Networking Research

IETF 98 Hackathon Improves the Internet through Running Code

By: Charles Eckel

Date: July 5, 2017

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The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) blew into Chicago for IETF 98 on 25-31 March. As has become customary, the week-long meeting kicked off the weekend prior with the IETF Hackathon, a key element of the IETF’s approach to combine running code and open source software with the specification of new and evolving Internet standards.

IETF Hackathons are free and open to everyone. Its stated goals are to:

  • Advance the pace and relevance of IETF standards activities by bringing the speed and collaborative spirit of open source development into the IETF.
  • Bring developers and young people into IETF and get them exposed to and interested in IETF.

Attending the IETF meeting the following week is encouraged, but optional. One of the ways the Hackathon meets its first goal is by encouraging participants to share what they gained during the Hackathon with the larger IETF community, both by presenting their results during Working Group sessions and by demonstrating their work at the Bits-N-Bites reception.

The Chicago Hackathon saw more than 115 people collaborate on code with colleagues from various companies, standards organizations, open source communities, and universities. For about a third of the participants, this was their first IETF Hackathon. For about a dozen, this was their first experience with the IETF at all.

We had roughly 15 different projects, each led by volunteers called champions. Projects were shared in advance via the Hackathon wiki, and when the doors opened at 8am Saturday, champions posted signs by their tables to help potential contributors locate the teams they wished to join.

Despite jet lag from travel and the early start, teams worked late into the night Saturday, even after the last remnants of dinner were cleared and the last beer was consumed. On Sunday, folks again started early by ironing out bugs and coding up additional functionality until the project presentations started at 2pm. Each team had four minutes to share what they had done, what they had learned, and how they moved IETF work forward.

An esteemed set of judges from the IETF community listened and asked clarifying questions after each presentation. Winners were then announced in the spirit of friendly competition. The winning teams were as follows.

  • (D)TLS: Best Overall, for their work on TLS 1.3 and the corresponding version of DTLS.
  • NETVC: Measure Twice Cut Once, for a proof of concept that will guide future specifications.
  • CAPPORT: Best Kickstart, for a project that kicked new energy into a Working Group that had stalled.
  • WebRTC PSAP: Best Students, for a new project from professors and students at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
  • LoRaWAN: Best Newcomers, for a project that benefited from significant contribution from first-time IETFers.
  • AMT-Multicast: Most Remote Participant, with a team member participating remotely from Mauritius.

Another noteworthy team was the I2NSF project team, which included participants from Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea and traveled to Chicago to continue its award-winning project from IETF 97 Hackathon in Seoul. For details on these and other projects, see the Hackathon Web page at

Winners were offered first shot at a variety of swag contributed by the IETF secretariat and Google. Winning teams also received priority when it came to Hackathon projects to feature at the Bits-N-Bites reception.

Four teams took advantage of the opportunity to share their work at Bits-N-Bites: AMT/Multicast, CAPPORT, WebRTC PSAP, and (D)TLS.

Special thanks to Hackathon sponsors, Ericsson and Mozilla; and thanks to my employer, Cisco DevNet, for supporting my efforts to organize the Hackathons and providing t-shirts for all participants—including for the first time ever, women’s sizes!

Last, but certainly not least, thanks to Alissa Cooper and Jari Arkko, the incoming and outgoing IETF chairs, who are both big supporters of the Hackathon and who have been instrumental in bringing it to the IETF.