Connecting the Dots at IETF 75

By: Matthew Roberts

Date: September 7, 2009

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ISOC fellows and mentors

As first-time IETFers, fellows from developing regions quickly figure out the lessons to bring home.

Despite worldwide apprehension about global economic unsteadiness, the seven Internet Society Fellowship to the IETF Programme fellows arriving in Stockholm for IETF5 75 brought with them their optimism and high expectations for a productive meeting. The fellowship programme is designed to help stimulate Internet growth in developing nations by immersing technologists from those regions in the work being done by the IETF. Each meeting, a new set of fellows, including a handful of returning fellows, are given the opportunity to improve their technical skills and become more engaged in the standards development process.

The IETF Journal contacted each of the fellows to see what they thought of the experience and to ask them to report on the impact the event has had on their work. Most of the fellows’ sentiments were captured in the comment made by Vinayak Hegde, who told us candidly: “I had high expectations for IETF 75, and it more than lived up to them. It was easy to approach anyone and ask questions, and people were very helpful and friendly.”? Vinayak, who’s been a member of the Internet Society’s Chennai (India) Chapter since the Chapter’s inception, came to Stockholm to work with other like-minded people on Internet Drafts in the areas of Web application performance and streaming performance measurements.

The meeting has already changed the way Vinayak works. “An example is RFC 2330 [Framework for IP Performance Metrics], which provides a framework for the measurements I am doing. Previous to this, some of the metrics that we had been using were more ad hoc, or not so well defined. Now I am trying to make them conform to this RFC.

For fellow Haris Shamsi, a founding member of the IPv6 Task Force Pakistan, the meeting’s combination of technical information and organizational technique will have a lasting impact. Aside from attending a number of IETF working groups (WGs)-v6ops [IPv6 Operations] and 6lowpan [IPv6 over Low power Wireless Personal Area Networks] in particular-which really helped him in his work at Pakistan’s largest mobile communications company, it was, he said, “the methodology of rough consensus and the way chairs tackle the experts group that really helped me devise a way to communicate with the team and the associates I am working with in Pakistan.”? Furthermore, Haris plans to adopt the same decision-making methodologies in work-related matters. “IETF 75 was among a few of the best experiences of my life,”? he wrote by e-mail. “The event not only gave me a chance to meet up with the experts from around the world but also helped me understand the process and methodology of the IETF.”?

Aminul Haque Chowdhury, of Bangladesh, is studying for his master of science degree in South Korea. While pursuing his studies, he’s working on the Internet drafts 6LoWPAN Bootstrapping and 6LoWPAN IPv6 ND Optimizations as well as on the draft 6LoWPAN Routing Requirements. Like Haris, Aminul also felt the event was helpful to him in his work-in part because two of the WGs, 6lowpan and roll, are involved in similar research areas. He attended those two meetings at IETF 75, as well as the manet (Mobile Ad-hoc Networks) WG, the Transport area meeting, and the peer-to-peer research group meeting.

For Aminul, the goal is to apply techniques that can maximize infrastructure as much as possible. “In Bangladesh,”? he wrote by e-mail, “we were connected with the information superhighway via fibre-optic cable for more than three years. However, the Internet is still expensive and not available everywhere.”? Aminul claims that though his country has a good fibre-optic network-mainly because it supports the railway communication system via fibre optic-the country still is not using 100 percent of its capacity. “There are many ISPs growing day by day, but with only a few exceptions, bandwidth is too low,”? he wrote.

Hamid Mukhtar, who is from Pakistan but who is a graduate student in South Korea, is pursuing research on network management, mobility, and collateral issues associated with IP-based wireless sensor networks-more specifically, 6lowpans. He’s also working on standardization of network management through the IETF’s 6lowpan WG and he has contributed a draft to the 6lowpan WG. Hamid says he’s interested in the work going on in the mext WG, and he wants to extend it for the mobility issues of the 6lowpanWG. To see Hamid’s draft, visit….

Ronald Nsubuga, who is MTN Uganda’s senior administrator of IP Data Networks, also attended IETF 75 as a fellow. He said that for many years he has wanted “to meet the team that has developed the Internet”? and to “represent the AfriNIC members in this process of RFC, BCP and Internet practices development worldwide.”? His experience, he said, was gratifying. “I found it to be an eye-opener to see so many works that have been contributed by different engineers to Internet development over the years,”? he said. For Ronald, the connection to the other attendees and their work was immediate. “The meeting connected with my work in the sense that most of the protocols being used today still need to be developed and tested for future use-like IPv6 and DNSSEC-with the respective challenges that come along,”? he said by e-mail.

Ronald added that Uganda has long been connected to the Internet through satellite providers. “As of late July we had the first test over SEACOM’s fibre cable, and you can imagine the excitement!”? he wrote. “On top of that, other operators are working along with different operators to get other cables laid-like TEAMS and EASSY-for better connectivity. As we are waiting to see a huge drop from 500 ms-1,000 ms (which we are getting via satellite) down to 160 ms-300 ms, that will be a huge improvement. It’s the same thing we are anticipating in the drop of prices for the cost of the bandwidth and good capacity.”?

Even so, Ronald admits there are challenges, such as the high cost of connectivity and little attention being paid to IPv6 adoption and deployment because, as he said, “many operators were still looking at IPv6 adaptation as a thing, or technology, that doesn’t have a business case.”?

Fellow Dorcas Muthoni Gachari runs a software firm ( in Kenya that provides professional services ranging from requirements definition and specification, system analysis, system design, software development, customization, integration, and implementation to training, support, and maintenance. According to Dorcas, the company’s focus is on public corporations “with special emphasis on e-government Web applications for Kenya and the wider African region.”? In addition to her regular responsibilities, Dorcas runs a user group (linuxchix) for woman engineers across Africa, “where we mentor young women to pursue careers in computing as well as build capacity for practicing women.”?

Dorcas said she frequently offers her training facility to a Kenyan user group called Skunkworks, and that in the future, together with other IETF alumni, the group plans to conduct tutorials that would attract more Kenyan engineers to IETF working groups.

What advice do the fellows have for future fellows and other newcomers to the IETF? Fellow Afaf Maayati of Morocco suggests reading first of all the tao of the IETF. Afaf works at Morocco’s National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT) as a project manager of the ccTLD .ma and is a participant in the Pilot Project for Arabic Domain Names.

She also suggests that future fellows understand in advance that “At IETF working group meetings there is no introduction or background material, so a future fellow has to be prepared in advance by reading the IETF working group documents relevant to an area of interest.”?

Newcomers, however, are not without support, Afaf acknowledges. “It’s also very interesting and instructive to attend the newcomers’ training, on the first day of the IETF,”? she suggests. “So, plan to be there!”?

IETF fellows are paired with mentors, most of whom are veteran IETFers and experienced Internet technologists and engineers. Often, the mentors make lasting impressions on the fellows.

“My mentor was Fred Baker, and he chairs the v6ops WG,”? says Ronald Nsubuga. “He was very helpful in the preparations for the IETF meeting. For example, he gave me a clear difference between a working group and a BoF [birds-of-a-feather session], which I wanted to know, to follow what home gate is all about.”?

The Internet Society extends its sincere gratitude to the sponsors of the ISOC IETF Fellowship to the IETF Programme: Afilias, Google, Intel, Microsoft, and Nominet Trust. To find out more about becoming a sponsor and about sponsorship’s benefits to your organization or send e-mail to [email protected].

IETF 75 Fellows and Mentors

  • Aminul Haque Chowdhury (Bangladesh), Mentor: Mat Ford
  • Dorcas Muthoni Gachari (Kenya), Mentor: Joe Abley
  • Vinayak Hegde (India), Mentor: Al Morton
  • Afaf Maayati (Morocco), Mentor: João Damas
  • Hamid Mukhtar (Pakistan), Mentor: Phil Roberts
  • Ronald Nsubuga (Uganda), Mentor: Fred Baker
  • Muhammad Haris Shamsi (Pakistan), Mentor: Samita Chakrabarti

Returning Fellows

  • Alejandro Acosta (Venezuela)
  • Alberto Castro (Uruguay)
  • Martín Germán (Uruguay)
  • Jean Philemon Kissangou (Congo)
  • Eduardo Ascenço Reis (Brazil)