Montreal skyline. Photo by Taxiarchos228 CC BY 3.0
The IESG held its annual retreat last week, meeting one day jointly with the IAB and two days on our own in Montreal, Canada. With several new members joining us as of the last IETF meeting, it was a good opportunity for everyone to spend more intensive time discussing hot topics and getting to know one another.
We focused a significant amount of our time together discussing the interaction between increased use of encryption, information available to observers on the network path, and existing operational practices. This has been a frequent topic of conversation in a variety of venues in the IETF as of late, including the MaRNEW workshop, numerous BoFs, charter and document discussions in the QUIC, TLS, OPSAWG, SAAG, and RTCWEB working groups, and on the IETF discussion list.
We examined the topic from a variety of angles. With the IAB we talked about the relative merits of signaling information explicitly versus implicitly, whether replacing implicit signals (about, say, path resources) with explicit signals could be viewed as an architecturally sound design approach, and what the real-world impacts of such a shift might be. We followed that up with discussion amongst IESG members about how to recognize proposals early on in the IETF process that could carry with them significant implications for current approaches to network manageability. As a next step we agreed amongst ourselves to flag such proposals for each other during our bi-weekly informal telechats to increase the likelihood of early cross-area review. Finally, we debated an approach being taken in the security community towards encryption of “all the things” — not things as in IoT, but things as in everything, including identity information, IP-level routing information, operations on data at rest, and a number of other “things” for which the robust application of encryption is still in nascent stages. The discussion teased out differences in perspective about the notion of which entities on the network might be perceived as trusted, or be perceived as attackers, under different network scenarios (e.g., enterprise versus consumer). I can’t say that we ended up with consensus on the topic as a whole, but we did garner greater appreciation of each others’ perspectives, and individual ADs are likely to funnel our conversation into broader community discussions.
IESG at work.
We also spent some time considering ideas to help spur further interaction between standards development in the IETF, development of running code, and open source efforts in the industry. In particular, we talked about ways to allow for working groups to iterate more quickly on YANG models, both from a tooling and a process perspective. We also had Charles Eckel and John Brzozowski join us remotely to brainstorm about future improvements to the IETF Hackathon and Bits-n-Bites events to support more opportunities for participants to collaborate on implementations and showcase works-in-progress. We don’t have concrete details to share on either of these fronts just yet, but we hope to have updates in the near future.
It wouldn’t have been an IESG retreat without some of our more typical housekeeping discussions. This year we touched on a number of IANA-related issues, discussed RFC sub-series, guidance concerning BoFs and side meetings, IETF communications, the future trajectory for remote participation, a suggestion to have more shorter WG meeting slots, and a variety of other issues. All in all, the retreat was a good opportunity for IESG members to gain insights into how we’re each approaching challenges and opportunities big and small in the IETF, and how we can collaborate for the benefit of the IETF community.
About a month ago I officially took on the role of IETF Chair. My predecessor Jari Arkko noted upon beginning his term as chair just how much can change from one chair’s term to the next. As I’ve started settling into my new role over these last weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about what has been changing and what has been staying the same in the IETF.
Past and present IETF Chairs with IETF Senior Meeting Planner Marcia Beaulieu. From left, Fred Baker, Jari Arkko, Alissa Cooper, Marcia Beaulieu, Russ Housley, and Harald Alvestrand.
When I first started participating in the IETF, it didn’t take long for me to realize the importance of the IETF as a venue for creating the building blocks of the internet. The significance of the IETF derives from the combination of what we choose to work on and how we carry out that work. Producing core standardized protocols wouldn’t have nearly the same impact on the internet as the existing body of IETF work if it were done behind closed doors, if a single constituency could dictate the outcome, or if broad interoperability were not the main objective. To my eye, the core principles of the IETF process – open participation, cross-area review, and consensus – contribute to the success of IETF protocols in tandem with the design choices and technical trade-offs inherent in protocol design.
Of course, those process features are also often cited as drawbacks of IETF participation. “The IETF moves too slowly,” some people say. “They’re not adaptable,” “they can’t compete with open source,” “the biggest players aren’t interested in consensus.” Sound familiar? Sure, it’s true more often than not that if you’re trying to find agreement among a large, heterogeneous pool of people, that will require a different investment of work and time than deciding things among you and your close group of friends, or hacking something together all on your own. The challenge I see for the IETF in the coming years is to preserve the benefits of the essence of the IETF model while adapting to changes in the industry and the environment. With collaborative styles of engagement flourishing across both open source and standards development, there is a lot of opportunity for synergy.
How can we do a better job of integrating our work with open source development efforts? How can we evolve our tools and processes to align with how software is being developed and deployed today? How might we apply the model of cross-area review and consensus more broadly than to static text specifications? How can we evolve the administration of the IETF to give the community more flexibility and room to experiment? I have my own thoughts about these questions, but far more important are the ideas and efforts of the IETF community.
Personally I think we have many reasons to be optimistic about tackling these questions, based on recent IETF standards development work as well as ongoing community conversations and activities. Over the last several years we’ve seen protocol development efforts deeply intertwined with and informed by running code, with the concurrent development of 10 or more independent implementations, for instance in the case of HTTP/2 and TLS 1.3. We’ve seen broad interest across the industry in the kind of security expertise that has become a hallmark of the IETF, and resulting security and privacy improvements being developed for web, email, DNS, DHCP, real-time, and other kinds of traffic. We’ve seen tremendous energy behind the specification of YANG data models and their integration across the industry into standards processes. And community discussion and activity continues to grow around the IETF Hackathons, use of Github, remote participation, and IASA 2.0.
I’m excited to work with the community on how we face the changes around us while retaining the core of what makes the IETF most effective. We have lots of existing venues for discussions of specific aspects of this, but of course you can always send me your thoughts or post them to the IETF discussion list.
The 98th IETF meeting wrapped up last Friday in Chicago. It was a typically busy work week for IETF participants, but also a special week, as a number of changes in our leadership became official. We welcomed newly selected individuals into the leadership and gave our thanks to outgoing members of the IESG, IAB, and IAOC, including the outgoing IETF Chair, Jari Arkko. Among his many other accomplishments, it was under Jari’s leadership that this blog came into existence. The blog has proven to be a useful tool for communicating with the IETF community and the world at large, and I intend to keep up the tradition. Same goes for video – you can see a clip of Jari and I recapping the meeting week here:
Amidst all the working group action and leadership transition activities, a few highlights stood out for me last week. Among more than 1000 attendees, nearly 17% were attending their very first IETF meeting this time around. We’re constantly evaluating what more we can do to attract cutting edge standardization work and new participants to the IETF, so it was nice to see many fresh faces.
Last week’s meeting demonstrated that a number of core security and web application standards are on a path towards high levels of maturity and industry adoption. These include:
The work on all of these standards is heading towards conclusion within the respective working groups, and will soon be put out for IETF community review. There was also a large TLS team at the IETF Hackathon representing 18 independent implementations, and they were named the overall Hackathon winners by the judges. Congratulations!
IETF Hackathon in Chicago.
Last week was also very busy for those working on YANG data models related to both network management and routing. While participants continue to press forward with the standardization of hundreds of different YANG modules in the IETF, they’ve also been focusing on guidelines and tooling (yangcatalog.org, for example) to help streamline the model development process and aid interoperability.
Our technical plenary speakers, Niels ten Oever and David Clark, addressed questions about the relationship between internet protocols and human rights. David encouraged us to think of standardization activities as “designing the playing field” and to contemplate how we “tilt the playing field” based on the design choices that we make. As expected, the topic yielded a provocative community discussion session.
Plenary speakers Niels ten Oever and David Clark with IAB member and plenary moderator Lee Howard.
We owe deep thanks to our meeting host, Ericsson, for stepping up to ensure the success of last week’s meeting. As an IETF Global Host, Ericsson has committed to host three IETF meetings in a 10-year period and affirmed its long-standing support for the work of the IETF. We heard at the plenary session just how important IETF work is to Ericsson’s industry and technology goals, particularly as the coming shift towards 5G inspires potential new requirements around packet transport, network and service management, and virtualization.
Until we gather again as a group for IETF 99 in July, work will continue as always on mailing lists, at interim meetings, and increasingly on Github (check out the Working Groups Using Github session for more on that). See you in all of those places …