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IETF 89 Summary

10 Mar 2014

With the IETF week over, I wanted to write a brief summary of the main discussions. And what a week! I spent ten days in London due to a workshop preceding the IETF and even some meetings that took place after the IETF.

And the interesting events would have continued. As I was leaving, some design team meetings and workshops were still about to start. It never ceases to amaze me how much energy the community has for working on various aspects of Internet technology!

This meeting in London was one of the best attended IETF meetings in recent history. We had 1400 participants on site and many more remotely. The participants came from 60 different countries (the record from last summer’s meeting in Berlin is 62). And I am happy that the participants came from diverse backgrounds. As an example, ISOC runs a “Policy Guest” program to bring policymakers and regulators to the IETF. The interest for this has been on the rise, and in London we got a record 30 participants in this program, all very active.

IETF leadership is selected by a nominating committee, and the March meeting is the changeover time. Alia Atlas, Alissa Cooper, and Kathleen Moriarty joined the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) and Mary Barnes, Ted Hardie, Joe Hildebrand, and Brian Trammell joined the Internet Architecture Board (IAB). Thank you for volunteering! We also celebrated the contributions of the members that stepped down at this event. Thank you for your efforts!

But back to the meeting itself. All of us have our own interests, but I found the following noteworthy:

  • Strengthening the security and privacy of the Internet continued to draw a lot of attention. The STRINT workshop organised by the IAB and W3C just before the IETF attracted 100 participants and over 60 papers. Even more people would have joined us, but there was no space. During the IETF meeting, we continued discussing the topic at various working groups. A while ago we created the first working group specifically aimed at addressing some of the issues surrounding pervasive monitoring. The Using TLS for Applications (UTA) working group had its first meeting in London. But many other working groups also address these issues in their own work. The TCPM working group discussed a proposal to add opportunistic keying mechanisms directly onto the TCP protocol. And the DNSE BOF considered the possibility of adding confidentiality support to DNS queries. Finally, there is an ongoing effort to review old specifications to search for areas that might benefit from taking privacy and data minimisation better into account.
  • Our big projects related to key components of the web platform also continued. The TLS working group has now been rechartered to work on TLS 1.3, a significant redesign of the TLS protocol that intends to provide security and efficiency benefits. The HTTPBIS working group continued another redesign effort around HTTP 2.0. This work may also enable the use of TLS even for http URIs, which may provide limited protection against passive attacks. Nevertheless, the use of https remains the best tool for improving the security of web traffic. The work on HTTP 2.0 is nearing completion.
  • The WebRTC work on real-time communications from browsers continued. The group has deferred the controversial mandatory-to-implement video codec question but is making excellent progress in all other areas.
  • The IETF has worked on various aspects of the Internet of Things for years. The level of activity in the last year or two has been increasing, with many new proposals. This time the new proposal was discussed in the ACE BOF. The problem that this meeting wanted to address was how to authorise different smart objects and their users to do the actions that they are allowed to do.
  • Internet governance has been a hot topic in the world in recent months. We at the IETF are focused on technology, but we also care that governance associated with the Internet is done in a stable and reliable manner. We are also directly impacted by the protocol parameters registry function at IANA. This registry records all assignments of various protocol-related constants, such as port numbers. At the IGOVUPDATE session Olaf Kolkman talked about the protocol parameters registry and how it has evolved over time. He went on to describe some principles under which the IAB have guided this evolution. The principles were discussed and after some amendments, the room seemed to have unanimous support to continue to operate under these principles. This is important in the coming year, as the future of IANA services is being discussed on the world stage. For instance, IETF leadership is often asked about this.
  • Network node configuration is becoming more and more dominated by NETCONF/YANG -type solutions rather than SNMP-based solutions. The IESG  issued a statement last week to make sure working groups take note of this.
  • As an open organisation, anyone can join IETF discussions. This is obviously a good thing, but at times presents also challenges. A recent discussion on our mailing list raises the question of how we can deal with repetitive postings or impolite messages.

What did you find noteworthy at the IETF? Let us know, or join any of the ongoing technical discussions on our mailing lists!

The London meeting was hosted by ICANN. I would like to thank them, as well as our connectivity (BT) and welcome reception sponsors (Comcast). Our next meeting is in Toronto, Canada, hosted by Ericsson. Thank you!

(Photo credits: Brian Campbell)

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