Monthly Archives: April 2013

Diversity

Diversity has been a recent big discussion topic at the IETF. Many of us have participated in this discussion, but I also wanted to bring it up here in the blog. Hoping for bigger involvement from different areas of the world or more equal participation from both genders is not new. The IETF is affected by typical IT field demographics, industry trends, and geographic growth areas. But we are starting to realise that improvements are necessary. The IETF can benefit of untapped potential and bring even more energy to the work. We can broaden our perspective, making sure that we understand the requirements for Internet technology from everybody, and then share it with the rest of the world.

We think of diversity as something that covers international participation, different cultures, gender, age, organisational background, and so on. While I am very proud of the IETF as a very international organisation – with participants from 60 countries working on documents, for instance — there are many aspects of diversity where we could do much better. Overall participation is concentrated in some areas of the world, with little participation from Africa and South America, for instance. Similarly, while the IETF has some very active female participants and leadership members, the numbers are very small. Much of the work in the IETF is driven by large networking companies, yet academia and small companies would have more to give, and operational experience from additional operators would be similarly appreciated. Importantly, these disparities appear most prominently in our leadership, where institutional and structural issues can lead to even less diversity along all of the above mentioned axes than in our general population. All organisations benefit from a healthy influx of new participants at all levels, and in the IETF we need that to balance our well-established topics and participants, to build the next generation technologies, experts, and leaders.

In April we created a design team to look at the topic, and make some suggestions for improvements. The announcement is here; Kathleen Moriarty and Suresh Krishnan are heading the team. Please contact them if you are interested in helping. I have given them an open assignment, with a desire to get advice on what steps we could take to increase participation in various aspects of the IETF, hoping for some initial advice before the next IETF. The design team will present their recommendations to the community, and engage in the discussion. Recommendations with community support will be taken forward.

The diversity team is a design team tasked with understanding the issues we are facing, drawing in experience from other organizations affected by similar issues, identifying obstacles to us having the widest breadth of talented participants and leaders, and making practical recommendations that could help us improve the situation. It is understood that many improvements may only take effect long-term, such as drawing in more participants from areas of the world where the IETF has traditionally not had much participation. Nevertheless, a set of actionable steps would be useful.

In addition to the design team, we are also working actively on other improvements. For instance, there is an independent effort in looking at improvements in mentoring.

You may think that while all the above are laudable goals but doing something in practice is difficult. I agree that this will not be easy. No one should expect a revolution. I do not have an idea about what to do about some of the issues. But still, I think we know some of the things we can do, and incremental progress is important. Speaking of incremental progress, I’m pleased that participation from South America seems to be on the rise:

sa

Is there something we could do to bring participation even more up from this? Could we extend the excellent ISOC fellowship program? Are there volunteer IETF people who could speak at select events in the area? Could we look at a meeting in that region, some years into the future? None of these actions make sense alone, but perhaps taken together we might have an end result where South America’s participation gets to a state where it perhaps should be, given the importance of networking for them as well as to the rest of the world?

We may also need goals to reach for. I personally would like to see a yearly increase in the diversity of our leadership at the WG level or higher. And in the next two years, I’d like to make decision about a future meeting outside our traditional North American, European, and Asian areas within the next two years. With growing local participation levels that justify choosing such a location. Doable? I certainly hope so.

In the coming months I hope that we have results from the design team, have better mentoring programs, have worked with ISOC on goals for various outreach programs, and have a better understanding of what it would take to meet outside our traditional regions. But I am not trying to pretend that we have all answers right now. What do you think we should do?

In summary, the issue of diversity and how we address it in the IETF is important for two reasons. First, more diverse participation will provide greater energy and insight to the central IETF activity of producing relevant, technically-excellent standards that help make the global Internet work better and continue to grow. Second, it is important to consider this matter in consistency with the principles of open processes and community input, that are key to the IETF.

Jari Arkko, Chair of the IETF

P.S. Thank you Alissa Cooper, Greg Wood, Kathleen Moriarty, Pete Resnick, Barry Leiba and many others for feedback on some of  the aspects discussed in this post. Credits for the participation graphic go to Bob Hinden.

Bits-n-Bytes on Video

 

john

I wanted to return to the topic of Bits-n-Bytes which we briefly reported on already earlier. Dan York and Paul Brigner from ISOC shot a few videos of some of the interesting demos, and the videos are now available below. In the videos you’ll find Dave Täht (TekLibre), Chris Griffiths (Comcast), Mark Townsley (Cisco), and John Jason Brzozowski (Comcast) speaking about their favourite technologies. I worked with John to give you a recap of what was exhibited. John has also generously offered to organise and execute Bits-n-Bytes since IETF 85 in Atlanta. We are quite pleased with how this event has turned out for the IETF, the participants, and our sponsors. Increased attendance and participation for each event was a clear indicator of the success and popularity of Bits-n-Bytes.

Bits-n-Bytes first took place during IETF 84 and has since been organized during each IETF as an integral part of the agenda. In addition to showcasing technology from our sponsors, the goal of Bits-n-Bytes has been to provide insight into how IETF contributions are being used and deployed on a daily basis around the globe. Running code is very important to the IETF, as discussed in our previous article. The demonstrations and testing that we do in Bits-n-Bytes not only helps provide feedback to improve work but also helps to stimulate future work that is essential to the growth and continued success of the Internet. Given the charter of the IETF and the nature of the work that takes place during a typical IETF, Bits-n-Bytes is an excellent venue to display and demonstrate the same.

The latest installment of during IETF 86 in Orlando, Florida hosted by NBC Universal and Comcast Bits-n-Bytes included many interesting demonstrations, following is a recap of what was exhibited.

First, Comcast through support from some key manufacturers Arris, Broadcom, and Cisco made available a functioning DOCSIS 3.0 broadband network, which was fully IPv6 capable, that provided the foundation for many of the other demonstrations that were unveiled during the event. The DOCSIS network and services that were demonstrated are analogous to what many Comcast customers use in their homes today. Arris solutions were used to provide the critical broadband network while Broadcom reference designs were used to demonstrate some new developments in customer premise or home networking. Finally Cisco System Network Registrar and Broadband Access Center provided the ever so critical provisioning services.

Next up were two excellent demonstrations of customer premises or home networking technologies. First up was HIPnet which is work that is currently being developed in cooperation with Cablelabs and was also presented during the IETF 86 HOMENET meeting. A Cablelabs implementation built upon open source software was demonstrated along with an implementation from Broadcom. For the first time ever both implementations were tested and interoperated successfully during the IETF 86 Bits-n-Bytes event.

HOMENET implementations that were also tested during the IETF 85 Bits-n-Bytes also returned to participate in Orlando. Several implementations were tested and displayed, while connected to DOCSIS powered broadband network, illustrating arbitrary topologies and source and destination based routing. The value of this new technology is to enable automatically configured networks for IPv6-based homes, while allowing users to employ any number of routers, devices, ISP connections, and allowing them to be plugged in arbitrary ways.

Buffer Bloat has been a widely discussed topic across the community. Perhaps surprisingly, increased buffering memory in routers may reduce networking performance, particularly when the same routers serve both interactive applications and background traffic. End users see this problem as impacting broadband performance and increased response times. Working solutions for the issue made an appearance during the IETF 86 Bits-n-Bytes event. Bloated and de-bloated streaming video, games, and interactive communications provided evidence of running code that addresses the challenges of Buffer Bloat.

Finally, there were many other key participants including Nominum demonstrating their DNS and DHCP based solutions. In fact, Nominum’s DNS solution was providing name resolution for the Bits-n-Bytes broadband network. Huawei returned again with a prototype of a virtual subset and MPLS multiple topology technology. ISOC and ICANN were also present providing important information about their organizations as well as important background regarding the IETF as it relates to the Internet of today and tomorrow.

Jari Arkko
IETF Chair

John Brzozowski
Comcast Fellow and Chief IPv6 Architect