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Report from the 2023 IAB and IESG retreat

29 Jun 2023

The Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) and Internet Architecture Board (IAB) held their annual retreat in Seattle on 8-12 May, with two days for each group and a joint day in the middle.

First of all, big thanks to Martin Duke who helped with the local logistics, and on top of that, invited us all to a super nice BBQ at his house! All in all the super high level summary is that it was really nice to spend some in-person time together! Unfortunately, on a last-minute decision, Zaheduzzaman Sarker at the end could not join in person but he bravely spent his nights remotely with us. Thanks for your commitment! And of course, we missed Francesca who is currently on parental leave. However, I’m sure she had more fun without us!

F5 graciously hosted us in their Seattle headquarters. The first two days (with the IESG only) were held in their customer engagement center on the top floor—amazing! When the IAB joined for the next two days, we went one floor down to accommodate the full group. And the last day, the F5 office was unfortunately closed and we had to move to a hotel—a bit of a downgrade. Having an amazing and comfortable venue and awesome hosts definitely helps to create a good and creative atmosphere. Huge thanks to F5 and specifically again to Laura Hendrickson and Joe Moses who supported us with anything needed, including some bottles of F5 branded wine!

F5 Headquarters

The one thing I really would like to remark about this retreat is that the atmosphere was really good. The joint day was packed and ended up in a long day including some serious discussions but on a highly respectful and collegial level - rounded up by some social time with beers and a nice dinner. So the short summary of the retreat: full agenda, really good atmosphere, and an amazing BBQ!


Okay, I should also tell a bit about what we actually did, right? I mean team-building is an important part but I think the retreat was also very productive and both the IESG and IAB just urgently need this additional amount of time to discuss the “hard” things. The IESG started off with the discussion of an-IESG internal SWOT/PEST analysis performed just before the retreat to assess the view of the IESG on the state of the IESG and IETF. This discussion led to a few points for deeper consideration later in the retreat, including potential improvements to data that would inform decisions, and considerations about how to better support new work and new participants in the IETF.

Another thing to note is that the IESG reviewed the Area Director (AD) load and discussed re-organization. The assessment is still ongoing, but so far the plan is to request a third Applications and Real Time (ART) AD again. (The last time we had 3 ART ADs was in 2019.) Other topics covered invitation letters for interim meetings (as brought up in the last plenary open mic session at IETF 116), audio/video support and scheduling of side meetings, and more small, mostly process-related questions that simply needed some discussion time. The second day of the IESG portion concluded with a visit to the University of Washington, where Prof. Tom Anderson and his colleagues presented some of their work, e.g. on energy-aware networking and lower-layer stack implementation, and we also pitched some of the interesting topics in the IETF to them as inspiration for future research. Let’s see!

IAB and IESG members during their 2023 retreat
IAB and IESG members during their 2023 retreat.

Related to some of the discussion during this visit, the joint meeting day started with a review of activities related to the environmental impact of the Internet and Internet services, based on the IAB e-impact workshop in December 2022, a follow-up discussion at the IAB Open session during IETF 116, as well as a related side meeting and a talk on metrics in the Operations and Management Working Group (opsawg). A new IAB program was considered as a possible next step to create a standing venue for further discussion and to identify potential work items for the IETF. The other big topic on that day was outreach. The IAB is discussing this and we now are set up well with Dhruv Dhody joining the IAB who is also one of the chairs of the Education and Outreach Directorate (eodir). However, this was also discussed on the joint day because outreach activities are often high effort, e.g. organizing a session at a RIPE meeting as was just recently done at RIPE 86, and the IAB needs to approach this with joint forces together with the IESG. 

The IAB in its portion also started with a review of some internal survey results that provided a self-assessment of the IAB—our scope and goals, our execution, as well as the efficiency of our processes. One point I would like to highlight is that multiple IAB members answered the question “what’s working well in the IAB?” that the atmosphere and respect between all IAB members is very good. I totally agree with that and the retreat has confirmed this. I think that is a really important precondition to do good work; of course that doesn’t mean that we always agree. We further discussed more outreach including policy-related activities as well as potential new programs, workshops and documents. Topics such as. identity management (as a follow-up from a technical discussion we had on an IAB call a while back), implication of use of limited domains, censorship techniques and barriers to access, data-center networks, as well as the metaverse came up. And some of these topics led directly to some writing and scoping work in the afternoon. So I have to say the idea, that came up at the last retreat already, to reserve some time to do actual work (like a real workshop) worked surprisingly well! I think we can definitely call this a productive meeting. 

Thanks to everybody, especially our hosts from F5, Martin, as well as Cindy and Liz from the secretariat for their in-person support!

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