The YANG team delivered again at the IETF 100 hackathon. With our goal to help YANG model users and designers, we developed new automation tools. As a reminder, we have been present since the very first hackathon at IETF 92. Even though many were not physically present in Singapore, we represented a virtual team of many members. This virtual team included those who have worked through on the year on projects, including some full time on tool development and maintenance. The team won the “Best Continuing Work” award during this IETF 100 hackathon and this is well deserved. And no, I’m not THAT biased 🙂 .
Dave Ward stressed the importance of the YANG Catalog during his presentation at IETF 100 titled, “3 years on: Open Standards, Open Source, Open Loop.” (video here, slides here). His point (among others) was that the IETF should focus on the deployment of the product of the RFCs (so YANG modules in this case) as opposed to the RFC publication. Here are a couple of Dave’s relevant quotes: “Publishing an RFC SHOULD not be the metric for IETF success!”, “A technology is successful when it’s deployed.”, “Develop tooling & metadata at the same time as specification.”, “Create your dependency map and reach out to your IETF customers.”. The YANG catalog was taken as THE example in this train of thought.
At this hackathon, Joe Clarke and Miroslav Kovac demonstrated a new tool called YANG Suite, along with its integration with the YANG catalog set of tools and its integration with the YANG Development Kit (YDK).
You might remember the YANG Explorer tool, an useful tool, demonstrated a few IETF hachatons ago. It has been suffering from an important inconvenience: it is flash-based. YANG Suite is the next generation YANG Explorer, without this limitation.
YANG Suite automatically imports YANG modules (and dependent YANG modules) from the catalog. The YANG module trees are parsed and displayed. From there we can generate CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) RPCs, by interacting with the GUI. YANG Suite also integrates with YDK, which facilitates network programmability using YANG data models. YDK can generate APIs in a variety of programming languages using YANG models. These APIs can then be used to simplify the implementation of applications for network automation. YDK has two main components: an API generator (YDK-gen) and a set of generated APIs. Today, YDK-gen takes YANG models as input and produces Python APIs (YDK-Py) that mirror the structure of the models.
If you prefer a different set of python tool, YANG Suite also offers ncclient python library for NETCONF server. If you want to generate APIs from another language, you can develop a new YANG Suite package. As always, the tools are opensource: This is work in progress and the documentation will follow soon.
With the goal in mind to create a full toolchain, we integrated the YANG Suite directly in the YANG catalog, as shown in the previous figure. What does it mean? From the YANG catalog, you search for the relevant YANG module(s), evaluate its relevance with some health metrics (validation result, maturity, number of import, etc.), check the related metadata, launch the YANG Suite, and generate the python script based on the introduced value in the GUI such as YANG module content, CRUD operations, datastore, etc. The end user can now focus on automation as opposed to having to know the YANG language. For the end user, YANG is a means to an end, and should be hidden.
For the IETF draft writers, Henrik Levkowetz added links to the YANG catalog metadata and impact analysis directly in the data tracker. A real gain of productivity! The next step is to work on the synchronization of the data, with an direct update as soon as the draft is posted.
Dependencies and dependent YANG modules
Use case: Provide a comprehensive store for metadata from which to drive tools
Tree type: NMDA, transitional-extra, openconfig
Use case: Illustrate whether or not modules are NMDA-compliant
Add leafs for semantic versioning (semver): semantic_version and derived_semantic_version
Use case: Given a module, compare its semantic version over multiple revisions to understand what types of changes (e.g., backward-incompatible changes) have been made.Do the same given a vendor, platform, software release for all modules
Below is an example of semantically different YANG module revisions.
Vladimir Vassilev worked on automated testcases, running against confd and netconfd based raw NETCONF session scripting. Practically he focused on the the ietf-routing YANG modules in netconfd, both the non-NMDA and the NMDA (in progress) versions. I believe associating some validation tests with YANG modules in the catalog would be an extremely useful addition. Recently, I received the feedback that working on very simple scenarios for service YANG modules is a complex task: working from example is the way to go.
IETF 100 is just around the corner. It will offer all the usual opportunities for high-bandwidth exchange among IETF participants and collaboration around specs, coding and interop work. See the post below for some highlights. With the 100th meeting being viewed as a milestone by some, we’ll also be marking the occasion in a few small but special ways here and there throughout the week. Be sure to look out for those on the ground in Singapore.
We will once again be hosting the Hackathon on Saturday and Sunday. We’ll have a number of teams returning to carry forward their work from past hackathons, plus teams bringing new projects focusing on IPv6 transition technologies, JMAP, and more.
Folks are invited as always to join the Code Sprint on Saturday to work on tools for the IETF community. We’re always looking for more volunteers, so please join!
Sunday afternoon’s tutorial sessions will focus on two standardization efforts nearing completion in the IETF: TLS 1.3 and WebRTC. Come learn from the experts!
The two working-group-forming Birds of a Feather (BoF) sessions at this meeting will both be in the security area. Trusted Execution Environment Provisioning (TEEP) aims to standardize protocol(s) for provisioning applications into trusted execution environments (TEEs). Software Updates for Internet of Things (SUIT) is looking at firmware update solutions for Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Energy and interest in solutions to securely bootstrap constrained devices onto the network continues to grow.
We’ll have two working groups meeting for the first time, both in the Applications and Real-Time (ART) area. The DNS over HTTPS (DOH) working group is standardizing encodings for DNS queries and responses that are suitable for use in HTTPS, allowing the DNS to function in environments where problems are experienced with existing DNS transports. The Email mailstore and eXtensions To Revise or Amend (EXTRA) working group is dealing with updates and extensions to key email related protocols. Also meeting for the first time will be the proposed Decentralized Internet Infrastructure Research Group (DINRG), which is investigating open research issues in decentralizing infrastructure services such as trust management, identity management, name resolution, resource/asset ownership management, and resource discovery.
Folks looking for interesting area-wide discussions might want to check out the open area meetings in the transport and routing areas. The former will feature a discussion about current practices in coordinating specs and interop testing for QUIC and HTTP, while the latter will include an update from the routing area YANG architecture design team.
While for some the 100th meeting is an occasion to reflect on the IETF’s history, the technical plenary will be taking a look forward. The plenary will present a panel discussion featuring Monique Morrow, Jun Murai, and Henning Schulzrinne. They’ll be sharing their unique perspectives on what the Internet will look like in thirty years.
We’ll be running a new experiment at this meeting to give working group chairs the ability to organize sessions focused on running code. This will allow for groups to informally meet to brainstorm, code, and test ideas in the Code Lounge, a portion of the IETF lounge set aside for such activities. Working group chairs can sign up to reserve a time slot.
We wouldn’t be able to hold IETF meetings without the support of our sponsors. Big thanks to IETF 100 host Cisco! And to all of our sponsors for the meeting.
HTTPS (HTTP over TLS) is possibly the mostwidely used security protocol in existence. HTTPS is a two-party protocol; it involves a single client and a single server. This aspect of the protocol limits the ways in which it can be used.
The recently published RFC 8188 provides protocol designers a new option for building multi-party protocols with HTTPS by defining a standardized format for encrypting HTTP message bodies. While this tool is less capable than other encryption formats, like CMS (RFC 5652) or JOSE (RFC 7516), it is designed for simplicity and ease-of-integration with existing HTTP semantics.
The WebPush protocol (RFC 8030) provides an example of the how the encrypted HTTP content coding could be used.
In WebPush, there are three parties: a user agent (in most cases this is a Web browser), an application server, and a push service. The push service is an HTTP server that has a special relationship with the user agent. The push service can wake a user agent from sleep and contact it even though it might be behind a firewall or NAT.
The application server uses the push service to send a push message to a user agent. The push service receives a message from the application server, and then forwards the contents of the push message to the user agent at the next opportunity. It is important here to recognize that the push service only forwards messages. It has no need to see or modify push messages. Both the user agent and the application server only communicate via the push service, but they both want some assurance that the push service cannot read or modify push messages. Nor do they want the push service to be able to create false push messages.
For example, an alerting service might use WebPush to deliver alerts to mobile devices without increased battery drain. Push message encryption ensures that these messages are trustworthy and allows the messages to contain confidential information.
The document draft-ietf-webpush-encryption, which was recently approved for publication as an RFC, describes how push messages can be encrypted using RFC 8188. The encrypted content coding ensures that the push service has access to the information it needs, such as URLs and HTTP header fields, but that the content of push messages is protected.
The IAB held a workshop on Explicit Internet Naming Systems last week in Vancouver, B.C., and there are a couple of interesting early conclusions to draw. The first conclusion is actually about the form of the workshop, which was an experiment by the IAB. While many of our workshops run like mini conferences, with paper presentations and follow-on questions, this workshop was structured as a retreat. There was a relatively small number of participants gathered around a common table space, with sessions organized as joint discussions around specific topics. Moderators kept the conversations on topic, and discussants kept it moving forward if it lagged.
The result was one of the most interactive workshops I’ve attended. While we did have to run a queue in most sessions (and the queues could get a bit long), the conversations had real give-and-take, more like an IETF hallway discussion than a series of mic line comments.
While I don’t expect that this style would be appropriate for all our workshops, it’s useful to know that this retreat style can work. I suspect we would use it again in other situations where the IAB is trying to step back from the current framing of an issue and synthesize a set of new approaches.
A second early conclusion is that the IAB was right in suspecting that its previous framing of the issues around Internet naming and internationalization wasn’t quite right. Among other things, that framing had us trying to push human interface considerations up the stack and away from the protocol mechanics that worked on what we saw as identifiers. One clear conclusion from this workshop was that the choice of identifier structure and protocol mechanics will constrain the set of possible human interfaces. When those constraints don’t match the needs of the human users, the resulting friction generates a lot of heat (and not much light). One suggestion for follow on work from the workshop will be to document the user interface considerations that arise from using different types of identifiers, so that new systems can recognize more easily the consequences of the identifier types they choose.
An additional point that came up multiple times was the role of implicit context in transforming references in speech or writing into identifiers that drive specific protocol mechanics. While the shorthand for this is “the side of the bus” problem, the space is much larger and includes heuristic search systems ranging from the educated guess through to highly personalized algorithmic responses. The participants saw a couple of possible ways in which standards developed in this area might advance how these tuples of context elements and references can be safely used to mint or manage identifiers. A first step in that will be to suggest that the IAB look at language tags, network provider identifiers, and similar common representations of context to see how they function across protocols. Follow on work from that might include developing common vocabularies, serialization formats, and analyzing privacy implications.
Like many others, I came away from the workshop with the realization that there is a dauntingly large amount of work to be done in this space. The workshop participants are drafting more than a half dozen follow-on recommendations for the IAB, as well as describing a potential research group and producing some individual drafts. Despite the amount of work facing us, I and many other participants left the room more hopeful that we came in, both that we can make progress and that some of the tools we need are already available.
If you’d like to join in the conversation, you can share your comments on Internet naming by email to email@example.com or directly with the IAB at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before each IETF meeting, the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) collects proposals for Birds of a Feather (BOF) sessions. These sessions are designed to help determine whether new working groups should be formed or to generate discussion about a topic within the IETF community. We decide which ones are ready for community discussion on the IETF meeting agenda, with input from the Internet Architecture Board (IAB). We did this last week in preparation for IETF 100 and I wanted to report the conclusions:
Software Updates for Internet of Things (SUIT) will be having a working-group-forming BOF session at IETF 100. The SUIT work is focused on developing a modern interoperable approach for securely updating the software in Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Security experts, researchers, and regulators recommend that all IoT devices be equipped with a secure firmware update mechanism, but current approaches are largely proprietary. The SUIT BOF will discuss an architecture for IoT firmware updates and a manifest format for describing meta-data about firmware images. The SUIT mailing list is here.
Trusted Execution Environment Provisioning (TEEP) will be reconvening for a second BOF after an initial session at IETF 98 and a tutorial at IETF 99. The goal of TEEP is to standardize protocol(s) for provisioning applications into secure areas now supported on some computer processors, known as Trusted Execution Environments (TEEs). TEEs are currently found in home routers, set-top boxes, smart phones, tablets and wearables. Most of these systems use proprietary application layer protocols. TEEP aims to produce an interoperable application-layer security protocol that enables the configuration of security credentials and software running in a TEE. The TEEP mailing list is here.
Data Center Routing (DCROUTING) will be having a non-working-group-forming BOF. Over the last year, there have been discussions in a number of routing area working groups about proposals aimed at routing within a data center. Because of their topologies (traditional and emerging), traffic patterns, need for fast restoration, and need for low human intervention, among other things, data centers are driving a set of routing solutions specific to them. The intent of this BOF is to discuss the special circumstances that surround routing in the data center and potential new solutions. The objective is not to select a single solution, but to determine whether there is interest and energy in the community to work on any of the proposals. The mailing list is here.
IETF Administrative Support Activity 2.0 (IASA 2.0) will be having a non-working-group-forming BOF to continue discussions that have been taking place over the last year regarding refactoring the IETF Administrative Support Activity (IASA). The IASA 2.0 design team has been incorporating feedback from IETF 99 and further refining and expanding their documentation of the problem, requirements, and solution options. The goal of this session will be to determine the sense of the community about the direction for IASA 2.0. The mailing list is here.
We also received a proposal for a WG-forming BOF concerning Common Operation and Management on Network Slicing (COMS), focused on standardizing an information model to support network slicing in 5G. While the scope of this work has narrowed considerably since IETF 99 based on feedback received there, the new proposal was not approved for this meeting cycle. Further work is needed. The Operations and Management (OPS) area directors and interested IAB members will continue working with the proponents prior to IETF 100. The Operations and Management Area Working Group (OPSAWG) may serve as a venue for related discussions if that work bears fruit.
Finally, we’ll have two newly chartered working groups meeting for the first time at IETF 100: Email mailstore and eXtensions To Revise or Amend (EXTRA) and DNS over HTTPS (DOH). EXTRA is chartered to work on updates, extensions, and revisions to the email-related protocols IMAP, Sieve, and ManageSieve. DOH will be standardizing encodings for DNS queries and responses that are suitable for use in HTTPS, enabling the domain name system to function over certain paths where existing DNS methods experience problems. The mailing lists are here: extra, doh. A third new working group, IDentity Enabled Networks (IDEAS), was proposed but not chartered due to a number of concerns expressed during IETF community review of the charter.
Together with the rest of the IETF’s ongoing work, it will be exciting to see all of the new efforts kick off in Singapore.
With the intention to encourage the development of a solution to an issue currently under discussion within an IETF working group, I wanted to offer a personal view of a possible ways forward. This view is informed by a number of conversations with people involved in the discussion with different perspectives. However, the following does not represent nor is it intended to suggest an IETF position. The work to develop that remains to be done.
One of the strengths of the IETF process is that it brings together a diverse set of technical specialists—network operators, academics, developers, and protocol designers. The IETF seeks broad participation in its standards development processes because it leads to more robust standards—ones that work better and are more broadly applicable to the many different use cases found on the global Internet. However, it is not uncommon for implementers to learn about changes in protocols close to their publication date. This is an opportunity to encourage those using IETF standards to stay informed, at a minimum by reading the appropriate mailing lists.
In my opinion, unless voices are heard and solutions are found, the objective of end-to-end encryption to protect users privacy will be limited as a result of deployment challenges. I fully agree that end-to-end secure communications is necessary to protect the security of Internet sessions, end users privacy, and anonymity for human rights considerations. Unless we look at the obstacles and find ways to fix them, we won’t reach the goal of end-to-end security.
For the past several years, the IETF has been working to strengthen the Internet against pervasive monitoring. In line with that effort, the TLS Working Group has been developing Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.3. TLS 1.3 is designed to improve security and protect information sent over the Internet that from being intercepted and decrypted by unauthorized entities. While RFC7258 had already recommended against use of static RSA keys for TLS 1.2, this was formally deprecated in TLS 1.3 in favor of the more secure key exchange based on the Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman algorithm. These are important steps towards protecting end user privacy and the security of TLS protected sites to keep pace with the evolving threat landscape.
In the case of TLS 1.3, which is nearing completion, enterprise data center operators have recently proposed a deployment method that would enable intercepting and decrypting traffic within a data center through the use of a static Diffie Hellman key. This proposal would continue a method of intercepting and monitoring traffic similar to what is in place for all previous versions of TLS and SSL with static RSA keys. The intention is to restrict the application of this method for use within a data center only, and not with connections to the Internet.
Some data center operators need the ability to look at network traffic for transaction monitoring because of regulations. At the same time they want to adhere to best practices by encrypting network traffic and thereby protect against malicious interceptions. While the proposed scheme for TLS would address this need for monitoring and is applicable to existing techniques used in some data centers, it should be noted that this is not the only possible technical approach that could enable encrypted traffic transmission in data centers as well as regulatory-required monitoring.
Within this use case, client TLS sessions over the Internet are not intended to use this proposal, but rather to maintain forward secrecy (likely not using the 0-RTT option) with the sessions terminating at the edge of the data center. The proposal is intended for use within the data center where both ends of the encrypted sessions are managed by the enterprise.
Others within the TLS working group have voiced concerns about the proposed approach, as there is no technical way to limit it’s usage to the data center. In other words, the method could be used for wiretapping purposes by a third party if it were deployed for a connection over the Internet. The TLS working group agreed to continue to discuss the issue, but how to solve the problem is uncertain at the moment.
The proposal is not likely to be further considered. With this in mind, a discussion on alternate approaches to meet the use case requirements could be quite useful. It may be possible to adapt existing work in the IETF, not necessarily TLS, to meet the requirement, should the IETF choose to work on this problem.
If TLS 1.3 sessions were terminated at the network edge, another solution could be used within the data center. One possibility is the use of IPsec. While all data centers do not have the same needs, some are working toward use of protocols such as IPsec or tcpcrypt operating at the IP and TCP layers rather than the application layer.
Could IPsec be adapted to meet requirements? IPsec transport mode isn’t well deployed, and has some interoperability issues, but this may present an opportunity to work towards a solution outside of TLS. There are also multiple group keying solutions already defined for IPsec including Group Domain Of Interpretation (GDOI) [RFC6407] and Multimedia Internet KEYing (MIKEY) [RFC3830]. I haven’t seen a proposal yet for a protocol designed fit for purpose, but that could be of interest too. My impression from the set of requirements is that we do have time to work collaboratively to a solution.
It may be of interest to know the I2NSF working group is reviewing a proposal from data center operators in cooperation with the IPSecME working group to automate deployment of IPsec tunnels within a data center; a very productive interim call took place on 6 September specific to this proposal.
A third possibility is a multi-party session transport encryption protocol designed specifically for the data center monitoring use case, of which none have been proposed to date to my knowledge.
A longer term solution is to determine what is missing from application logging and endpoint resources to maintain end-to-end encryption and eliminate monitoring via interception. There are scaling issues with pushing these functions out to the endpoint, so perhaps there are other methods that could be used to enable monitoring functions without exposing potentially sensitive information that may or may not be privacy related. This will take lots of work and I encourage application protocol developers to think toward solutions.
While the exact way forward is yet to be determined, I believe that by working collaboratively we can strengthen the Internet and accommodate a broader set of use cases to make IETF standards more relevant to the implementers and operators who put them into practice.
I personally think that we should be doing something to solve the data center use case and would like to see a separate solution from one that uses TLS. In doing so, the likelihood of TLS 1.3 being deployed as intended to protect users privacy increases, as does the security of the terminating site, and the data center operators would gain a solution fit for purpose within their closed environments. It should be noted that there is nothing that prevents the implementation strategy described in the proposal from being deployed; an RFC isn’t necessary for that to happen.
After reading lengthy email discussions, the TLS 1.3 draft and the proposal, and listening to the presentations at the WG session, it appears that there is motivation and expertise to address use cases not anticipated by TLS 1.3. Some are working toward this with the goal of draft adoption within the TLS working group with an extension based solution in which the client is aware of interception. But adoption is not guaranteed.
If this issue affects you, and you believe you can contribute, I encourage you to read through the WG mailing list archive and propose ways forward either adapting a solution with TLS, via alternate encryption and decryption solutions for use within the data center, or through improvements to applications to eliminate the desire to intercept traffic. The use case presented is important to data center operators and working with those deploying IETF protocols increases the success of those protocols being deployed as intended. The IETF doesn’t need to take action, but I’d like to encourage those with ideas to advance the thinking in this problem space.
IETF 99 is about to kick off in Prague, Czech Republic. There is lots of exciting work going on across more than 100 working groups, plus Birds-of-a-Feather (BoF) sessions, plenary talks, and other meetings. Here are a few sessions to keep an eye out for:
We have close to 200 participants signed up for the Hackathon taking place Saturday and Sunday. Around two dozen teams will be collaborating on code projects spanning the breadth of IETF protocols, from security to DNS to transports to IoT and more.
Folks are invited as always to join the Code Sprint on Saturday to work on tools for the IETF community — please join!
Sunday afternoon’s tutorial sessions will include two new technical tutorials. The TEEP tutorial will explain Trusted Execution Environments (TEE) and their associated protocol needs. The IEEE 802.1 Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) tutorial with explain the TSN group’s work on transport of data packets with bounded low latency, low delay variation and zero congestion loss, closely related to the IETF’s Deterministic Networking working group.
While not an IETF event, the Applied Networking Research Workshop, put on by ACM, the IRTF, and ISOC, is taking place on Saturday. The workshop will provide a venue for discussing emerging results in applied networking research related to measurements, transport, implementation and operational issues, and internet health metrics. (Registration required.)
Those interested in 5G may want to attend the NETSLICING BoF, which is looking at isolation of resources and virtual network functions to support a variety of services. There will also be a plenary lunch time panel on Tuesday about 3GPP and IETF collaboration on 5G in Congress Hall III.
Other BoFs during the week: BANANA, focused on developing solution(s) to support dynamic path selection on a per-packet basis in networks that have more than one point of attachment to the Internet; IDEAS, which is aiming to standardize a framework that provides identity-based services that can be used by any identifier-location separation protocol; and IASA 2.0 where the community discussion about administrative re-arrangements for the IETF continues. Also in the realm of new work proposals, the IPPM working group will be discussing a charter update to allow the WG to take on work related to in-situ OAM.
We continue to see high interest in ongoing work related to data modeling, QUIC, and security. Catch the OPSAWG session for some discussion about managing the development and use of YANG models and the joint CCAMP/MPLS/PCE/TEAS session focused exclusively on YANG models, among other sessions. The QUIC WG will meet jointly with the HTTPBIS working group to discuss interaction between QUIC and HTTP, in addition to two meeting slots on its own. In the security area, both the TLS and ACME working groups are close to finalizing several core deliverables, and the SAAG meeting will feature a talk on post-quantum crypto.
We wouldn’t be able to hold IETF meetings without the support of our sponsors. Big thanks to IETF 99 hosts Comcast NBCUniversal and CZ.NIC! And to all of our sponsors for the meeting.
Wishing everyone a productive and enjoyable meeting!
There has been a lot of progress on the project to revamp of the www.ietf.org website. The updated website will be the “front door” for the IETF, not only for for active IETF participants, but also provides an onramp for potential participants, and helps explain the work of the IETF to people who are not directly involved in developing Internet standards. The complete Scope of Work for the project is available here.
Based on recent feedback, including the demo table at IETF 98, the initial design and features of the website have been improved in many ways. For example, in response to the feedback provided, there is now a single page that provides links to tools and resources commonly used by active IETF participants.
The project is now entering the next phase of the website development. The goal for this phase is to gather input more broadly. While there are still a few features to be implemented and some content still needs to be fine tuned, the general organization and the look-and-feel of the website has been implemented based on the initial research and input received to date. Of course, there will be some additional significant work before the site is ready for production; for example, before the website is final, we will implement methods to ensure that well-known URLs continue to work as expected.
Working on technical standards in the computing, communications and networking industries often involves dealing with patents. Like most standards-development organizations (SDOs), the IETF has policies that deal with patents covering IETF protocols, specifications and standards. The IETF’s first patent policy appeared in RFC 1310 (Mar, 1992), but the basis for today’s policy approach originated with RFC 2026 (October 1996), which still defines many aspects of the Internet Standards Process. The first major overhaul of this policy occurred a decade later in RFC 3979 (also designated as BCP 79). Though the IETF’s policies relating to copyrights, open source code and other forms of intellectual property (IPR) evolved, particularly after the formation of the IETF Trust in December 2005, the IETF’s patent policy remained relatively stable for more than 20 years.
As stated in RFC 2026, the overall intention of these policies has been to benefit the Internet community and the public at large, while respecting the legitimate rights of others, and that remains the case today.
As originally codified in RFC 2026, the IETF patent policy states that anyone who makes a contribution to an IETF specification or standard must disclose any patents held by the contributor or his/her employer which cover or may cover the contribution and are “reasonably and personally known” to the contributor, as well as any such patents that cover contributions of others. If an IETF participant knows of third party patents covering some aspect of an IETF document, disclosure is voluntary. Unlike many SDOs, the IETF does not require that patent holders make any particular commitment to license their patents on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) or any other terms (a discussion of the history behind this approach can be found here). However, the IETF provides a facility (the IPR Disclosure Form) whereby patent holders can voluntarily disclose their licensing terms, and many make use of this facility to declare, for example, that they will not assert patents against implementations of IETF standards except in defensive situations.
In 2010, following a period of extensive discussion of IPR policies in the industry and at other SDOs, and with the completion of a major overhaul of the IETF copyright policy in 2008 (RFC 5378/BCP78), we began to consider updating BCP 79 to reflect current practices at the IETF, as well as the evolving roles of the RFC Editor, IETF Secretariat, IETF Executive Director, IRTF, IAB and other groups operating within IETF.
This was not a quick process. We began work in 2010 and held a first BOF at IETF 81 in Quebec City (July 2011). We published a -00 version of a revised policy in December 2012 and held a second BOF at IETF 87 in Berlin (July 2013). We received comments and input from a wide range of community members, legal counsel and interested parties. The Internet-Draft went through 13 versions and was finally published as RFC 8179 in May 2017, seven years after we began to work on it.
The principal changes that RFC 8179 introduced to BCP 79 are described in Section 13 of the document. A quick summary of the highlights is below:
What’s a Contribution to the IETF? — Over the years, the modes in which IETF work takes place have changed. We updated BPC 79 to reflect the reality that technical contributions are made in BOFs, and online via chat rooms and other online fora. In addition, we have clarified the rules regarding oral contributions and when they trigger a requirement to disclose patents.
What is Participation in the IETF? – Many of the obligations imposed by BCP 79 apply to persons who “participate” in IETF standardization activities. So what does “participate” mean? Does it include walking into a meeting room where a discussion is taking place, sitting in the back saying nothing, or silently “lurking” on an email list? In BCP 79bis, we clarify that participation in the IETF means either making a contribution or “in any other way acting in order to influence the outcome of a discussion relating to the IETF Standards Process”. Thus, silently rolling your eyes or giving a thumb’s down during a technical presentation could subject you to the IETF’s disclosure requirements.
What to Disclose? – In addition to information regarding a patent and the portion(s) of an IETF document that it covers, the inventor(s) must now be disclosed.
Updating Disclosures – We have added a lot of needed detail around the process for updating IPR disclosures, including when such updates are required and how they should be made.
Licensing Declarations – When a person or company makes a voluntary statement about the terms on which it will license its patents covering IETF standards, that statement is viewed as binding and irrevocable so that others may rely on it.
General Disclosures – We updated the procedures relating to voluntary disclosures that are not required by the IETF rules. These disclosures of patents potentially covering IETF documents can be made by anyone and will be posted on the IETF IPR Disclosure page. We also clarified that required disclosures that are deficient in some way (e.g., they omit some required information) are also posted.
Failure to Disclose – We outline some of the remedial measures that can be taken when the IETF disclosure rules are violated, including IESG actions described in RFC 6701.
Evaluating Alternative Technologies – We provide some guidelines around the consideration of patent and licensing disclosures by IETF WGs. We also discuss some areas in which royalty-free licensing is preferred, such as security technology.
Alternate Streams – We have made it easier for other groups using the IETF RFC publication process, such as the RFC Editor, IAB and IRTF, to adopt the IETF patent policy.
As you can see, the changes are mostly clarifications; the basic patent policy remains as it was defined in 1996. Changes in patent law or patent practice may, at some point in the future, necessitate an update to RFC 8179, but that will be someone else’s task.
5G is the latest generation of cellular network standards. There’s a tremendous amount of activity around it in the industry. But how does 5G relate to Internet technology? Are there 5G-related work items that the IETF should be working on, for instance?
While at times the 5G stories take on an almost myth-like nature, the basics underneath 5G are concrete changes in the technology and our increasing needs for communication. The traffic growth for both our smartphones and homes continues to be exponential. And as organisations and societies increasingly connect their systems, there are also many new needs.
5G responds to these needs with new radio technology and a core network that employs state-of-the-art network technologies such as an increased use of cloud, virtualisation, and open source components and processes. From a standards perspective, the timelines for the first systems are very near. The 5G work happens to a large extent in 3GPP, as did previous generations. The work on 5G is planned to take place in two releases, of which the first one is Release 15, scheduled to be stable and all protocols completed latest by September 2018, just 14 months away. Additional work will be done in Release 16, which will complete by March 2020.
What is 5G?
But what exactly is 5G then? First, it is a new, very capable radio. With beamforming, MIMO antenna technology, and frequency bands reaching to millimeter waves, it provides both higher transmission speeds and serves more users at the same time. The new radio is also needed to serve mass deployment of networked sensors, and to enable various mission-critical services that may require better latency or reliability characteristics. 5G radio can provide speeds in the Gigabit range, up to 10 Gbps or even beyond, although for large numbers of users the speeds are lower, but still target at least tens of megabits per user, for tens of thousands of users.
Second, 5G targets a set of use cases, such as the familiar mobile broadband use case. But 5G is also intended to open the use of communication and cellular networks for many new industries. The goal is to be able to tailor communication platform for a wide range of different services, ranging from low power IoT devices to self-driving
cars, from mission critical public safety communication to providing services to energy providers. any of these use cases were hard to provide with previous generation technologies. For instance, one use case is about controlling remote machinery — an example of a service that benefits from lower latencies that 5G provides. There is also a higher demand on flexibility and configurability/orchestration.
From an IP networking perspective, as noted, 5G follows the same evolution as the rest of the networking industry. From a practical perspective, this is a big change, however, and requires effort. The work on details is ongoing for Release 15, but architecturally, the key directions are clear.
To give a few practical examples, interfaces to the devices are relatively similar to those in 4G. One difference is an ability to place different devices in different virtual networks or “slices”, which can be tuned and evolve independently from each other, both in resources and networking technology behind. Another difference to 4G is that the 3GPP security group plans to enable a more flexible authentication framework for the devices. And some of the control protocols inside the network may be changed from DIAMETER-based ones to REST-based APIs. From what we understand, the tunneling-based architecture for mobility is not changing, but of course with most services being provided in virtualised environments, the tunnel endpoints may physically reside in different places.
It should also be said that 5G is not a replacement for Internet-based services or Internet technology: majority of the traffic that 5G will carry is for the usual Internet services, like videos from content providers. 5G is also not immune to impacts from Internet evolution. For instance, we’ve seen big changes in use of encryption in the Internet, transport protocols are evolving, the use of CDN systems is growing, and all networks are becoming virtualised, software-defined, and cloud-resident systems. 5G networks need to serve the Internet that continues to evolve in this manner.
Is there an IETF connection?
It is useful to understand how 5G affects Internet technology. IETF work has been and will be affected by 5G. To begin with, the IETF works on many of the general facilities that modern networked systems such as 5G are based on.
Conceptually, one can think of the interactions as falling in the following categories:
New dependencies on existing IETF technology. For instance, the flexible authentication framework mentioned above is EAP (RFC 3748, RFC 5448). This is likely to be merely a reference to existing RFCs, or if additions are needed, they are small.
Dependencies to ongoing work at the IETF. This includes various general facilities as noted above, but also other things. For instance, the IETF DETNET working group defines mechanisms to guarantee deterministic delays for some flows across a network. As one of the 5G use cases is time-critical communication and low-latency applications, this is a component technology that is being looked at. Similarly, IETF routing-related work such as traffic engineering, service chaining and source routing are likely tools in managing traffic flows in 5G networks.
Topics where there is clear demand for a feature, but it is unclear whether changes to Internet technology are needed, or the details remain to be determined. For instance, in the upcoming IETF meeting in Prague, we will be discussing whether some additional support is needed for what is in 5G called Network Slicing. There are many IETF tools, however, for dealing with virtualisation and separation of networks, so first order of business is probably mapping what can be done with those tools.
Larger, architectural changes, e.g., “future Internet” type solutions such as ICN (Information Centric Networking) are sometimes suggested also in the context of 5G. While these are perhaps unlikely in the first release of 5G, it is of course certain that the evolution of the Internet continues (and there will be future releases of 5G standards as well).
We asked Gonzalo Camarillo and Georg Mayer (liaisons between 3GPP and IETF) about collaboration between IETF and 3GPP. They said that our best approach is to ensure that the 3GPP engineers are involved in the IETF work they are interested in. And that 3GPP states clearly what their requirements (rather than solutions) are. They also noted that the work in 3GPP is ongoing. Hence completing protocol requirements for 5G will still take some time. Gonzalo and Georg will be contacting the relevant parties on both sides to keep us in sync.
Exchange of information would also benefit from informal collaboration, for instance through Internet technology experts working with the 3GPP community. This enables common topics to be easily discussed and brought forward.
We should also note that there are clear boundaries between the two organisations. The IETF works on Internet technologies which may or may not get used in different networks. 3GPP puts together systems, architectures, and designs protocols specific to their networks and layers. The IETF is not in charge of making system level or requirement decisions for the 3GPP. Similarly, 3GPP leaves the evolution of Internet protocols to the IETF.
Also, recently Alissa Cooper, Chair of the IETF, visited a 3GPP meeting. Her report is here.
Finally, it should be noted that many of the existing tussles in the Internet continue to exist with 5G. For instance, the ability to provide a highly dynamic and programmable radio environment continues to present opportunities for collaboration between networks and applications. Such collaboration is not something that has historically been easy in the Internet, however. When we discussed this as a part of the growing use of encryption, the necessary changes to network management practices due to the encryption changes caused pain for operators. Perhaps as some time has passed, and networks continue to evolve, we could consider network – application collaboration as an opportunity and ask what useful things networks can do for applications?