the keys and values (full database), the other part only keeps the keys. The latter will be scanned and loaded into memory upon startup. For ~25000000 IPv4 addresses, keeping the index in memory only requires 100MB of RAM, and lookups would only issue db.get() for keys that are known to exist.

    Update: experiments on a big database containing most IP ranges in use show this is not any faster than doing the actual seek, since takes just as long as db.get(). This means a lot of memory will be used to improve performance for non-hits (in which case no DB calls are made).

  • Try out LMDB instead of LevelDB

  • Pluggable storage backends (e.g. HBase)

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