IETF Ornithology: Recent Sightings

By: Mat Ford

Date: March 1, 2012

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Getting new work started in the IETF usually requires a birds-of-a-feather (BoF) meeting to discuss goals for the work and to help assess the level of interest in and support for the work. In this article, we review the BoFs that took place during the last IETF meeting, their intentions, and the outcomes. If you are inspired to arrange a BoF meeting, please read RFC 5434, Considerations for Having a Successful Birds-of-a-Feather (BOF) Session. Full descriptions of the BoFs that were proposed in the run-up to the IETF 82 meeting can be found on the wiki at

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WEIRDS—WHOIS-based Extensible Internet Registration Data Service

Description: The work aims at a replacement for WHOIS to be delivered as a RESTful (representational state transfer) service, with an eye to avoiding a number of the issues that have prevented IRIS (the Internet registry information service) deployment as a WHOIS replacement. The impetus for this work is the existence of three already-deployed experimental services similar to the approach being proposed for IETF work, and the burgeoning number of IDN TLDs in the domain name system root zone.


Outcome: After presentations of the existing implementations, the resulting discussion centred around separating the number registry issues from the domain name registry issues. There was scepticism that the domain name registry issues could be addressed in a way that would lead to widespread adoption of the solution. There was more support for focussing initially on the number registry issues. A working group (WG) charter is being drafted, and this work is discussed in more detail in our feature article on page XX].

MULTRANS—Multicast Transition

Description: This meeting was a follow-up to the BoF held during the IETF 81 meeting in Quebec City. At this meeting, the discussion focused on the operational issues that IPTV providers will face during the IPv4/IPv6 transition period and application layer gateway solutions to those problems.


Outcome: The MULTRANS BoF participants wrestled at some length with the discovery problem (in other words, how the receiver learns which group address to join, since it is not in the same address family as the sender). It was clear that a majority of the people attending the meeting was in favor of trying to better understand the problem. It was agreed to do that work as part of an interim meeting of the mboned WG (draft-eubanks-mboned-transition-overview at, which provides a useful overview of the problem space).

DCON—Distributed Conferencing

Description: The DCON BoF was concerned with proposals to develop a standard solution for scalable conferencing over the Internet. Drawing inspiration from the work of the XCON (Centralized Conferencing) WG it would define a standard suite of protocols for distributed conferencing. This was a WG-forming BoF that related to the work that was done by the recently concluded XCON WG.


Outcomes: This was a good meeting that provided lots of constructive feedback to the proponents of the work. It was unclear whether there was enough interest within the community to provide sufficient thrust for a WG at this time. Discussions are ongoing and will explore whether there is potential for greater community interest in the future, at which time this work will be reconsidered.

SDN—Software Driven Networks

Description: SDN is an approach to networks that enables applications to converse with and manipulate the control software of network devices and resources. SDNs are composed of applications, control software, and interfaces to services that are hosted in an overlay or logical/virtual network, as well as those possibly same components that compose the underlying physical network (excerpted from draft-nadeau-sdn-problem-statement


Outcome: There was quite a bit of confusion and disagreement about what problem this work is intended to solve and how it is going about solving it. The scope of the discussions was very broad. If there is work here for the IETF, it was unclear what that work might be. More work is needed from the proponents of this activity to more clearly articulate a very specific problem that makes sense to address within the IETF.