Meet Jari Arkko, New IETF Chair

By: Mat Ford

Date: July 1, 2013

line break image

We’re pleased to introduce Jari Arkko, Ericsson expert in Internet architecture and the new IETF chair. As a way of sharing more about him and his vision for the post, we’ve excerpted here posts from of his newly created IETF Blog (

Arkko conceived the blog “as an additional communications channel, a way to provide insight into what the chair is working on, and a way to solicit further feedback on what we at the IETF should be thinking about or doing.” He’s already used it to cover the IETF 86 event in Orlando, his hopes for the future of the IETF, and pressing topics of the day, such as increasing the diversity of IETF participants.

In his first post,1 Arkko writes:

[I] am excited. Because I get to work with you, the people at the IETF. And because I think we keep working on interesting technologies that have a bright future. Such as networking smart objects or WebRTC, to name a couple of personal favourites. And I am grateful that I am allowed to do this work, for nomcom, and for Ericsson.

But it also strikes me that we are in a very different place than we were six years ago when Russ started his work, or when Brian Carpenter or Harald Alvestrand started their work a couple of years earlier. Back then we had serious problems on many areas. After the administrative restructuring, building a professional support organisation, setting up IT infrastructure, rewriting the datatracker, developing tools to support the IETF work, making the leadership work in much more transparent manner, and countless other improvements have made a significant change. It is not always easy to remember these changes, as they happen on long time scales, but the end result is that today it is much easier to work in the IETF than it used to be. So thank you Russ, previous chairs, all the volunteer tool developers, IESG, administrative director and committee, secretariat staff, IANA, RFC Editor and countless others for these improvements!

Not that there wouldn’t be challenges. There are plenty—otherwise our work would be too easy and boring. I’ll talk more about some of those challenges in future articles.

In a later blog post,2 he addresses some of the IETF’s current issues:

The Internet keeps facing both technological as well as societal challenges. The fast growth of the Internet makes scalability very important. New applications push the limits in other ways. And the enormous importance of Internet communications in our personal lives and economic activities makes the Internet also a part of legal and political interests. Retaining an open, one Internet while tackling many of these challenges is of utmost importance.

I am sure we will discuss the above at length in the future, in the IETF and elsewhere. But I wanted to focus on this article a little bit more narrowly on the IETF.

Here are some issues that need attention:

  • Addressing the needs in important technical areas, such as real-time communication, the Internet of Things, or IPv6 deployment. Our highest priority is to produce timely, relevant, and high-quality standards. As long as the industry and users adopt our solutions, then we are on the right path. On many of these areas there is plenty of work left, however, as well as opportunities to take on more work.
  • Identifying the new technical challenges that face us, such as power constraints (be it in datacenters or small devices). What are these challenges?
  • Evolving participant base. As our topics change over time, so does the set of people with expertise on those topics. For instance, in the area of emergency communications we have to find ways to interact with people from regulatory agencies. Similarly, the IETF has become very international, with document authors from 60 countries. But there is still work left to make our organisation and leadership even more international and more diverse.
  • Dealing with the age of “permissionless innovation”. Internet technology enables building applications in an easy manner, by anyone. And usually without any effect on the underlying Internet protocols – the part that IETF is about. And even where there is an impact, there is often an interesting tussle about what aspects need to be standardised. E.g., fully specified real-time communication protocols vs. frameworks such as WebRTC that can be used to build solutions. Finding the right balance between these types of approaches is important.
  • It is not always easy to start new work at the IETF for various reasons. And “the end-to-end delay”, time that it takes from proposing a BOF to having a WG and getting an RFC out is still very long. Even if we have improved how we handle specific smaller tasks, like approving an RFC, building an entirely new specification for a new problem takes a lot of time.
  • The IETF process puts more weight in the final stages, and the role of the IESG is quite central. It would be better to push more of the review work to earlier stages. At the same time, this would reduce the load on the Area Directors. It is not always easy to find Area Directors willing to devote enough time to the task of being in the IESG.
  • IETF’s process documentation is in the need of revision, in some cases even to bring documentation up to the state of currently used procedures.
  • We will see how these issues can be tackled. I do have an idea about some of the principles that we should employ in that, however. The first is continuous, incremental improvement. The second is transparency, keeping everyone informed about what is going on and calling for feedback. The third one is to focus. Fourth, running code and rough consensus. Code, interops, engineers. Publish and prune RFCs easily.

But enough about my thoughts. What I really want to know is what do you think. What is troubling you at the IETF or Internet technology? What new technical challenges do you believe IETF should tackle? If you have comments, send them directly to me or post to the IETF discussion list.

“I have just started this process,”writes Arkko. “And I want to talk to many of you personally to find out what the importance of IETF is for you, where we could improve, and what new things we should perhaps be working on.”

You can follow Arkko and the IETF by visiting the IETF Chair blog at